Berliners in the heart of the city will wake up on the first November morning to an eerie silence. The last aircraft will have landed on its runways the day before, and no more passengers will emerge from its iconic terminal building, once one of the world’s biggest.
Next year, it would have been one hundred years since Frenchman Armand Zipfel made the first flight demonstration, followed later in 1909 by Orville Wright.
Even before, the land owned in medieval times,by the Knights Templars, after whom it was named when designated an airport in October 1923, was the spectacular location for the annual military parade on the German Emperor’s birthday.
Its history was in many ways unique. In 1927 it became the first airport to have an underground railway connection and was the busiest airport in the 1930s, at a time when it served as the gateway to Europe as a potent symbol of Hitler’s ‘world capital’.
In tunnels below its halls, thousands of workers were busy assembling the Junkers Ju 87 Stuka dive bombers and later the Fokke-Wulf Fw 190 fighter aircraft that were so prominent and effective in the Second World War.
But its greatest moment, and one that will always be remembered, came in 1948. Following the imposition by the Soviet Union of a total blockade over West-Berlin, the USA and Britain initiated the famed Berlin Airlift.
During a period of almost one year, aircraft from the US Air Force, US Navy, The UK Royal Air Force, British European Airways and a number of fledgling UK charter airlines made 277,728 flights and transported 2,326,205 tons of supplies. Tempelhof and the ‘raisin bombers’ became a symbol for the Berliners’ desire for freedom.
History, however illustrious or infamous, is no guarantee for permanency. In spite of years of protest action to halt the closure, the airport will finally shut down.
Rest in peace!.