By JetRanger to Berlin Tempelhof

Augusta Bell JetRanger B206 Tempelhof

G-COUR JetRanger on the apron at Tempelhof

Before it closed in 2008 I visited Tempelhof in my JetRanger G-COUR.

Clearly, a budget airline would have been quicker and cheaper, but that was never going to be the point. I wanted to see at low level the large tracts of former East Germany, that had opened up to western helicopter tourists after decades of being inaccessible behind the Iron Curtain.

At Tempelhof I parked the helicopter in the long sweep of the Tempelhof terminal building. We were at the cargo end of things, and we had to vault up onto a loading deck to get off the apron, then walk for what seemed like miles to the passenger end of things, which was completely deserted.

The route was:

Lydd – Hilversum – Osnabruck – Berlin – Siederland – Lillie – Cambridge

Tempelhof is closed now, but there is Tegel instead. The return leg in particular was a lot of flying in one day.

Berlin Tempelhof Airport was an airport with an amazing history, close to the centre of Berlin. The site of the airport was originally Knights Templar land in medieval Berlin, and it was from this heritage that the name Tempelhof was derived.  In 1909, the pioneering French aviator Armand Zipfel made the first demonstration of heavier than air flight in Tempelhof, nine months before Orville Wright’s first flight later that same year.

Tempelhof was first officially designated as an airport in 1923, and Deutsche Luft Hansa was founded in Tempelhof in 1926.

As part of Albert Speer’s plan for the reconstruction of Berlin during the Nazi era, a new terminal building was commissioned in 1934. The airport halls and the adjoining buildings, intended to become the gateway to Europe and a symbol of Hitler’s “world capital” Germania, are still known as one of the largest built entities worldwide, and have been described by British architect Sir Norman Foster as “the mother of all airports”. With its façades of shell limestone, the terminal building, built between 1936 and 1941, forms a 1.2 kilometre long quadrant. Arriving passengers walk through customs controls to the reception hall.

Tempelhof was one of Europe’s three iconic pre-World War II airports, the others being London’s now defunct Croydon Airport (now an industrial estate) and the old Paris – Le Bourget Airport. One of the airport’s most distinctive features is its large, canopy-style roof, which was able to accommodate most contemporary airliners during its heyday in the 1950s, 1960s and early 1970s, thereby protecting passengers from the weather. Tempelhof Airport’s main building was once among the 20 largest buildings on earth; in contrast, it formerly had the world’s smallest duty-free shop.

It was used in the Berlin airlift, and the cargo doors we parked next to still bore the name US ARMY AVIATION.

Tempelhof Airport closed all operations on 30 October 2008, despite the efforts of some local protesters to prevent the closure.

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