I visited THF
in August 08, as the official closure of Tempelhof has already taken place let this TR
be my humble homage to the mother of all airports. Long Life to TFH!
As I was finishing this Trip Report on August 20th my TV was on and the breaking news of the JK5022 MAD accident came on. I continued typing until I realized my friend Pedro was flying to Gran Canaria that day. I called him, no answer. I called some other friends who were already on the island to celebrate their wedding. They told me he might had caught an earlier flight. We agreed to keep in touch. I was calling the airline while they did a research around MAD hospitals. Around 16.30 I confirmed he was on the flight. At 17.20 I got a call telling me he was in La Paz hospital: both femurs and pelvis broken, no serious burns. He has already had three operations and is now recovering at home after more than 2 months at the hospital.
Pedro was born again that 20th August.
May all the dead ones rest in peace and my most sincere condolences to their families and friends.
Monday 11, August 2008
It is one of the things you have to do now or you won’t be able to do it next year.
Having a month holiday and nothing planned beforehand except for the end of August when I was supposed to fly to BUD
for a week’s holiday with a friend I looked up in July at LX
fares and was pleasantly surprised with Business Saver fare which allows you to travel to some European destinations at very reduced prices so I booked right ahead a ticket to Berlin.
Having in mind the possibility to fly from THF
I booked immediately a day flight to BRU
with Brussels Airlines.
Although the fares were not incredibly cheap due to same day return I went ahead and looked forward to fly from THF
, a much desired airport in my log-book that I had only visited land side on my numerous trips to Berlin. Obviously the fact of closing down the airport in October was the main factor deciding to use it this summer.
I discovered that Air Berlin Services, www.air-service-berlin.de,
offered flights with classic airliners around THF
. Obviously they were all booked during my Berlin stay, so I went for the SN
options which was a nice option covering flights with Avro, a new plane for me.
Classical Berlin tram to classical THF
As Monday started I went to the airport using first one of Berlin’s trams then changing to the S41 line which offers spectacular views between and Tempelhof stations instead of using the more convenient U6
to Platz der Luftbrücke.
Train station bearing a classical name
Riding this train you can experience how much into the city center this airport is located, surrounded by housing at the end of the runaways you can really imagine those neighbors may not be necessary a.netters and even understand their reasons for being in favor of the closure.
I stepped off at Tempelhof station and started walking to the terminal. That is, I found a path close to the runaways where I encountered some people walking their dogs. I went to the fence and tried to take a picture but it was no use, there are some constructions that block the view of the whole roof covering the planes when parked at THF
. Few minutes later a police van parked on the sideway…. They did not step off the van but I am sure they had noticed me from one of the cameras and they were there in case I went to the fences again.
I kept walking and soon I reached the impressive building. It took me still about ten minutes to reach the main entrance. What a huge building! I would like to know what they are going to do with such a vast space once the airport is closed down next November. There is a small exhibition in the main hall dealing with this subject and some historical pictures of the place, when the airport was at full-bloom and was over flown by passengers back in the good old days of aviation.
The most wanted address by a.netters in Berlin
Piece of history on a wall
Impressive entrance to the building
Not suprising for a city with 3 airports
Entering the huge hall is an unforgettable experience. I remember the first time I visited was like moving back to my childhood when most airports were designed in this manner: huge check-in areas, very high ceilings, direct access to the planes…. It as really like going to the 70s again.
The main hall, empty as usual
The counters full of activity
A single pannel dispalys all daily flights
The hall was almost empty, even though it offers all modern amenities one can expect in its modern counterpart but with an old flavor that sure will be missed when gone.
The structure designed in the 30s looks heavy, consistent, permanent… as the regime that designed was supposed to be. The vertical lines and the lack of curves transport you to classical architecture as in ancient Rome.
The airside area presents a curvature that embraces in a welcome everybody arriving at it.
As I walked up and down, in and out of the terminal I kept looking at the few people around. Only three counters were open: one for the special flight for Air Service Berlin where the 15 passengers would be taken for the historical round flight over Berlin. The other two for the SN
flight to Brussels; together with Friedrichschafen, Graz and Mannheim the only scheduled services from and to this airport.
I skipped check in as I had done on line the night before. Although I had asked for advice before taking this trip to Flieger67-Markus about where to sit on the plane, I had forgotten his mail home and I took a seat on the A row, the one with two seats on the SN
Avros and that as my big mistake as you have the whole city of Berlin on the other side as you take off.
There is a desk at the entrance to the gate area which serves as security control, then you go through the arch and X ray where the officers look more than bored with so little traffic. As you exit the control there is a long corridor where the gates area located. There are four gates and then the corridor continues to the B gates, where there is a passport control, closed today as there seem to be no planes going out to non-Schengen countries.
Needless to say the area as empty. On gate A1 the lucky passengers to the Air Services Berlin historic flight where all sitting around with their cameras ready as they were called for boarding and I felt more envious than ever before… lucky b%&$?*>s. BTW, this was LH
The lucky ones...
...on a classical aircraft
As I went back to the small hall for my area other passengers had gathered there, around 25 I’d say and all of us were suddenly disappointed as it as announced that our flight would be delayed for about 95 minutes. In the corridor there are a coffee and a soda machines, plus the toilets which look as they have not been refurnished since the 1930s , luckily they have been cleaned more often.
All classical airlines on the same board
Corridor to gates
The only lounge in THF
On the corridor there is a room called Melli Beese which is used as a IP lounge for the C passengers. With the general atmosphere of the whole airport it did not seem to be very busy as the guy attending it came in and out several times leaving this ‘back in 5 minutes sign’ on the door.
With the idea of a 90 minutes delay I followed some more experienced passengers back to the terminal. I think this was nice as I guess you cannot do at most of the airports.
Back in the terminal I approached the SN
counters and asked about the delay and there is where I learnt about the strike in Brussels airport where many flights had been delayed and others cancelled. Glooooops! Would my 19.45 SN
flight back to THF
make it or would I be stuck in BRU
until the next day?
As other passengers I went out through a side gate, walked up to the General Aviation entrance where a private jet had delivered some customers. As usual a big black Mercedes was waiting for this 50s business man traveling with a young blond lady wearing big sun glasses, short mini-skirt and a big, very big Prada shopping bag.
Walking around the airport I did not meet many more people: some taxi drivers, some policemen and some rampers who were out for a smoke.
As I entered the building it was already 12.00 and the lucky passengers from the historic flight where back and displayed this satisfaction face you can have after such a flight.
The daily flight from Graz has arrived
I went up and down, left to right. Killed some time reading about the history and projects for THF
on a small exhibition caged on the main hall where some anti-THF
closure supporters had expressed their feelings.
No confusion on baggae belts here
My delayed flight is now displayed
Back to the gate as our SN
flight was about to land. Some of the passengers were called on the speakers and I wondered why, I will learn later.
The views from the gate areas are great as you can reach the whole runaway and parking area. A Cirrus flight landed and about 30 passengers debarked and walked up the blue line taking you to the arrival gate, then to the single luggage belt on the main hall.
While there the only refreshments could be obtained from a vending machine offering coffee and tea plus the always present Coke dispenser. No bar or cafeteria once you have gone through security.
The lucky ones are back
My plane is here. Finally!
Finally the SN
Avro landed and the passengers, about 60, exited the plane and all of us were lining up eagerly to board this much awaited flight.
As I descended the stairs from the building to the apron I could admire the huge floating ceiling which covers the airplanes parking slots. I do not know if it was added later to the original building but it sure is an impressive sight.
Magic moment, my first AVRO flight
I boarded the plane from the front to find out that I was sitting at the very last row. As I took my seat I found out about two interesting things: first that my neighbor companions would be most of the luggage not being stored on the hold and that was explained by the Captain announcing the strike of baggage handlers in BRU
. This explains why many passengers were called back to the desk at THF
Interior: clean, old but comfortable
Fancy a chat with the neighbors? Not today
See you later
Another classical on the apron
Soon we are ready to depart and as the plane starts moving to the runaway the safety demonstration is performed manually by the FAs, two females and a male who perform this and other jobs punctually and professionally. Not much on the smile side, though.
A flying time of 1:10 is announced as we are at the beginning of the runaway ready for take off.
Best spotters housing project
We are soon in the air above magnificent Berlin city. As I said, I took the wrong side on the plane so my views are limited to industrial areas and parks on South Berlin.
About 15 minutes on the flight a light turbulence appears. Nothing to worry about, the service, BOB, is performed on time.
One of my four friends to BRU
As I was hungry I ordered a sandwich and some wine. Not bad. I pay with a 20€ note and the guy asks politely for smaller. I think it is funny, half the world begging for a bigger one and he wants smaller…
The flight goes on smoothly until we start descending; very cloudy in BRU
Belgian countryside before landing
A bigger cousin to fly to US
We land without incident and as we taxi to our finger stand we pass by lots of heavies, up to three B777 Jet Airways, a SN
A300 and a novelty to me, a Novveair A320 (TS-INN
Climbing up the steep finger when you get out of an AVRO is quite a job.
As I get to the main terminal to see what will happen to m return flight to THF
I see the board with many cancelled flights: KL
…. And many others have cancelled some of their flights departing or arriving to BRU
. Being it in the middle of August, the terminal is full of people: families on holidays, many kids around and big lines at airlines desks. SK
seems to have arranged a hotel for their passengers to stay overnight. AZ
desk was full of people as well and you can easily tell the difference between Nordic and Mediterranean people, those Italian conversations could be heard from the entrance, especially when the ‘mamma’ took part in them.
Yellow signs indicate cancelled flights
counter. Quite a bit of work today
Most wanted men at the airport
airport employees pushing two carts full of water bottles offering them to everyone.
I go outside and the scenery looks like a huge construction site as there are many road works taking place. Fences everywhere and narrow passages for walking pedestrians. Not very appealing.
I head back inside and go upstairs to eat something hot and more consistent. I pass next to this cute Tintin sculpture, together with Hércules Poirot, the two most famous citizens of Belgium.
My favorite Belgian citizen
I go down and head to SN
counters where a nice lady answers my questions about my flight. I request a seat change to be on the right side and se does it promptly and reminds me I have already done one before when checking in online. I tell her that I am very inconsistent on this matter; not in any other aspects of life, God forbids. We have a good laugh and I think about how many people have already visited her today, not with this happy mood.
I walk both terminals, one is totally empty, everybody is at my terminal. Hey guys come on here, plenty of room, seats for everyone and some quite moments I grabbed before going into the zoo again.
Time to cross security, a breeze; then the trek begins as my plane leaves from the satellite terminal. Big shops, more chocolate than in Switzerland. I thought about having a haircut but I went for a beer at the bar. Then escalators don to the huge corridor connecting the to terminals and up again.
Gate area at the satellite terminal
After all this trekking it was time to wait, I walked the entire terminal up and down. I visited the prayer room, the far end gates with some interesting views of the apron and runaways as I tried to make up time for my departure. My flight was about 75% full so I expected a whole row to myself.
Gate to THF
, strike permitting!
My ride back
Next to our gate was a delayed IB
flight to MAD
, A321 EC
-JDM, and a SN
flight to Corfu.
Finally we were called for boarding and there we went.
Down the slopes to the tiny aircraft. I discovered a difference between that morning RJ
-100 and the afternoon RJ
-85: three rows less for the smaller one.
While waiting to depart the gate I got this unusual vision: the Captain/FO himself was loading the luggage. Either this or there has been a drastic change in rampers uniforms. Boy, the strike was bad!
A neighbor to MAD
Wait! That is not a classical worker
Definately this was not in the flightlog
Safety demonstration is performed in English by the cabin crew and a recorded French, Flemish and German options come after.
Detail of the engines
Adieu/Tot ziens BRU
Taking off is performed rapidly and we climb very steep to cross two layers of clouds over the Belgian / Netherlands / France / German skies; difficult to tell where you are when flying that airspace. That particular second layer is very thick and provokes some mild turbulence, it is like driving on a country road.
Flight interior. 75% load I guess
Finally we reach the blue skies and all announcements: services, SN
infos… are recorded. No flight information.
While the crew serves the nobles we, the peasants, look eagerly to see if any crumbs are left. Yes there are but first you have to scratch your pocket and hand out some money for the sandwich they serve. No begging for smaller money this time.
My hungry tummy got relieved with that
Again, a whole row to myself
We descend through clouds and more clouds plus some rain until I can see the city of Berlin waiting for us. We o around to Ostkreuz, then we turn and when it seems we are going to land on any roof the runaway appears and the magic of flying is over. Hard landing I must say.
Last Sun beam today
As I thank the crew for the flight and walk the stairs down to follow the blue line to arrivals I pass under the roof of THF
for a last time.
for today's flights
Entering the empty terminal is kind of sad. Walking to the exit and a last farewell as I head outside to the city.
. You are now part of history, mine today and millions others’ before.
Trivia: What Metro station is this?
Any comments are more than welcome!
"At reise er at leve" H.C. Andersen (Travelling is Living)