Goodbye to Berlin-Tegel International Airport.
One last flight to Paris and the curtain falls on Tegel International Airport, much loved by the Berliners, which closes on Sunday, after the opening of another air station in the southeast of the capital.
Five things should be known about this place full of history, which was the gateway to freedom for many Germans surrounded by the Wall during the Cold War, reported AFP.
The airport was built in 90 days in 1948 at the height of the Soviet blockade of the city, and its runway of 2,400 meters, was considered the longest in Europe at the time.
Since June, the Allies were delivering resources to the inhabitants through an air bridge to the Tempelhof airport, in the American sector, and the Gatow airport, in the British zone, but it was not enough.
That’s why they decided to create a new runway in the northwest, in Tegel, in the French sector. The work started on August 5th. Some 19,000 Berliners cleared the land with shovels and hoes, working day and night alongside the Allies. On 5 November, a first American C-54 Skymaster aircraft landed on the runway with eight tons of cheese.
Over the years, Tegel was transformed into a civilian airport.
Air France was the first company to make regular flights in 1960. In the 1970s, Tegel completed its transformation into an international airport, equipped with an emblematic hexagonal terminal.
It was the first “drive in” airport in the world. Vehicles or cabs could stop directly in front of the boarding gates, reducing the distance between arrival and boarding by twenty meters. In 1988, it was named after a civil aviation pioneer, Otto Lilienthal.
It had another advantage as it was located close to the city, thirty minutes from the center of the capital.
In 1963, US President John Kennedy landed there. During this historical visit of support to the city he pronounced the famous phrase: “ich bin ein Berliner” (I am a Berliner). Until the fall of the Wall, Tegel represented a door to the world, freedom, for all those who escaped from the former DDR and managed to reach West Berlin.
In 1992, former DDR strongman Erich Honecker was expelled from Russia, where he had taken refuge. He arrived in Tegel on 29 July. After his trial was abandoned, he returned to the airport in January 1993 and flew to Chile.
Originally designed to carry 2.5 million passengers a year, Tegel increased its numbers after reunification, surpassing 20 million passengers in 2014.
Conceived as a jewel of efficiency, the airport ended up becoming saturated, characterized by flight delays, baggage loss and lack of hygiene in its sanitary facilities
Nevertheless, the majority of Berliners voted in favor of maintaining it in a referendum in 2017, when the construction of the new international airport had been underway for years. The exceptional delay in the construction of the new airport gave Tegel new deadlines to survive, which remained open longer than expected.
With the coronavirus crisis, which plunged the airline industry into the most serious crisis in history, there was less reason for it to remain.
“I know that it will be very sad for many Berliners when Tegel closes”, declared the Mayor of Berlin Michael Müller. “But that airport has no future”.
Air France will take off its last flight to Paris on Sunday afternoon.
Closed in 2008, Tempelhof, a former Nazi flagship airport, became a huge park where Berliners come for picnics or sport.
In Tegel will emerge a new neighborhood, according to the municipality of Berlin, with rooms for 10,000 people, and corresponding infrastructure such as warehouses, schools, nurseries.
The hexagonal airport terminal, classified as a historical monument, will house a development center of the Beuth University of Applied Sciences.
By Isabelle LE PAGE
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