No danger of melting at BER. In any case, at Willy Brandt Airport there is no reason to fear conditions like at London Luton Airport, where the surface of the runway was melting in the heat of the century, flights had to be canceled and diverted and even the Royal Air Force could not fly to its military base there.
But something like that can fortunately not happen at the local airport because of the structural conditions, as those responsible for the airport company of Berlin Brandenburg and the federal government (FBB), managed by BER boss Aletta von Massenbach, are sure.
“Nothing melts with us!”, assures FBB spokeswoman Sabine Deckwerth. The 4000 meter long southern runway is made of concrete. And the older north runway from GDR times was only completely renovated a few years ago and now consists of “heat-resistant, high-quality asphalt”.
In addition, the runways are checked every four hours, regardless of the weather, “for dangerous objects, for cracks. Then, of course, action is taken immediately,” says Deckwerth. “This slope check takes place constantly.” If one lane is closed, all traffic can be diverted to the other lane. Even if the temperatures reach new record values these days, says Deckwerth, “we do not expect any restrictions on take-offs and landings”.
But of course the heat is also a problem at the airport. In particular, the employees of the three BER ground service providers Aeroground, WISAG and Swissport, who work on the apron, for example unloading the aircraft. Because the shimmering heat causes the temperatures there to rise to up to 60 degrees Celsius.
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It is clear that the occupational health and safety obligations associated with extreme temperatures must also be met by all companies at BER. So sufficient additional drinks are to be provided and safety shoes are required, says Deckwerth.
And in the BER terminal itself? This is of course air-conditioned. And from earlier false alarms, such as in the early days after commissioning, when the fire alarms of the fire protection system, once notorious as “monsters”, went off repeatedly in unfavorable incidence of sunlight – when the sun was too low – nothing was heard for a long time.
The complicated system with three alarm centers and tens of thousands of fire alarms has since been readjusted. In addition, additional cameras were installed as an additional check to see whether there was really a fire – so as not to clear the terminal without reason. “Two reporting unit” is the term for it. This means that the double system “recognizes” automatically whether it is a false alarm or not. “This system has been in operation since this year, and since then there have been no more false alarms in T1 due to the solar radiation,” says Deckwerth.
However, those who have their office in the south of the terminal, that applies to the Federal Police, Brandenburg State Police or employees of Easyjet and Lufthansa, are out of luck. It’s getting even hotter there than it already is, and that’s where the air conditioning system reaches its limits. Actually, the glass fronts to the southern runway are to be retrofitted with external shading, which costs 3.6 million euros. But the new mega blinds have not yet been installed at BER. And even in normal sunshine, the temperatures in the south pier had risen to over 26 degrees, the limit of the workplace ordinance.
The problem that the sun is strongest on the south side, like everywhere else in the world, and is now also heating up BER, was not noticed during the ten-year renovation of the new airport building – but only a year and a half after it went into operation. The BER management on the supervisory board therefore had to sweat last year.