Tuesday, April 1, 2014

BER Update (the Berlin Airport Project)

Several German newspapers over the past week have picked up the topic of the new Berlin Airport....to have opened in 2010....now, the wishful are hoping for a 2016 opening day, and the reality by the newspapers articles....suggests it might be 2017 or 2018.

Current costs?  Well....it's estimates.  No one....from the planning commission or state government....will vouch on an actual spent number.  I know.....usually, people don't act that stupid unless they are that stupid.

What is suggested by the various newspapers....to include Bild and the Stuttgart paper.....is that no comprehensive plan exists....in one place....under one division....under one planner.  In the world of project management....there's probably over a million violations of accepted practices....connected to this airport project.

All of this brings me to this awkward American moment of observation.  When everything is deemed "done", and the airport actually opens for business.....who exactly will manage the day-to-day operations?  And how can they manage....if there is no plan linking this to one operational business front?

Can you imagine the division put together in the initial period....the people to run the airport structure?  If the normal figure were seven hundred managers and technicians to keep the operation running twenty-four hours a day.....I'd probably triple that number because you don't know what the big picture is, or how "done" the structure really is.

Then you come to key jobs....like the chief of the fire department for the airport.  No real accurate plan or draft?  What guy would accept the fire chief job?  Four months into the job, your safety inspectors find routine violations and can't get the structure department to fix serious problems.  A fire here and there.....you worry about being arrested for running an incompetent fire department.

The structure maintenance team?  Whatever the normal average of maintainers would be....you'd have to run double that number and expect huge problems with the plans and designs left from the construction team.  You'd discover pipes running through an area.....with no identification over their source or their purpose.  In the modern world.....you can't build something like this and call it a 'success'.

The chief of the airport?  I would assume that only political players with connections would end up with the job...likely to pay at least a million Euro per year.  The guy would walk in.....pretend to manage, and hope to leave within a year or two to a better job.

It's hard to imagine Germans and the Berlin bureaucracy creating some mess like this.  Typically....Germans are the great engineers and designers of well orchestrated operations.  It's almost like they intentionally brought in the 2nd team....gave conflicting orders on purpose....hired lousy planners...and expected it to fail miserably.

The odds of BER ever being a major airport?  I'm not an airport operations guy, or an engineer.....but I tend to travel and note success and failure stories of airports.

An airport with a bad reputation....usually gets on a list of places where business fronts open and close on a regular basis.  A bad airport has a reputation for things that don't work.....like baggage missing flights or delays beyond the norm.....or the million-dollar windows are continually dirty.  A bad airport isn't where you want to change planes.  A bad airport doesn't grow....it stagnates.  A bad airport gets discussed as a problem that no one wants to fix.

I don't see the Berlin Airport ever being some magnificent hub or a preferred point for Germans to depart from.  It'll eventually launch, and be a minor hub for German travelers from the eastern side of the country.  Stuttgart's airport runs around 750,000 passengers a month on average.....which twice the number that I see BER in ten years....sadly.   Maybe there was an opportunity here....for something bigger, but they missed the boat on that goal.

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