Do you believe in miracles? Me, yes. One will happen on October 31st. Then the synonym for failed major projects should open up, the breakdown airport BER. Then really! Neither the bankruptcy of a planning company, nor sprinklers from which it just trickles, nor other construction defects should prevent this time. In April, the TÜV actually approved the safety systems.
The trial operation is currently taking place so that the operation not only somehow, but as error-free as possible after the successful opening. First the BER employees tested the processes, then acquaintances - probably out of pity. A fire alarm was triggered in one of the runs, unplanned, mind you. Apparently someone in the cleaning room had smoked a cigarette, said airport manager Engelbert Lütke Daldrup. So the smoke detectors are working, that's good news.
On Tuesday, 450 voluntary extras were invited to test the processes for the first time. There was no money for that; curiosity alone drove people to Schönefeld. So did me. I registered online for the first appointment straight away and was curious: What would go wrong this time?
The trial operation should actually have started three months ago, has been postponed due to Corona and is now taking place with fewer extras than planned due to hygiene reasons. Keeping the distances is impossible, however, even in the shuttle bus to the airport. There are too many passengers to fill every second seat. I want to get out when the doors close. At first I stand in the corridor, but because it is a touring bus, it does not provide sufficient distance, masks or not. So sit down and take a breath.
We drive past the runway where nothing starts and lands. A couple of EasyJet and Ryanair planes are waiting to be used again. Soon we will reach the airport, a massive concrete box made of concrete and glass, which exudes as much warmth as the Berlin main station. The BER joins the buildings that are supposed to symbolize: here is the capital, here is the metropolis, poor & sexy was once.
We extras register - check-in would be said at other events, but that is yet to come - receive a green safety vest, an ID card, a packed lunch. You give us a gym bag that stinks of plastic, the usual, unnecessary giveaways: pens, lanyards. There is also a reusable coffee mug "to protect the environment", as one employee says. It would have been much more environmentally friendly, of course, to have the extras bring one of the five cups they have at home. But aviation and environmental protection, as we all know, there is still room for improvement.
The first impression of the inner life of the breakdown airport: everything looks as if it could start next week. Only the distant roar of a jackhammer, the foils over the switches at Europcar and the empty vending machine on the toilet (for condoms or toothbrushes or both?) Reminds us that it is not that far yet.
We - 450 women and men of all ages, with a slight tendency towards retirees and students on weekdays - receive the document that determines our fate on that day. It shows how many pieces of luggage everyone should take, whether a baggage cart and whether hand luggage or not. Whoever is allowed to grab hand luggage also has the chance to win the big ticket: fake weapons or imitation drugs. What you have with you at airports. Bulky luggage like skis are also distributed.
Which flight you should take is quite irrelevant. We'll all just get on a bus that will take us around the airport. For me, at 13:05 with EasyJet flight EJU9595 to Friedrichshafen, I should pretend that I have arrived at BER from Bournemouth. In the second round I want to fly with Eurowings to Dubrovnik in Croatia and then I land again from Dublin. But no flight shame today, there are only two short bus trips.
Old suitcases full of old clothes serve as props. © Sören Götz
A member of staff greets us: Please wait a few more minutes, "then the adventure test operation will start, then you can rightly say in October that I was there". He also warns that the police take this exercise very seriously: if you have your own folding knife, you risk a complaint. Taking photos is allowed, but not from security controls.
Suitcases and bags are already waiting for us on idle conveyor belts, apparently discarded models, filled with old clothes and marked with a white or yellow X as part of the test operation.