Statement on the current flight route debate: Independent parallel operation essential for BBI

In the past days the public debate on flight routes at BBI has included a discussion about how BBI Airport will develop, e.g. the operation of independent parallel runways at the new airport.
On request of the Federal Transport Minister, Dr Peter Ramsauer, Berlin Airports has reviewed all the facts and information pertaining to this issue and has come to the following conclusion:

Without independent parallel departures in peak hours the new airport will fall short of the current capacity of Tegel and Schoenefeld.

At present, the aviation location Berlin-Brandenburg can offer airline customers 50 departures per hour at the airports Schoenefeld and Tegel, with Schoenefeld handling 20 departures per hour and Tegel 30 departures.

If the new airport is forced to operate its two parallel runways interdependently, then in accordance with German aviation regulations (known as the separation rules) a maximum of 40 departures could take place per hour. This would mean that the new airport would provide a lower capacity than the current departure capacities.

The number of slots booked for 2012, the year BBI opens, can only be handled if both runways operate independently.

According to the present plans which were negotiated between the airport authority Berlin Airports and the airlines, there is a demand for 49 departures in peak hours. The demand in peak hours is expected to increase in the following years.

Peak hours play a decisive role in driving the growth potential for air traffic in Berlin and Brandenburg. According to Berlin Airports’ projections until 2015, peak hours are between 8.00am and 9.00am in the morning and 8.00pm and 9.00pm in the evening, and thus have no impact on the off-peak hours (10.00pm to 11.00pm and 5.00am to 6.00am) which are of greater significance for the issue of noise disturbance caused by the airport. From 2015, Berlin Airports expects a third peak period around the middle of the day between midday and 2.00pm due to the anticipated growth in traffic from the new airport.

If Berlin Airports is forced to forgo independent operation during peak hours of the new airport’s two parallel runways, which has been part of the plans since 1996 and was included in the final planning approval granted by the court of appeal, then the airport authority would be forced to turn down a substantial volume of air traffic. The long-haul international flights that are so crucial for the region are particularly dependent on hub services; Air Berlin is presently establishing a hub structure for its services at Berlin. Such peak hour traffic can only be handled if the airport is able to offer independent parallel departures.

Berlin Airports welcomes the debate on flight routes but firmly rejects restarting the discussion about the new airport

Against this background it has become clear that this fundamental planning requirement in the BBI plans must shape the regulation of the flight routes, and not vice versa: the plans for BBI cannot be modified to comply with the possible fight routes presently being discussed. Since the fall of the Wall, Berlin and Brandenburg have engaged in a long and often difficult debate on the future plans for the region’s airports. The final and non-appealable decision of the Federal Administrative Court put an end to this debate. The current debate on flight routes, which is fully justified, must not be abused to reopen the debate on the new airport. The fact that this has already been allowed to happen is severely damaging to the reputation of Germany’s capital city and the region surrounding it.

Planning a customised solution

For Berlin Airports, the further course of action is clear:

A basic and fundamental condition for the independent operation of the two parallel runways according to the standards and rules of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is a centre-to-centre distance between the two runways of 1035 metres. The distance between the two BBI runways is 1900 metres, which more than complies with this figure.

German Air Traffic Control states that the take-off route of parallel departures – i.e. simultaneous departures from parallel runways – must diverge by at least 15 degrees after take-off.

At other major German airports, German Air Traffic Control implements these requirements with a range of different customised routes, specifically planned to comply with local requirements (safety, noise protection, capacity). Details are provided by the simulation of the departure routes of the airports Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf prepared using the Air Traffic Control software Stanly-Track.

Berlin Airports also requires a customised flight route solution for the new BBI airport. Berlin Airports believes that the optimisation of noise protection for local residents and the profitable operation of the new airport are not mutually exclusive.

Legal background

The extension of Schoenefeld Airport to create the new Airport Berlin Brandenburg International BBI and the closure of inner-city airports at Tegel and Tempelhof has been the joint objective of aviation policies in Berlin and Brandenburg since the consensual agreement in May 1996. From the outset, the plans envisaged an independent parallel operation of two runways at BBI in order to supply the air traffic growth capacity needed by the region.

In order to handle the traffic projected in the plans (360,000 flight movements) with a two-runway configuration, it is essential that both runways can be operated independently at the same time.

These basic planning conditions were confirmed in the plan approval notice granted by the Brandenburg Infrastructure Ministry MIL and were re-confirmed by the Federal Administrative Court in its supreme, unappealable ruling dated 16 March 2006 (extract from the decision of the Federal Administration Court):

“The decision against a dependent parallel operation and in favour of independent parallel flight operations is not a planning error. A dependent parallel runway system would require a much smaller centre-to-centre distance between the two runways. The ICAO requirements stipulate that the minimum distance between two independently operated runways must be 1035 metres. Taking capacity and noise protection matters into account, the planned configuration with a centre-to-centre distance of 1900 metres is the preferred solution. The planners’ intention of planning the capacity to accommodate the anticipated maximum capacity speaks in favour of this. It appears obvious that a dependent runway system is capable of handling fewer flight movements than an independent system. The plaintiffs fail to show that a dependent runway system would be capable of handling the forecast air traffic in peak hours.”

Spokesman Lars Wagner

Lars Wagner Head of the Press Office / Spokesman
Berlin Brandenburg Airport

+49 30 6091-70100 +49 30 6091-70070