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Airbus Sees Light at the End of the Runway

The Hamburg senate on Thursday brought the two sides of the Airbus Hamburg runway dispute together and brokered an agreement that would see property sold to the aviation plant for expansion purposes.

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Land owners have agreed in principle to the Airbus expansion

The Hamburg senate has moved to end the stand-off between the Airbus factory at Finkenwerder near Hamburg and the local parish council over the planned extension of the aviation plant’s runway.

Ole von Beust, Hamburg's conservative mayor, announced a breakthrough on Thursday that would make the expropriation of land for the purpose of extending the runway possible. Although no final decision had been made, the senate had re-opened talks that had allowed both sides in the dispute to move closer to an agreement, with the land owners’ agreeing in principle to the sale of property needed for the construction work.

The announcement comes just a day after the latest negotiations between Airbus, the Hamburg senate and the church municipality had failed. Airbus officials had remained firm on their proposed 589 meter (644 yards) extension, which would bring the runway to a total of 3,200 meters in length, and the creation of the delivery center which would create 100 new jobs.

The senate took this into consideration along with the fact that without the new facilities and extended runway, the Hamburg plant could potentially lose the Airbus contract and put 2,500 to 4,000 jobs in peril.

Expansion dates pencilled in

The landowners’ agreement to sell in principle will pave the way for the runway extension and delivery center construction to begin in 2006 with a completion date pencilled in for 2007. The new A380 super-jumbos will be temporarily prepared for delivery at the Airbus plant in Toulouse, France, until Hamburg is up to spec.

The proposal to lengthen the existing runway had run into serious and stubborn opposition from the local parish council of the municipality of Neuenfelde, which resolutely refused to sell any of its land to accommodate the extension. Initial arbitration discussions between the parties had failed and the church leaders had made it clear that negotiations were over.

The row revolved around an increase of tarmac which would encroach on fruit plantations and the outer limits of the community. For the new A380s to arrive from their main production center in Toulouse and leave from the German factory on the boundaries of the hanseatic town, this extension was seen as one of paramount importance. Without it, the Airbus plant would have been threatened with huge losses.

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