Flight paths and flight procedures

The photo was taken in long exposure and shows an airport. The lights of the planes taking off and landing leave glowing streaks in the dark sky.

Flight paths online

How many aircraft are flying in the Rhine Main area? How high are aircraft flying as they approach Munich Airport? What route do pilots take after taking off from Berlin Brandenburg Airport? Our radar data system STANLY Track allows you to track current aircraft movements in German airspace. At the top right, you can set a filter for different airports. At the top left, you can create a history over a certain period of time. 

This screenshot shows the DFS tool Stanly Track. It displays the flight tracks on a map.

To flight paths

Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) 

Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) was opened at the end of 2020 – making it the youngest of the 15 designated international airports in Germany where DFS is responsible for providing air traffic control. Questions have repeatedly been asked about approach and departure procedures, runway use and noise pollution.  

We have collected the most important answers for you. Some of the information is specific to BER, but parts can also be transferred to other airports – for example regarding the definition of flight procedures, the role of the noise abatement commission, the runway-in-use and the assignment of aircraft to the runways. 

Aircraft stand on the apron of Berlin Airport BER. The DFS tower can be seen in the background.
  • What flight procedures apply at BER? 

    The flight procedures at BER are designed for a capacity specified by the shareholders of the airport. When developing flight procedures, DFS must ensure the safe, orderly and expeditious handling of air traffic. In addition to this core task, it must also strive to protect the population from unacceptable aircraft noise. Our goal is to keep the number of citizens affected by aircraft noise as low as possible. In the immediate vicinity of an airport, aircraft noise cannot be reduced but only shifted. The noise abatement commission therefore has to find the optimal compromise of all interests. 

    The parallel runway system of BER can be used for independent parallel operations. The flight procedures (i.e. the flight routes) at BER were defined by the German Federal Supervisory Office for Air Navigation Services (BAF) and have been in force since BER went into operation on 4 November 2020. Due to the Covid-19 restrictions, single runway operations were in place until the end of November 2021. In December 2021, parallel runway operations were resumed. 

  • How are citizens involved in the development of flight procedures? 

    At every designated international airport in Germany, a commission has been established for the protection against aircraft noise in accordance with Article 32b of the German Civil Aviation Act (LuftVG). This noise abatement commission comprises representatives from the cities, municipalities and districts particularly affected by aircraft noise. It advises DFS, the BAF and the competent aeronautical authority of the Federal State on possible measures to protect against aircraft noise. Its members are appointed by the aeronautical authority of the Federal State. If a municipality files a request for the shift of flight procedures with the noise abatement commission, the commission may discuss this request. The result should always consolidate the interests of all municipalities concerned. The list of members of the BER noise abatement commission is published on the website of the noise abatement commission for Berlin BER Airport.

  • Do the BER flight procedures remain in place forever once they are determined? 

    As a rule, flight procedures are determined for the traffic volumes to be expected in the long term. However, they can be changed over the course of time. There are good reasons why flight procedures need to be replanned: These include technological enhancements such as satellite navigation, new technical aircraft equipment, the establishment of restricted areas, national and international changes in legislation, as well as changes in the European air traffic network. 

    Thus, it is generally possible to modify flight procedures, but this always has an impact on the entire network of approach and departure routes. And it always means redistributing the noise caused by aircraft. The supposed improvement in one place must not lead to a serious deterioration elsewhere.  

    The parallel runway operations that were resumed in December 2021 are currently being validated. At the end of this one-year period, a review will determine if changes are necessary and how they will be implemented. After this deadline, we will present our findings to the BER Noise Abatement Commission for consultation and make adjustments, if required. 

  • Have the flight procedures for BER remained unchanged since 2012? 

    The BER flight procedures have not been changed since the planned start of operations in 2012. One exception is the so-called prop routes that are no longer needed and were therefore cancelled in March 2022. In addition, the connections of the standardised departure procedures to the route network were formally shifted at an altitude of more than four kilometres: In addition, departures from the northern runway should be able to fly more easily to destinations in the south, while departures from the southern runway should be able to fly to destinations in the north. The adjustment became necessary because the airport operator had changed the operational concept. As a result, the assignment of aircraft to the two runways according to their destination or landing direction is now only possible to a very limited extent. 

    The “virtual yards” required for this result in a structural and operational restriction of the taxiway system on the main apron; they are intended to ensure the timely supply and handling of aircraft on the aprons. The barrier between the “virtual yards” can be crossed to a limited extent for operational reasons. In order to distribute aircraft movements more evenly between both runways, an additional virtual dividing line south of the barrier is currently being examined. If trials are successful, it is expected to be implemented in regular operations. 

  • How is the runway to be used determined? 

    The choice of runway is basically the pilots’ responsibility. They will always try to keep the taxiing distances and times on the ground as short as possible. The responsible controller then decides whether the overall traffic situation, which they are responsible for coordinating, permits this. At BER (northern and southern runway), this generally depends on the following factors: which terminal does the aircraft use for departure or arrival, from which direction (north or south) is it coming, in which direction does it intend to depart and what is the traffic distribution on the two runways.  

  • What does operating direction mean? 

    Aircraft always take off and land into the wind. At BER, the two runways are arranged in an east-west direction, as at the vast majority of airports in Europe. This corresponds to the prevailing wind direction. This then results in the operating directions west or east as well as the designations 07 and 25 from the directions indicated on a compass rose (course 250° or 70°).  

    Operating direction 25 or westerly operations is selected when the wind comes from the west. This means that aircraft take off and land to the west. If the wind direction changes in the course of a day, the tower and control centre can agree to change the operating direction during ongoing operations. Then operating direction 07 or easterly operations apply. In the course of a normal year, there is about two-thirds westerly wind and one-third easterly wind. 

  • Why was a departure procedure established in which aircraft turn off early during easterly operations (known as the Hoffmann curve)? 

    The Hoffmann curve is the term used to describe the early turn south from runway 07 right (southern runway, departure direction east) immediately after take-off. Its purpose is to avoid aircraft noise over the communities of Zeuthen, Schulzendorf and Königs-Wusterhausen. Of course, a long version of this departure procedure also exists, but it is not as optimal as regards noise. The pilot alone decides which procedure to fly. If the aircraft are able to achieve the required climb performance, they must use the early curve for noise abatement reasons.  

    The Hoffmann curve is set out in official publications, was tested in advance with Lufthansa in the simulator and laid down by the Federal Supervisory Office for Air Navigation Services (BAF). Since the southern runway went into operation in November 2020, the Hoffmann curve has been used very often and by all airlines, unless it is impossible for technical reasons (climb gradient cannot be adhered to) or meteorological reasons (such as thunderstorms). 

    An evaluation of the flight tracks on this departure route shows that so far, the range of variation has remained well within the international guidelines, even though many aircraft have not followed the desired nominal path precisely. In a one-year process validation, it is currently being examined whether the Hoffmann curve needs to be adjusted.  

  • Which approach procedures are used to guide aircraft to the airport? 

    At BER, both runways can be used simultaneously for approaches. Independent parallel approaches on two runways require vertical separation during the turn-in procedure, which may only be cancelled on final approach. The turn-in to final approach to the southern runway starts at an altitude of 3,000 feet (approx. 900 metres), while the turn-in to the northern runway takes place at 4,000 feet. This vertically separates aircraft flying towards each other. When independent parallel approach operations are not applied, for example when a runway is closed, final approach starts at an altitude of 3,000 feet.  

    Final approach is the last flight segment before landing and is performed on a direct extension of the runway. This straight flight is important so that the pilots can prepare for landing and stabilise the aircraft. They are supported by the instrument landing system (ILS), which precisely determines the approach path both horizontally and vertically. The ILS enables landings even in very poor visibility conditions.  

  • Why are aircraft flying over the centre of Berlin when the airport is located in Brandenburg? 

    Since the airport was built very close to the city, flying over densely populated urban areas cannot be avoided. We at DFS are doing everything we can to handle these overflights at the highest possible altitudes. This concerns aircraft flying according to instrument flight rules and thus under the control of DFS. For aircraft operating under visual flight rules, the following applies: Now that the control zone around Tegel Airport no longer exists, the airspace in this area above the city centre is once again open to general aviation. In airspaces that do not require a special air traffic control clearance, nobody is required to contact ATC when entering or leaving them. 

  • Why are flights at BER also permitted at night? 

    If you have any questions regarding night flight regulations at BER, please contact the airport operator. More information can be found here.

Operating direction 25: West

Flight procedures at BER with operating direction 25 - west operation
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Operating direction 07: East

Flight procedures at BER with operating direction 07 - east operation
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