October 2011


Visiting BER: Berlin’s New Airport

Saturday was a super awesome day because not only did I get to have dinner with the Texpatriate, but PapaScott was also in town.

PapaScott was in town with his family for the McDonald’s convention and once the convention was over, he, his wife, and his son were doing a tour of the new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport. Once I found out, I asked if I could go along.

As it turns out, I went separately, and that was a good thing. They got on the wrong train and almost missed the tour, but I was there to single handily hold the tour bus an extra few minutes.

Future BER Access

Future BER Access

For 10€ the tour was a good deal: on board a double decker coach, we headed over to the BER viewing tower, which was 38 meters tall. After a short introduction and overview of the facility at the adjoining visitor’s center, we were given access to the tower. As there were about 50 people waiting for a very small elevator, I opted to climb up the tower. My cardio for the day was done.

The view from the top of the tower was excellent, and the weather perfect. As it happens, we spotted the Texpatriate’s plane departing (without her) back to Oslo.

Max Manus 737

This plane honors Max Manus, a Norwegian resistance fighter. Now he's in Berlin.

That might need some explanation: Berlin’s new airport is, essentially, just south of the old second airport (Schönefeld, SXF), and shares one runway. So while we were touring the new airport, the new airport incorporates many aspects of the old airport. I suppose many would argue that it is merely a new terminal for an old airport, and they’d be right. But the new terminal comes along with a new runway, a new set of train tracks, and extensive support facilities. Once the new airport (BER) opens, SXF’s terminals will close, and the other airport – that is to say the current main airport, Tegel (TXL) will completely close.

BER Constuction

The main terminal is in the background. A large parking garage is in the foreground.

In comparison to my other tour of an unopened airport (Denver International Airport, I believe in spring 1995), this new airport is a lot further from completion. For my untrained eyes, I would say that the June 3, 2012, opening date is going to be a mighty challenge.

Parking Garage Ramps

Ramps near the main terminal, across from the south pier.

After leaving the viewing tour, we took a tour, on the bus, of the grounds. My main piece of advice for people taking the tour is that you should sit on the right hand side of the bus – as I was sitting on the left hand side, opportunities to take photos and get clear views of everything was limited.

We drove around many of the support facilities, drove through the departures deck of the main terminal, and then onto the field, passing by the south pier, which will serve Air Berlin’s intra-Schengen flights. From there we drove across the length of the midfield areas, and, eventually, back to our starting point at the visitor’s center located near the terminals for Schönefeld.

BER Control Tower

BER's Control Tower

All in all, an excellent waste of a Saturday morning.

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