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"Berlin - An Uncertain Future for Hitler's Airport"


 
Thursday, December 21, 2006

Court suggests delaying closure of Berlin's historic Tempelhof airport
The Associated Press

 
BERLIN - Berlin's historic Tempelhof airport - the base for the Berlin
airlift, but now eclipsed by other facilities - could win a one-year
reprieve from closure under a proposal made by a city court Thursday.

Under existing plans, Tempelhof, which is close to downtown Berlin, will
cease operations in October as part of preparations for a new international
airport on the capital's outskirts.

However, 13 companies that use the airport challenged the city government's
order for the loss-making Tempelhof to close in 2007.

On Thursday, the Berlin-Brandenburg administrative court proposed a
compromise under which the airport could remain open another year, until the
end of October 2008. The plaintiffs have until Jan. 10 to say whether they
agree.

Tempelhof opened in 1923 and was expanded under the Nazis into a huge
horseshoe-shaped complex meant to serve Adolf Hitler's never-realized
capital of Germania.

Its massive, 1.2 kilometer (3/4 mile)-long terminal is one of the most
prominent examples of Nazi-era architecture remaining in Berlin.

After World War II left the city divided into east and west, Tempelhof
became the hub of the nearly yearlong U.S.-led Berlin airlift when the
Soviets blockaded West Berlin in 1948.

Tempelhof - the closest of the city's three international airports to
downtown Berlin - is now used only for short-hop flights with smaller
planes.

While it is too small for many modern jets, its backers value its convenient
location.

Their hopes of keeping planes at Tempelhof have been boosted recently by a
proposal from a German-U.S. investment group under former Estee Lauder chief
executive Fred Langhammer that would see the site turned into medical center
with a small, private airport.

Under the proposed compromise, small charter operators would have to move to
the former East Berlin's Schoenefeld airport, outside the city limits, which
should have a highway connection by 2008.

Larger companies with scheduled flights would have the option of moving to
the city's busiest airport, Tegel, in the former West Berlin.

Mayor Klaus Wowereit welcomed the proposal as a "fair balance of interests."

Schoenefeld is to be expanded into the capital's new hub, Berlin-Brandenburg
International, by 2011. Both Tempelhof and Tegel are slated to close by
then.

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