It’s the end of an era – the last flights are due to leave Berlin’s Tempelhof airport later today before it closes its doors forever.
Dubbed the “mother of all airports” by architect Sir Norman Foster, Tempelhof occupies a huge swathe of land the size of New York’s Central Park just south of Berlin city centre.
It’s not yet clear what will happen to the site, which still stirs strong emotions for many people in the German capital. One Berliner said: “It is definitely the best airport I have flown out of. The whole set-up is very intimate, you are always close to the passengers and close to aviation.”
Construction has begun on Berlin’s Brandenburg International Airport, due to open in 2011.
A spokesman for Berlin’s airport authority described Tempelhof’s historical importance:
“Tempelhof is nothing more and nothing less than the cradle of aviation. In 1926, Lufthansa founded its first European hub here, and in the years after that Tempelhof became the biggest airport not only in Europe but in the whole world.”
A functioning airstrip since 1923, Tempelhof was fully built by forced labour between 1936 and 1941 on the orders of Hitler’s architect Albert Speer.
It became a powerful symbol of the Cold War when Soviet forces prevented supplies getting into West Berlin in 1948. The West responded by airlifting in more than two million tonnes of food and other goods.