Berlin Airport opening pushed to March 2013, project management company fired

The supervisory board overseeing the development of the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which was scheduled to begin operations on June 3, have postponed the opening date to March 17, 2013. The board has also terminated its contract with the project management company working on the new facility and announced that Manfred Kortgen, the airport’s managing director for operations and construction, is on his way out.

Incomplete safety systems and a lack of structural approval initially forced the cancellation of the June 3 start date — a decision announced on May 8. Officials had initially wanted to install a partially automated system, open the airport, and update the system as time went on, but that option was rejected. The new system will not be completely installed until December.

In a press release, airport officials detailed the issues they faced in trying to open the airport on schedule. The heart of the issue was trying to finalize safety systems while construction was still underway.

“The situation had become more and more challenging, as some construction works were behind schedule, while planning, scheduled building works, staff training and trial runs continued simultaneously. Some scenarios could therefore not be tested as planned during the trial runs,” according to the release. “Interruptions to trial runs occurred repeatedly as a result of construction work. A further issue was the lack of reliability of certain systems, particularly in parts of the data technology and safety equipment.”

Three months has been set aside for trial runs, inspections and approvals. According to a press release issued by the airport, this liberal timeline has been imposed to minimize risk and to make sure the adverse weather during the winter months won’t complicate the airport’s maiden operations.

The new Berlin Brandenburg Airport will replace and consolidate operations from Berlin-Schönefeld Airport and Berlin Tegel Airport, which were scheduled to close on June 2. Lufthansa and airberlin were to begin flight operations at Berlin Brandenburg Airport the morning of June 3.

Lufthansa had originally intended to fly to 30 new destinations from Berlin Brandenburg Airport and deploy six additional aircraft on its Berlin routes. Air France, Condor and easyJet were also to increase their frequency to Berlin and announce new routes to BER this summer.

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