The Airbus construction plant on the outskirts of Hamburg has had its latest plan to extend its runway thwarted by a colony of protected bats. But the plane manufacturer refuses to admit defeat.
People have been queuing up to prevent the runway from being extended
The Airbus aviation plant in Hamburg has faced many opponents in its quest to lengthen its runway to cater for the freight version of the A380 super-jumbo.
Landowners have successfully defended their property around the Finkenwerder plant, the local parish council of the municipality of Neuenfelde stood firm in the face of a relocation plan for one if its churches and now a colony of bats are set to join the growing list of blockers.
After a number of court rulings against proposed directions for the longer runway, Airbus finally had some good news last year when the Hamburg senate brokered a deal with the Neuenfelde parish council for some land to change hands.
But the production plant needed more space and targeted another part of the surrounding area for expansion purposes.
Bat colo n y sta n di n g i n the way
The bat colony looks set to enjoy another summer in Finkenwerder.
However, a section of woodland which would have to be leveled is the summer residence of the bats, a protected species in Germany. The destruction of the bats' habitat, even one which is not used all the year round, would be deemed illegal.
Hamburg's administrative court has ruled against the removal of the trees after two conservation organizations submitted official complaints.
It is the latest slap in the face for the Airbus plant regarding the lengthening of the runway. The continuing struggles revolve around an increase of tarmac by 589 meters (644 yards) which would encroach on fruit plantations and the outer limits of the local Finkenwerder community.
Exte n sio n delays carry fi n a n cial implicatio n s
Further delays could result in relocation and the loss of German jobs.
For the new A380s to arrive from their main production center in Toulouse in France and leave from the German factory on the boundaries of the Hanseatic town, this extension is of paramount importance. Without it, the Airbus plant is threatened with huge losses.
The new flagship airplanes arriving for prep work for delivery would have to go elsewhere, resulting in the loss of around 100 jobs and could lead to Hamburg losing its place as a major center in the worldwide aviation construction industry. This in turn would see the loss of even more jobs from the 7,000-strong workforce which would be relocated to other Airbus plants.
Airbus determi n ed that expa n sio n pla n survives
Airbus will continue to plan for the extension of the A380 runway.
However, the bat colony is unlikely to be the final nail in the coffin of the runway expansion plans. "The judgment does not spell the end of the runway extension," said Airbus spokesperson Christian Saadhoff in an interview with Der Spiegel. Saadhoff added that the plans would be amended to bypass the area inhabited by the bats.
But financial expert Ingo Egloff told the magazine that the continued delay may have serious economic repercussions for Airbus.
"A continuation of the present planning chaos endangers the whole project," Egloff said.