More than 400 politicians, airport leaders and members of the press gathered at a foggy Frankfurt Airport today to witness the first plane to land on the much-anticipated fourth runway.
German chancellor, Angela Merkel, and her VIP entourage landed on the inaugural flight at 1430pm this afternoon on the gateway’s new €600 million ‘Runway Northwest’.
The new runway is expected to raise the airport’s airfield capacity by 50% by allowing it to handle up to 126 aircraft movements hourly instead of today's limit of 83 by 2020.
Capacity will be gradually ramped up over the years and the plan is to grow flight movements between 4% and 7% annually.
The fourth runway is 2,800-metres long and noticeably shorter than the airport's other runways, which are all over 4,000-metres.
Runway Northwest will therefore be used strictly for landings by aircraft smaller than the B747.
“After more than ten years of discussions, mediations, regional planning processes, planning procedures, hearings, as well as three years of construction, the fourth runway is now ready to be put into operation”, Fraport said.
The ceremonial opening saw speeches from Dr Stefan Schulte, chairman of Fraport; Volker Bouffier, minister-president of the German federal state of Hessian; and Dr Petra Roth, Lord Mayor of Frankfurt. Dr Christoph Franz, CEO of Lufthansa, also attended the event.
After the speeches, the first scheduled flight – a Lufthansa aircraft flying purely on biofuels – landed on the runway an hour later at 15.30. A further 100 flights are expected to land over the duration of the day.
At the ceremony Dr Stefan Schulte, said: “The new runway will allow Frankfurt Airport finally to overcome its capacity constraints and to offer the international aviation industry growth opportunities once again.”
However, he criticised the recent night time ban on flights at the airport, adding: “Urgently and very soon we need a pragmatic ruling – which is absolutely normal throughout our industry – for delayed departure flights that need to take off during night hours, just like at every other airport.
“Furthermore, our role as Germanys ‘gateway to the world’ is the reason we are so concerned about the night time ban being imposed on us.”