October 30, 2008

Historic Berlin Airport Closes

Tempelhof, once Europe's largest airport and a central player in Berlin's history, ushers its final takeoff into the sky Thursday, officials say.

Its future is uncertain. Supporters of the airport tried to save it but a public referendum in April that would have called for its preservation failed to attract enough votes, Deutsche Welle said.

The city of Berlin and the German government, which own Tempelhof, have wanted to close it for years, citing costs and declining passenger numbers. Last year 350,000 passengers flew through Tempelhof, compared with 19 million for Berlin's two other airports. Its relatively short runways also reportedly contributed to its demise.

Planes were taking off and landing at Tempelhof in 1923. It it first took on the dimensions for which it became famous a decade later under the Nazis.

Later, it became the central point of the 1948-49 Berlin Airlift, in which the Allies kept the German capital supplied despite a Soviet blockade of the Western part of the city.