DALLAS – Today in Aviation, Air France (AF) operated the last-ever commercial departure from Berlin Tegel Airport (TXL) in 2020.
Flight AF1235, operated by an Airbus A320 (F-GKXP), departed at 15:39 local time bound for Paris (CDG). Fittingly, AF had been the first airline to operate into TXL on January 1, 1960.
Tegel Airport dates back to 1948 when the existing airfield was upgraded in just 90 days to support the Berlin Airlift. Previously, nearby Tempelhof (THF) had been the city’s main airport. However, THF had short runways that were unable to cope when the new generation of jet aircraft arrived in the 1960s.
Tegel, in reality, should have been decommissioned years ago. It was congested, tired, and out of date. However, Brandenburg’s decade of delays kept TXL alive as a stand-in, and despite its flaws, it had many fans.
Efforts to permanently close the airport due to the coronavirus pandemic failed. Tegel narrowly avoided death one more time until November 2020.
Despite its small size, it grew to become Germany’s fourth busiest airport and came to symbolize Berlin like few other public structures.
Icon of a Once-Divided City
Tegel Airport, like so many other things in Berlin, was a stopgap measure that somehow became permanent. There were plans to turn the area into allotments after World War II when West Berlin was still in the hands of allied forces, but Soviet leader Joseph Stalin had other ideas.
As the blockade he ordered began in June 1948, it became clear that an additional airfield was required to bring supplies in, so the French authorities in charge of the Tegel district ordered the construction of a 2,500-meter-long runway, the longest in Europe at the time.
Two decades later, the short runways at THF led to the expansion of TXL’s. Its parallel runways were lengthened to accept fully loaded, wide-bodied airlines. Then, in 1974, its iconic hexagonal terminal building opened its doors. A year later, on September 1, 1975, both Pan Am (PA) and British Airways (BA) moved their entire West German operations from THF to TXL.
In 1988, the facility was renamed Berlin Tegel ‘Otto Lilienthal’ after the German aviation pioneer. TXL grew to become Germany’s fourth-largest airport. Designed to handle 2.5 million passengers per year, by 2019, the airport was seeing 24 million pass through its doors.
Berlin Brandenburg Airport
Plans for a new airport to replace TLX, THF, and Schönefeld (SXF) date back to the early 1990s. The outcome was Brandenburg (BER), which had been set to open in October 2011.
Nine years behind schedule, BER finally welcomed its first flight on October 31, 2020. Days later, all passenger flights had been transferred over from TXL, signaling the end of over 70 years of aviation on the iconic facilities.
Featured image: Control Tower of the Berlin Tegel Airport before it became Terminal 2 of BER, Photo: Hans Knips, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
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