A debriefing of the crew of Wednesday’s flight LX 850 from Basel to Hamburg and further investigations have produced new findings on the aircraft’s landing at the former military airfield in Werneuchen, Brandenburg, Germany.
In addition to LX 850, the dramatic weather conditions on the evening of Wednesday, July 10 forced five flights of other airlines bound for Hamburg to land at alternate airports. In the case of LX 850, the closure of the various alternate airports selected (including, finally, Finow air force base) forced the crew to land at the former military airfield of Werneuchen in view of their dwindling fuel reserves.
The approach to Werneuchen, which had been recommended by air traffic control, was made to Runway 08, i.e. from the west. The crew had decided on this approach because it was Runway 08 which had been in use at Berlin (Tegel) before the approach there had had to be aborted in view of the weather conditions.
The former military airfield was equipped with a concrete runway of approximately 2400 metres during its service years. At present, only the eastern part of this is available for flying, providing a runway of 1500 metres. The westernmost 900 metres, which are no longer in use, are separated from this shortened runway by a low earth wall.
The pilots had no documentation on the airfield on board, since it is only used by sport aircraft. The western section is marked as closed by a series of crosses, though these have been severely weathered over the years. The old runway markings - centreline, threshold and distance markers within the former touchdown zone - are still shown, and are actually easier to identify than the out-of-use crosses. The pilots were also unable to see the earth wall during their approach, in view of the fading light and the generally poor visibility caused by the prevailing weather conditions. Werneuchen has no runway lights.