Photo report: Thank you, Berlin-Tegel!

The BVG pays tribute to Berlin-Tegel Airport (Photo: Granit Pireci).
The BVG pays tribute to Berlin-Tegel Airport (Photo: Granit Pireci).

Photo report: Thank you, Berlin-Tegel!

The BVG pays tribute to Berlin-Tegel Airport (Photo: Granit Pireci).
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Berliners have always had a kind of love-hate relationship with their Tegel Airport, because they never really liked the now decently run-down airport, but the majority of travelers preferred it to Schönefeld. The inner-city location was particularly popular with people who were traveling for business reasons. At the weekend, the flying lights go out in Tegel. Forever.

The area on which the Otto Lilienthal Airport is located was a veritable crater landscape after the Second World War. Many remains of ammunition and duds were found on the site. An allotment garden should have been built there, but the French occupying forces began building a runway in 1948. At that time it was the longest in Europe at 2.428 meters. The first plane landed on November 5, 1948, a Douglas C-54.

First was the Berlin-Tempelhof Central Airport the airport that was most important for civil air traffic in West Berlin. From Tegel there were only military flights and occasionally a few charter flights. At that time, both airports were only allowed to be approached by the occupying powers. Air France was the first airline ever to shift scheduled flights from Tempelhof to Tegel. The first flight took place on January 2, 1960. The circle is complete, by the way: Air France also operates the last regular scheduled flight from this airport. PanAm moved in May 1964 and brought the first long-haul flights to Tegel.

Interior shots of Terminals A and B in the slideshow:

From 1975 the Otto Lilienthal Airport finally prevailed. The Americans decreed that Tempelhof must be closed to civil air traffic. Although the "competitor" was reopened only a few years later and was able to achieve respectable passenger numbers, especially after reunification, it was closed on October 30, 2008 amid great protests - forever.

The striking Terminal A was built between 1965 and 1975. The hexagonal main terminal building was inaugurated on October 23, 1974, but it was not completed until a year later. An airport with ultra-short distances was designed, because you could park right in front of the gate, and check-in, security and boarding were all done in one go. At that time, real shopping malls did not play a role. The passenger numbers in 2019 were also still utopian in the 1960s and 1970s. Flying was something for the rich and West Berlin was not as easily accessible as it is today. At the end of the 1970s, Air Berlin USA was founded by a former PanAm pilot. After the reunification, this became Air Berlin, which had to file for bankruptcy a few years ago. For many years this carrier was the top dog in Tegel.

Exterior shots of Terminals A and B in the slideshow:

It is also worth mentioning that Tempelhof and Tegel played a particularly important role in the time of the Airlift. At the two airports, planes of the western victorious powers took off and landed every minute to supply the population. The background was that the Soviet Union and the GDR cut off the city of West Berlin from the outside world. The western allies stepped in because giving up or even handing the city over to the Soviet Union was out of the question. The persistence paid off, because the East gave way and again allowed transit traffic over the territory of the GDR.

After reunification, Tegel boomed strongly and Tempelhof's capacities were urgently needed, because Otto Lilienthal Airport was bursting at the seams. At the time of construction, nobody expected that so many people would travel to / from Berlin. Originally it was planned that the hexagon would simply be built next to it, so that it would be mirrored. So there should have been two hexagonal terminals. But Berlin politics wanted air traffic out of the city center. This initially cost Tempelhof's existence and now also Tegel, where one temporary solution after another was "built" over the years.

First of all, the so-called fog hall was converted into another terminal. Check-in counters and small shops were positioned there. Terminal E followed in the basement, which, by the way, is particularly small. That was not enough, which is why the next expansion came with Terminal D. This is a converted parking deck that was last used by Eurowings, for example.

Terminals C, D and E in the slideshow:

Air Berlin was present almost everywhere in Tegel, but Terminal C - C like container - was used almost exclusively by this airline. The provisional was built in the "first expansion stage" from 2006 onwards. The connecting passage to the main building was never particularly popular and was often characterized by unpleasant smells. Terminal C was expanded several times because Tegel could not handle the high number of passengers in any other way.

The Berlin Senate never had any interest in the Tegel and / or Tempelhof after the Opening of the BER keep open. Despite popular petitions, THF was initially shut down and this fate will now also be suffered by TXL at the weekend. It is not at all an exaggeration to say that Tegel has run down and is neglected in recent years. Since the closure only depended on the opening date of BER, only the most essential investments were made. Accordingly, it is a little hypocritical to advertise with “Thank you Tegel”, because referendums that have clearly spoken out in favor of keeping the airport open have been ignored. The will of the people of Berlin was a city with the Berlin-Tegel Airport. It is very likely that adaptations in Tempelhof and Tegel would have been much cheaper than the establishment of BER. But just like the closure of the two inner-city airports, the construction of Berlin-Brandenburg Airport was a “political decision”. The main Tegel building is to house a university in the future, but whether this is even rudimentary is another piece of paper. In any case, a general renovation will be necessary. In any case, an exciting chapter in aviation history ends in Tegel. Take care, Otto-Lilienthal-Airport, we will miss your short distances with every "forced march" at the new BER.

Airside recordings in the slideshow:

Reading tips:

Photo report about the new BER

Photo special about the former Berlin-Tempelhof Airport

Special about the first scheduled flight from BER to Vienna

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Editor of this article:

Jan Gruber is Senior Editor at Aviation.Direct. Before that, he had held the same position at AviationNetOnline (formerly Austrian Aviation Net) since 2012. He specializes in low-cost carriers, regional aviation in the DA-CH region and in-depth research.

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About the editor

Jan Gruber is Senior Editor at Aviation.Direct. Before that, he had held the same position at AviationNetOnline (formerly Austrian Aviation Net) since 2012. He specializes in low-cost carriers, regional aviation in the DA-CH region and in-depth research.

Nobody likes paywalls
- not even Aviation.Direct!

Information should be free for everyone, but good journalism costs a lot of money.

If you enjoyed this article, you can check Aviation.Direct voluntary for a cup of coffee Coffee trail (for them it's free to use).

In doing so, you support the journalistic work of our independent specialist portal for aviation, travel and tourism with a focus on the DA-CH region voluntarily without a paywall requirement.

If you did not like the article, we look forward to your constructive criticism and / or your suggestions for improvement, either directly to the editor or to the team at with this link or alternatively via the comments.

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