Berlin’s historic Tempelhof Airport finally lost its long battle against closure on October 30 when all operations at the downtown facility ceased. Quite apart from the nostalgic blow of seeing the venue for the epic Berlin Air Lift of 1948-49 reduced to a commercial property development, the German capital has lost its most convenient gateway for business aircraft.
Moving forward, the Berlin business aviation community is shifting its center of gravity to Schönefeld Airport, located about 13 miles southeast of the city center. This is now being comprehensively redeveloped into the new Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport (BBIA). When Tegel Airport–located on the northwest side of the city–closes in 2011, the new airport will be the city’s sole airport.
In fact, Schönefeld already has established business aviation infrastructure, and this was strengthened in late October when ExecuJet Europe opened its redesigned and enlarged FBO there. Until now, the airport–which was formerly a Soviet air force base–has received only low single-digit numbers of business aircraft each day. With the closure of Tempelhof, however, this number is expected to increase quickly to at least 30 or 40 daily movements. It is estimated that up to 90 percent of the business aviation traffic from Tempelhof will move to Schönefeld.
The two-floor, 4,300-sq-ft facility features passenger lounges on the first floor, with operational facilities, a crew lounge and a conference room on the second floor. The Wi-Fi-equipped building, which has undergone a $510,000 redevelopment, is situated next door to the Lufthansa Bombardier Aviation Services (LBAS) maintenance facility in which ExecuJet has been a joint-venture partner since 2006. The interior décor of the new FBO features natural colors and dark oak furniture.
LBAS is a service center for Bombardier’s Learjet, Challenger and Global series. ExecuJet, which also has operations in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and the Americas, is a Bombardier sales representative and dealer across four continents. In addition to aircraft sales and ground handling, the group is involved in management and charter activities.
The ExecuJet FBO can offer all handling functions, including water, ground power, toilet servicing and fuel supplies (with two jet-A trucks available through a joint venture with Shell). The facility has 45 employees and expects to see its volume of traffic triple by the end of next year.
ExecuJet’s new premises are part of Schönefeld’s General Aviation Terminal (GAT). This is located between the airport’s parallel runways on the site where the new passenger terminal complex for the redeveloped airport is being built.
As a result of long-running legal action disputing the enforced closure of Tempelhof Airport, the Berlin authorities had to agree to provide business aviation operators and service companies with dedicated facilities at BBIA, and this led to the construction of a new shared GAT building. In total, around $9.5 million has been spent so far by BBIA on business aviation infrastructure at Schönefeld.
According to Andreas Cordes, general manager of the new ExecuJet FBO, the existing ramp space is adequate at Schönefeld except during peak periods. He told AIN that the BBIA management has not yet agreed on permanent aircraft parking arrangements.
What Schönefeld does already offer is 24-hour operations. Generally, the GAT
is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., but ExecuJet and other handlers are free to accept traffic at any hour. By contrast, access to Tegel is becoming less convenient, according to Cordes, and it is now difficult to park aircraft there overnight. Slots are required at Schönefeld, but there are never delays in getting these.
Schönefeld is close to the Dresden-Berlin freeway and the drive into the city takes about 30 minutes unless traffic is exceptionally heavy. A dedicated exit ramp has not yet been opened for the airport on the Dresden-bound side of the freeway, so the drive time from the center of Berlin takes about 10 minutes longer. By 2015 or 2016, BBIA is slated to have a direct rail connection with Berlin, which promises to relieve road traffic to and from the airport.
ExecuJet Europe has had a German aircraft operating certificate since the spring of 2007. The company now has a fleet of five aircraft, with a pair of Challenger 300s recently having joined a Learjet 60, a Challenger 605 and a Piaggio Avanti. Another Challenger 605 and a larger 805 are set to arrive soon, and by next summer ExecuJet’s combined Europe-based fleet is set to have increased to more than 70 aircraft.