Ex-Rolls Royce exec takes over BER airport

Berlin's beleaguered BER airport, currently delayed four years past its original opening date, has a new boss in former Rolls Royce manager Karsten Mühlenfeld, it was announced at the weekend.

Ex-Rolls Royce exec takes over BER airport
Karsten Mühlenfeld. Photo: DPA

"I believe he is exactly the man we need," Brandenburg's minister-president Dietmar Woidke told broadcaster RBB.

Mühlenfeld is taking the job after his predecessor, former Deutsche Bahn reformer and Air Berlin boss Harmut Mehdorn stepped down, cancelling his contract a year before its expiry and saying that he was under too much scrutiny to perform his job.

"I believe that Mr. Mehdorn did a good job in the last years and that the plans are better for it," RBB reported Mühlenfeld as saying.

The former Rolls Royce manager is hoping to set an opening date for the Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport (BER) as soon as possible, but was quick to leave himself some room for error.

"I will know in the coming months if it's at all possible," he said.

Previously, Mühlenfeld worked as Rolls Royce's top executive in Germany, where the aero engine maker produces turbines for military and civilian use.

He had at the beginning of the month accepted a job with train manufacturer Bombardier, but will be taking over as CEO of BER instead.

BER has been a source of embarrassment for Germany ever since it missed its first opening date in 2010.

A second deadline in 2011 was also missed before a move-in date was declared and plane tickets issued for the new airport in 2012.

Ten days before the big day, BER was declared not ready and the move-in date was pushed back again.

The CEO at the time, Rainer Schwarz, was fired, but he successfully sued for wrongful dismissal, winning damages worth €1 million, though the decision is still under appeal in Berlin courts.

It is now hoped that the airport will open in the first half of 2017, though more planning is required.

BER has been declared "too small" by business planners and may see another terminal added before it opens.

The budget has also ballooned from its original €2.83 billion price tag to €5.4 billion and counting.

Meanwhile, Tegel Airport has also cost the city an extra €20 million as the too-small city airport remains in operation until BER's opening. 

SEE ALSO: Berlin airport tech chief guilty of corruption

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These are the plans for affordable (and sustainable) housing at Berlin’s former Tegel airport

Berlin’s city government has announced plans to build 5,000 apartments - all made of wood - on the site of Tegel airport, which was closed down for good at the beginning of November.

These are the plans for affordable (and sustainable) housing at Berlin's former Tegel airport
An artists impression of the new Schumacher Quarter. Source: Tegel Projekt GmbH

“From 2021, the largest timber construction district in the world, with over 5,000 apartments, will be built in the eastern area of the former Tegel airport,” said Berlin’s housing senator Sebastian Scheel (Linke).

The new district will be called the the Schumacher Quarter.

Scheel pledged that the new housing will be both climate neutral and affordable.

“From research and development, to material production and construction, everything will takes place in one place. This could help urban timber construction to achieve a breakthrough,” said Scheel.

He added that the aim was to make the timber housing for cities 20 to 25 percent cheaper to construct than a traditional build with reinforced concrete.

Photo: DPA

The project will be overseen by the Tegel Projekt GmbH, a company entirely owned by the city of Berlin.

The city will be hoping that the project goes more smoothly than the last state-run airport build. The disastrous construction of Berlin’s new Berlin Brandenburg (BER) international airport took a decade longer than planned.

READ ALSO: Berlin Brandenburg (BER) International Airport to finally open after nine-year delay

There is still some work to do on the site before construction can begin.

“Contaminated areas and military explosives need to be removed before it starts. The first ground work is already underway,” said Scheel. Construction on the building is scheduled to begin in 2024.

“According to current planning, the education campus and the first residential buildings in the Schumacher Quarter will be ready in 2027, the last ones in the early 2030s”, he said.

The new quarter is expected to provide homes for 10,000 residents of the capital. 

Another residential build on the site of the old airport is set to bring 4,000 more apartments into a city which is plagued by a shortage of living space.

The Tegel Projekt GmbH also wants to bring together founders, students, investors, industrialists and scientists in a new urban space. 

The Urban Tech Republic will be home to up to 1,000 different companies, and there are also plans to turn the current Terminal A into a university campus.

READ MORE: What's next for Berlin's Tegel airport?