When did your love affair with aviation begin?
I actually started out in charge of technical documentation and scientific information with aircraft manufacturer Dornier in April 1966, after having gained a diploma in Foreign Studies at Mainz University. My office was based on Lake Constance in Germany and I was involved in the initial stages of the development of the Airbus, which at that time was still a paper aircraft. Dornier was a former member of the Airbus consortium, together with Hawker Siddeley, Sud Aviation, Nord Aviation and some others, which all are now largely forgotten.
What was the first airport you visited?
My first contact with a real airport was in 1963 when I worked in Brussels for seven months as an EU intern. The airport at Zaventem was the first in the world to be served by a dedicated rail line and as such became a popular place for weekend visitors. At that time, visitors could get real close to the aircraft by sitting in an open-air terrace and enjoying a Belgian beer.
Do you remember your first flight?
Absolutely, it was from Geneva to Heathrow and then on to Dublin in 1968. The latter two airports – chaotic Heathrow and rural Dublin – came as a shock to me because I had covered the inauguration of Geneva’s sleek new terminal earlier that year as an editor for Interavia.
When did you found Momberger Airport Information?
While airports were initially a sideline in my career, they became mainstream from 1973, when, back in Germany, I started my airport development newsletter, which is still going strong 36 years later. With my editorship came invitations to attend the opening of new airports and airport facilities and I have since visited more than 300 gateways across the world.
How many airport CEOs have you met over the years?
Possibly thousands and I have been lucky enough to know some great characters. One such character was Bob Taylor, the then managing director of Birmingham Airport in the UK in late 1970s. Bob was unfortunately in a wheelchair after a car crash and advised me to always open my car windows now and then on a long journey to avoid falling asleep at the wheel like he did. I have respected his advice ever since, even when the temperatures have been as low as minus 13 degrees centigrade and my passengers have looked on in dismay!
I also fondly remember meeting Cairo Airport’s Kamal Muhamady at a conference in Delhi and telling him that myself and wife, Karin, had earlier visited the Great Mosque and seen the hair of Mohammed’s beard. He immediately left the conference to see it, too, and at the next conference, he told us that he was the happiest man on earth, having seen all three remaining hairs of Mohammed’s (red) beard.
What do you think makes a good airport?
In my view, the one single word that best describes what makes an airport tick is perseverance. Why? Because the determination of airport staff to keep striving to achieve something despite whatever difficulties they face cannot be underestimated.
Does aviation have a bright future?
Aviation is notoriously resilient and its ability to adapt to change and cope with adversity sets it apart from other industries. The current reduction in airport charges and rent rebates being offered by airports around the world is another example of perseverance and how gateways are going out of their way to help their customers – airlines, concessionaires, tenants – through the traffic downturn and financial crisis. Among the first airports to offer such rebates were Singapore Changi and Hong Kong and others swiftly followed them in Asia, Europe and North America. Providing such relief in these difficult times can only help the aviation system. Because these interactions work in aviation, I am confident that the industry is strong enough to overcome the present crisis and any others that follow.
Airport World 2009 - Issue 5