Airport Expansion

International aviation has been expanding for decades, and this had pushed the airport to its limits.  

Until the northwest runway was put into operation, for a number of years Frankfurt Airport was operating at full capacity during peak times. Even minor interruptions to operations would totally distort the flight schedule. This would result in delayed take-offs and landings and hectic transfers, which in turn had a negative impact on passengers, airport operations and the whole airport location.

Capacity bottlenecks a risk to the aviation location  

Frankfurt Airport was unable to meet airlines’ demand for more aircraft movements. This was jeopardizing the aviation location of Frankfurt, which otherwise enjoyed an excellent standing on the international stage. For decades international aviation has been expanding by around five percent a year, and experts are forecasting that passenger numbers will continue to rise in the coming years and decades.

With all this in mind, in 1997 former Chairman of the Executive Board of Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Jürgen Weber, called for capacity at Frankfurt Airport to be expanded. He pointed out that, without additional capacity, airlines operating at the location would no longer be able to keep pace with market development and would be forced to move their operations elsewhere.

Frankfurt Airport is now growing

This danger was averted with the construction of the fourth runway, with flight operations now running much more smoothly. Punctuality also increased to the satisfaction of passengers, airlines and baggage handling staff. Now airlines are once again being assigned slots for their flight planning, even during peak hours where flight operations are at a high. So Frankfurt Airport is continuing to benefit from global growth and we are safeguarding our development opportunities within this global growth and future industry.

Before the runway expansion, Fraport took part in a mediation group. Here is an overview of what happened.

The mediation process for the capacity expansion at Frankfurt Airport was initiated in 1998 by the state government of Hesse. It was intended to shed light on “the conditions required for Frankfurt Airport to sustain and enhance economic productivity, jobs and structural aspects of the Rhine-Main region in the long term, without disregarding the environmental impact on nearby settlements”.

The 21 members of the mediation group included representatives of the neighboring municipalities, the citizens’ aircraft noise initiative Offenbacher Fluglärmvereinigung, the relevant federal and state ministries, and business organizations and trade unions. Also represented were Fraport AG, Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH and BARIG (Board of Airline Representatives in Germany).

Extensive mediation report

The mediation report is a record, containing facts, figures and dates, of our case for the necessity of the capacity expansion and the economic impact of the airport on the surrounding area. At the center of the final report by the mediators was an overall package of recommendations and proposals covering five aspects:

  • Optimization of the existing system through new technology, partnerships with other airports, discontinuation of flights in favor of train travel.
  • Capacity extension through expansion, with recommendations submitted for three different expansion variants: northeast runway, northwest runway, south runway.
  • Ban on night flights between 11:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m.
  • Anti-noise pact: a binding scheme to minimize noise through restrictions, new charges and fees policy, new flight routes, passive noise abatement, property management for residents who are affected, noise measurement scheme and a commitment to noise reduction.
  • Regional Dialog Forum: establishment of a regional forum to continue and ramp up the dialog that was started with the mediation group.

Fraport adhered to the recommendations of the mediation group and requested a ban on night flights between
11:00 p.m. at night and 5:00 a.m. in the morning during the planning approval process. Since then, the airport operator has also optimized the operation of its existing runway system, expanded capacity, continuously worked on noise abatement measures and taken an active role in the Regional Dialog Forum.

Expansion of the northwest runway – here is an overview of the facts, figures and steps involved.

  • The new runway is 2,800 meters long and runs parallel to the existing runways. The center-to-center distance to the north runway is approximately 1,400 meters. This makes it possible to perform independent parallel approaches to the new northwest runway and the existing south runway – as opposed to the existing parallel runway system with its narrower distances.
  • There is a taxiway that runs adjacent to the new runway at a distance of 200 meters. There are six high-speed exit taxiways and one regular exit taxiway connecting the runway and adjacent taxiway at both the eastern and western ends of the runway.
  • Two taxiways over the ICE railway line, the A3 highway and the airport ringroad link the runway up to the existing airport movement areas. These two taxiways consist of five separate bridge structures, the biggest and most sophisticated of which are taxiway bridges East 1 and West 1. Aircraft use these two bridges to cross over the A3 and the ICE railway line. There are also the bridge structures West 2 and East 2, which both cross over the airport ring road, and bridge East 3, which is located on the existing airport grounds. The West 1 taxiway bridge (measured to the taxiway centerline) is over 90 meters long and up to 117 meters wide. The East 1 taxiway bridge (also measured to the taxiway centerline) is over 200 meters long and up to 220 meters wide.
  • Okrifteler Strasse is the name of the road that passes directly underneath the northwest runway connecting the municipalities of Mörfelden-Walldorf and Kelsterbach. The tunnel is just under 577 meters long and 18 meters wide. A new section of Okrifteler Strasse was built measuring around 1.6 kilometers and including cycle paths and pedestrian walkways.
  • Both the new runway and the existing runways are suitable for all-weather operating conditions, with controlled approaches permitted as set out under instrument landing system (ILS) category IIIb. This is a landing system that helps aircraft to land in all weather conditions. It sends precise radio wave transmissions from the ground that pilots can decipher using the instrumentation in their cockpits to access all the relevant data they need.
  • Former Chairman of the Executive Board of Lufthansa AG, Dr. Jürgen Weber, called for Frankfurt Airport to be expanded in fall 1997. He suspected that the airport would soon reach its capacity limits. Dr. Wilhelm Bender, former CEO of Flughafen Frankfurt/Main AG (Fraport AG since 2001), endorsed this position, arguing that an expansion was right and necessary but that it required a consensus to be reached with the majority of the population living in the Rhine-Main region. We therefore welcomed the state government of Hesse’s initiative of an unbiased mediation process with open arms. After the mediation group found in favor of an expansion under certain conditions, the official approval procedure was initiated. The first stage – the regional planning process – was completed in June 2002. The second and final stage – the planning approval process – began in fall 2003.
  • The planning approval stage culminated in the planning approval notice, which was the legally binding decision authorizing the expansion of the airport. It legally set out all relationships under public law between the project developer and the parties affected by the project. The Hesse Ministry of Economics, Transport and Regional Development issued the planning approval notice on December 18, 2007.
  • It was not immediately enforced out of respect for the independent courts and in the spirit of fair dealings. On January 15, 2009, the Hesse Administrative Court in Kassel (VGH) rejected all emergency appeals.
  • On January 12, 2009, the Darmstadt regional authority granted the right to take possession of parts of Kelsterbacher Wald.
  • Construction work on the new runway got underway on January 20, 2009, and it was taken into operation on October 21, 2011.

A total 282 hectares of woodland were cleared to make way for the expansion, which we are offsetting with reforestation measures encompassing 288 hectares of land. The replanting as a whole aims to take into particular consideration the need to maintain the diversity of species and to create recreational value for the local population. The 288 hectares of reforestation plans are split into 13 different plots around the region. We are investing over €160 million in reforestation and other nature conservation measures.