Posts Tagged ‘Berlin-Brandenburg airport’

Berlin Brandenburg Airport – A Sisyphus project?

Monday, February 19th, 2018

The Berlin Brandenburg Airport was supposed to open in November 2011. After many setbacks, the most recent opening is slated for the end of 2019 at the earliest. In the meantime, Berlin’s new International airport has turned into a modern-day Sisyphus project. In Greek mythology, Sisyphus was condemned to roll a huge boulder uphill, only to watch it roll back down every time he neared the top of the mountain. Given legendary German efficiency, what happened?

Berlin Brandenburg Airport, still closed as of February 2018.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport, still closed as of February 2018.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport opening delays

In 2006, construction of Berlin Brandenburg Airport began. Grand Opening was slated for October 2011. But the projected opening had to be delayed due to bankruptcy of the construction planning company. A new date was set for June 2012. This time, it was going to be the real thing. Everything was ready to go. As the new opening date drew close, airlines, shops and restaurants prepared for the grand opening. A logistics plan was put into place for moving infrastructure from the old airport to the new. RBB (Rundfunk Berlin Brandenburg) prepared for 24-hour live coverage of the move. The first departure was scheduled. But less than four weeks before the move, the opening was postponed again. Since then, the airport opening date has been pushed back numerous times with no definite end in sight.

June 2012 projected opening delayed. Reason: Major technical difficulties, including the fact the new terminal had not passed the fire safety and smoke exhaust systems checks. A new opening date scheduled for March 2013.

March 2013 projected opening delayed. Reason: More construction flaws. Change in airport management. New opening date scheduled for late October 2013.

Late October 2013 projected opening delayed. Reason: More of the same. The airport authority announced that the opening would be further delayed without citing a specific opening date. 2014 at the earliest, possibly not until 2015.

2014 and 2015 projected openings delayed. Reason: Safety issues, permit expirations, corruption, mismanagement, another change in airport management. Berlin Brandenburg is not expected to open before 2016 or 2017.

2017 projected opening delayed. Reason: More technical issues, Approval of the underground station did not occur in time.

The real cause for the Berlin Brandenburg Airport delays

Apparently, the Berlin Brandenburg Airport construction was plagued by too make cooks stoking the fire. Three different entities were in charge, but none had complete oversight. As a result, major technical issues went unnoticed or were ignored; there were many personnel changes, but none addressed the actual problem. In the meantime, workers and contractors took advantage and lined their own pockets. Corruption and financial issues plagued the project. With each postponement, the Sisyphus’s airport project rolled down the hill again.

Compare the Berlin Brandenburg Airport fiasco to the Berlin Stadtschloss reconstruction. and  Although the Stadtschloss project has another year to go until the planned opening, to date, it is on target in terms of time and budget.–23793604 In the Stadtschloss reconstruction project, only one entity was in charge, the “Stiftung Berliner Schloss.”


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War. 










Berlin-Brandenburg Airport – Project from Hell

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Construction of Berlin’s new metropolitan airport, the Willy Brandt Berlin-Brandenburg Airport (BER), began in 2006. Named after the chancellor who governed former West Germany in the early 1970s, the new airport was to open in 2011. BER is a project of the city-state of Berlin, the regional government of Brandenburg and the federal government of Germany. The topping-out ceremony was held in 2010, but the opening was delayed – first until 2012, then until 2013, and most recently until 2017 In the meantime, the cost of building the new airport has risen from a projected $4.9 billion to $6 billion and may approach $7.2 billion by completion time. Meanwhile the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport is costing German taxpayers a whopping $17.9 million per day just to heat, light and keep its essential systems going. BER has not only been at the butt of many jokes, but after four delays and without a definite completion date in sight, Germany’s reputation for top quality work has been seriously tarnished.

Further Delays for Berlin-Brandenburg Airport

Now there are new potential delays on the horizon. Berlin-Brandenburg Airport’s most serious problem at this time is its faulty fire protection system. While the architects had intended to funnel smoke underneath the airport halls, ventilators were installed on the roof instead. That’s probably because the chief planner for the fire protection system was not an engineer. He was a technical draftsman, as emerged recently A monitoring committee found that three of the airport’s twenty ceiling panels are  fitted with ventilators that are too heavy. With 8,800 pounds, the ventilators are twice as heavy as called for. The discovery prompted the committee to issue a stop-work order, and workers are not allowed to work inside the terminal until modifications are made.

That’s not all. It has also come to light that unreliable foamed concrete was used for 600 fire-resistant walls. Before final inspection can be passed, these walls will have to be reinforced or replaced.

And there are other issues with the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport: There aren’t enough check-in counters and luggage retrieval systems, the IT system cooling units are too weak, the ducts through which cables are routed are dangerously over-burdened and the airport will be too small after all to handle the expected air traffic.

Corruption charges surround Berlin-Brandenburg Airport

One of the airport’s biggest contractors, Imtech Germany, the company that was in charge of repairing the airport’s faulty fire-safety system, has filed for bankruptcy. The insolvency declaration followed kickback allegations This is not the first time that bribery charges have surrounded the construction of BER. Last year, the airport’s technical director, Jochen Grossmann, was convicted of corruption. A fraud probe into several other contractors is underway. Germany’s Bild newspaper reported that three well-known companies are currently under investigation for fraud in connection with work on the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport: Siemens, Bosch and Deutsche Telekom.

Is Berlin-Brandenburg Airport the project from hell? It looks that way!


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.








Berlin Brandenburg Airport boondoggle

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) has been under construction since 2006 and continues to be a source of nonstop embarrassment for Germany. BER, 11 miles south of the center of the city, was supposed to replace both, Tegel and Schoenefeld airports. The two older airports have become outdated and far too small to adequately serve the projected annual passenger total of around 27 million. Berlin Brandenburg’s opening was initially scheduled for 2010, but quickly pushed back to 2011. Ten days prior to the second planned opening, BER’s inauguration was rescheduled again, this time for 2012. Airport manager, Rainer Schwarz, was fired and replaced by Hartmut Mehdorn.

Corruption, mismanagement and safety issues have pushed back the opening date of Berlin Brandenburg International Airport again and again and resulted in sizable cost overruns. The latest inauguration estimates suggest a date somewhere between the first half of 2017 and the last half of 2018. In the meantime, construction permits for BER’s south wing will expire in August 2015 and permits for the main terminal have an expiration date in October. Extensions are less than desirable because they will add additional environmental protection requirements and barrier-free installations.

Muehlenfeld becomes new CEO

In the latest development, Hartmut Mehdorn, BER’s current airport manager, will step down in June of 2015. Karsten Muehlenfeld, a former executive at Rolls Royce in Germany, will take over the reins. Muehlenfeld who had just left Rolls Royce and accepted a position with the train manufacturer Bombardier in February, agreed to take over as the new airport manager of BER instead of working for Bombardier.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport declared too small

Another bombshell in the ongoing BER boondoggle is that the airport that hasn’t even opened yet has already been called “too small” to handle the expected air traffic. Planners say that they underestimated the number of passengers the airport would serve. In response, Mehdorn proposed last December to add another terminal. If approved, the additional terminal would serve an additional 8 to 10 million passengers and be located adjacent to the northern wing of the main terminal. It will now be up to Muehlenfeld to decide whether or not this possibility should be pursued. One of the main issues with a potential terminal addition is that the 6 million residents living in the airport area have previously rejected the idea.

Berlin Brandenburg Additional Costs

Estimated current total costs for BER amount to €5.4 billion. The planned additions would add €2.19 billion to that figure. But there is also talk of a third runway at the tune of an additional €1 billion and other new projects such as expanded baggage system and another freight facility. The total additional costs could amount to €3.2 billion.



For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.





Berlin-Brandenburg Airport Delayed Again

Friday, March 29th, 2013

Last week, the completion of the new Berlin-Brandenburg airport was postponed for the forth time in two years. Meant to replace two of the city’s smaller airports, Tegel in the West and Schoenefeld in the East, the grand opening of this new state-of-the-art metropolitan airport was originally scheduled for October 30, 2011.

Unresolved construction defects forced the opening to be rescheduled first for June 3, 2012, then for March 17, 2013, and most recently for October 27, 2013. But that date, too, had to be scrapped because 20,000 to 40,000 defects remain. Failings range from minor issues, such as cracked floor tiles, to major flaws in the fire protection system. A few weeks ago, an electrical problem caused the entire airport to be lit up around the clock before the turn-off switch could be located.

Earlier this month, Hartmut Mehdorn, the hands-on Ex-Chief of Deutsche Bahn and Air Berlin, became the new Airport Chief. His track record includes ordering last-minute scale-back modifications to Berlin’s new main rail terminal in order to meet the planned opening date. Current projections for the completion of Berlin-Brandenburg airport name 2014 as the earliest date. Most likely, it will be 2015 before the giant airport will open its doors.


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.