Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The airport to nowhere

Now, this is a tricky thing: an unfolding scandal too big to miss, but also far too outrageous to be satirized. How do you satirize something that sounds like a satire before you even start?

This is about Berlin’s new Berlin Brandeburg Airport, which has been under construction since 2006, was due to open in 2011 after five years in the making, and now is expected to open possibly in 2014 or even later, if at all. You see? Already it sounds like a working draft for an episode of Yes, Prime Minister.

I gave it my best shot, but I’m not sure I was able to make it funnier than it is.

There are, of course, a myriad other facts that go with this story. The technical supervisor, for example, has been accused of writing his dissertation instead of turning up for work. The fire alarm and sprinkler system, the first major installment in this comedy of errors, is said to be so complex nobody actually knows how to work it. Several parts to the airport, including the jetbridges and the luggage caroussels, have cost twice the original estimates. Several experts have complained that the airport is too small to cope with the expected traffic. One YouTuber commented to say that the kerosene tanks were full in anticipation of the grand opening, but kerosene is perishable so it had to be taken to Tegel in tankers.

In fact, even before the contract was awarded, things were going wrong. The airport operators anticipated that the decision would be made to build the airport at Schönefeld, and bought a fair-sized chunk of land at what was later discovered to be a vastly inflated price. That chunk, though, isn’t in the right place and to this day hasn’t been built on or used in any way.

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