Farewell to the “crime scene cleaner”: BER boss retires

Schönefeld (dpa) – He does not want to set up a showcase with memorabilia from BER in his apartment. And nobody in Berlin has proposed a memorial for Engelbert Lütke Daldrup either.

When the airport manager retires at the end of the month, it will be a modest exit – like the opening of the infamous capital city airport BER eleven months ago too.

“There have been days in the past few years that were desperate,” sighed Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller at the ceremony – relieved that the nightmare was over. At his side: Lütke Daldrup, whom he 2017 had ordered to Schönefeld. There he became a “crime scene cleaner”, as the outgoing managing director called himself in the weekly newspaper “Zeit”.

Because for years others had tried their hand at the construction site of Germany’s third largest airport – with and without a plan, and sometimes more broken than built up. When the boss position became vacant again, managers in a row canceled. Nobody wanted to spoil their careers. So the choice fell on Müller’s right-hand man in the town hall.

“It was laborious, very detailed work,” says the former official. But now the airport is running smoothly, the “Baukladderadatsch”, as Lütke Daldrup likes to call it, has come to an end: “I am satisfied.”

But Lütke Daldrup also learned lessons at BER. He had to overcome a lot of skepticism when, after years in administration, he switched to the managerial position with an annual salary of half a million euros. The engineer had to quickly get rid of his make-up that he would be able to open the airport one year after taking office – it took a good two years longer.

Lütke Daldrup was also surprised at how much there was still to clear in the Jumble of smoke flaps, fire alarms, sprinklers and smoke extraction systems. He sat on the board of directors.

And he wasn’t the first to want to solve the problems carefully and thoroughly. Ex-chief technology officer Horst Amann was one of them, as the BER investigation committee recently recognized in its final report. But in its time nobody wanted to wait that long.

“The airport made me more patient,” said Lütke Daldrup of the “Berliner Zeitung”. During his time in the town hall, the nickname “Drängelbert” was added to him. Because it never happened fast enough for him.

What helped: The former state secretary knows how to deal with parliaments and governments – unlike his predecessors at the state-owned company, he did not bring owner representatives from Berlin, Brandenburg and the federal government against the airport. In addition to the construction, the administrator also took care of the files, provided evidence and documentation, obtained special permits for creative construction solutions.

And he grabbed the construction companies by the honor: Lütke did not make a public appearance for a long time Daldrup did not clearly mention the names of the big companies that made good money in the BER fiasco. In some cases he was able to force them into new, stricter contracts.

The ex-official liked the role of the top manager. Suddenly he said words like “forecast” and “business case”. Soon he was on the BER construction site wearing a safety vest with the three letters CEO, Chief Executive Officer printed on the back.

But Lütke Daldrup also worked to pacify the project. A few weeks before the opening, he invited the architects around Meinhard von Gerkan to the terminal – after the opening 2012 the supervisory board had chased them from the yard. Most recently, the airport had the Nazi history of the Schönefeld site researched.

What the trained urban planner got involved in: the expansion of the airport and the planning of the Airport City. But the new terminals may only be needed in the distant future. Corona caused air traffic to collapse – forecast uncertain. Under these conditions, Lütke Daldrup’s advertising for more long-haul flights and for ICE connections from Schönefeld remained largely unsuccessful.

Compared to Frankfurt and Munich, BER remains a large regional airport. «We believe that Germany doesn’t just need two international airports. East Germany needs its own », says Lütke Daldrup. The successor Aletta von Massenbach will now have to advertise for this.

Lütke Daldrup leaves six months before the actual end of the contract. He now has more time for his wife and his dachshund. He wanted to travel, but not as often only by plane as he admits in interviews. It can also be more relaxed – by ship and by train.

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