Berlin’s downtown airport gathers support

 - December 27, 2007, 9:51 AM

Defenders of Berlin Tempelhof airport, which is scheduled to close in October, report some progress in their bid to keep it open. As of early last month, more than half of the required votes had been gathered, and two sponsors are facilitating logistics to ensure that there are enough votes to force a public referendum.

“As of December 5, we had 102,000 of the required 170,000 votes in favor of keeping Tempelhof open,” Bernd Gans, president of the German business aviation association, told AIN. The vote opened in mid-October and the deadline is February 15.

Gans added that the issue has garnered support from some influential businessmen. “Two big sponsors…entrepreneurs in Berlin, are now backing us,” he said. In addition to hiring a coordinator to oversee the effort, they have rented vehicles to take voters to their city halls to vote. One sponsor, a member of the media industry, has supplied an advertising campaign.

Separately, a German federal higher court has confirmed the airport is scheduled to close in October. Gans explained that the move is merely a formal confirmation that judicial appeals against closure of the airport are no longer possible. He added the announcement does not have any effect on the referendum.

City officials have been trying to close Tempelhof for the past decade to force operators to relocate to the new Berlin-Brandenburg International airport being developed on the site of the existing Schoenefeld Airport. Tempelhof lies right at the heart of the German capital; the Schoenefeld site is about 13 miles to the southeast of the city.

BBI is due to open in 2011. According to the Association of German Regional Airports, when it opens, the new airport will have insufficient capacity. The group is supporting a campaign led by the European Business Aviation Association to keep Tempelhof open to provide capacity for corporate/private aircraft and regional airline services.