A podcast series about what went wrong at BER, Berlin’s unfinished airport.
Subscribe on Itunes here.


Every Berliner knows the new airport is late. Few know exactly why. We’re here to explain. BER is the international airport code for Berlin Brandenburg Airport, nickname Willy Brandt. It has also become a signifier of failure, incompetence, corruption and Berlin’s general inability to get its act together.

If you’ve flown to Berlin Schönefeld Airport in the last few years, you’ll have seen BER as your plane taxied along the runway. But despite outward appearances, BER is far from finished. It has been under construction for 11 years, blown through six opening dates, three general managers and two state leaders. Costs have ballooned from around €1 billion to at least €5.4 billion.

Across this series, you’ll learn why the escalators are too short, why the lights are always on, and why the rooms seemed to be numbered by bingo. We’ll interview insiders and disgruntled workers, chase ghost trains running to the terminal, and go inside the unfinished airport.

On this episode we’ll go way back to before any plans had been drawn, before even the Berlin wall had come down, to discover the foundational flaws that continue to haunt the unfinished airport.

How To Fuck Up An Airport is presented by Radio Spaetkauf and RadioEins.
Producer: Joel Dullroy
Presenters: Joel Dullroy, Maisie Hitchcock, Jöran Mandik and Daniel Stern
Music: Ducks!
Artwork: Jim Avignon

Subscribe to Radio Spaetkauf on iTunes.

Support us with a monthly donation!


Days away from the planned 2012 opening party, nothing seemed wrong at BER. What was really going on? On this episode, we look at how the airport managers and politicians were messing with the plans, even as construction was underway.

They demanded a 70% increase in terminal space to add hundreds of extra shops, and requested special double story boarding gates for the supersized Airbus A380, even though no airline requested it. Instead of a working fire safety system, they planned to hire up to 800 people to act as human fire alarms.

Despite multiple warnings, the airport board pushed ahead with opening party plans right up until May 8, 2012, when the first major delay was announced. We meet the man who put a stop to it all – Stephan Loge, the administrator of the Brandenburg building department.

Also on this episode, Joel and Jöran visit the Schönefeld S-Bahn station in search of the empty train that runs nightly to the unfinished airport to keep air moving through the tunnels.

How To Fuck Up An Airport is presented by Radio Spaetkauf and RadioEins.
Producer: Joel Dullroy
Presenters: Joel Dullroy, Maisie Hitchcock, Jöran Mandik and Daniel Stern
Music: Ducks!
Artwork: Jim Avignon

Subscribe to Radio Spaetkauf on iTunes.

Support us with a monthly donation!


 


BER has been built twice – the first time incorrectly, the second time incompletely. We hear from Marco, an engineer who worked on site. Employees were busy stealing copper instead of fixing the fire system. Some managers got rich taking bribes. Informers had their coffee poisoned.

Joel and Jöran drive out to the unfinished BER terminal to inspect the too-short escalators that end with stairs. They were just one of 150,000 mistakes discovered in an audit after the 2012 cancellation. Cables were stuffed together in overloaded enclosures – a fire risk. The sprinkler pipes were too small to carry the required water. More than 600 fire walls had to be reconstructed. And the builders forgot to install lightning rods.

Even when it’s fixed, BER will need another overhaul: “As soon as they open it they have to modernize it,” Marco says. “The technology is old standards. New airports are already building in a different way. This is going to be from the beginning an old airport.”

But finally, heads are starting to roll… the wrong heads. The BER supervisory board fires the only people who know what’s going on, creating new chaos. Then they fire the CEO Rainer Schwarz, but bungle the paperwork. Will any politician ever take responsibility?

How To Fuck Up An Airport is presented by Radio Spaetkauf and RadioEins.
Producer: Joel Dullroy
Presenters: Joel Dullroy, Maisie Hitchcock, Jöran Mandik and Daniel Stern
Music: Ducks!
Artwork: Jim Avignon

Subscribe to Radio Spaetkauf on iTunes.

Support us with a monthly donation!

 


A special live recording of the fourth and (maybe) last episode. Take a tour of all four of Berlin’s under-construction, out-of-use, falling-apart and over-capacity airports. Each has had a part to play in the story of how Berlin fucked up an airport.

At BER, we hear the airport company’s side of the story: damn high regulations got in the way, they say. Tempelhof is closed, Tegel is operating precariously, and only socialist-built Schönefeld is muddling through. The end is in sight – October 2020. But even now Berlin is planning to double BER’s floorplan and build a new government terminal.

BER critic Dieter Faulenbach da Costa tells us the building is rotten to the core and should be scrapped. “I am convinced this airport can never open. They should pray for a miracle.”

We are joined on stage by Martin Delius, the former Pirate Party politician who led the Berlin parliamentary investigation into BER. Who was responsible for BER? All Berliners, he says. We ignored warning signs and re-elected incompetent politicians.

This episode was recorded live on stage at Prachtwerk Neukölln on Sunday April 29, with audio support from Craig Schüftan from Ducks.

How To Fuck Up An Airport is presented by Radio Spaetkauf and RadioEins.
Producer: Joel Dullroy
Presenters: Joel Dullroy, Maisie Hitchcock, Jöran Mandik and Daniel Stern
Music: Ducks!
Artwork: Jim Avignon

Subscribe to Radio Spaetkauf on iTunes.

Support us with a monthly donation!