Antwerp airport had to be renewed. After a busy summer, the airport was closed to carry out some renovations. The entire track was renovated in a short time – it was 26 years ago, by the way – and repairs were also made to the control tower. In addition, the airport has also made ecological progress by replacing the old lighting with LED lamps and developing a rainwater reservoir, which can be fed into Boekenbergparken with a delay.
The manager of the adjacent brasserie Belair, Rein (40), breathes a sigh of relief when the first plane leaves the tarmac at 7.10am. “It’s been a lot quieter here in recent weeks,” says Rein. “Local residents thought we were closed, just like the airport.” Rein opened the business at the beginning of May together with her husband Dirk Blockmans (54). “We have done well in recent months, although of course it is always a question of finding our way as a new company.”
After the quieter weeks, the brasserie can immediately count on some extra customers on Wednesday. “We flew back in full force. Because in addition to our regular clientele, we also have customers who come to have a drink or something to eat before their flight.” Rein hasn’t been sitting still in the meantime. “We’ve used the shutdown as a moment to evaluate bottlenecks. A new menu has been devised, and we would like to offer live music on a stage every third Thursday of the month,” it sounds ambitiously. “We hope this will give even more local residents the opportunity to visit.”
Neighbor Chris (83), who has lived in the area for 34 years, is also happy to be able to spot planes again. “I’m never bothered by the planes,” says the neighbor from Vosstraat. “When they take off or land, they never fly over our block, but sideways past it. I only hear it when I’m sitting in my garden.” And it doesn’t bother her either. “My daughter lives in Arizona, USA. To get there you have to sit on the kite for a long time. I like to see airplanes, it has its charm”, she says.
At that moment, neighbor Mohammed (23) has just returned from work. As logistics manager, the young man has to get up early every day. The alarm goes off at 3 a.m. “I didn’t even realize the airport was closed,” he says in surprise. “When I came to live here seven years ago, it took some getting used to, but now I don’t feel it anymore. Twice a week a heavier plane flies over, but it’s only a small thing. This isn’t Zaventem, is it?”
Close to the Spanish sun
In the Bistro Cockpit on the corner of Schaffenstraat and Diksmuidelaan, Lie (75), Snoopy (66), Dominique (64) and Xavier (65) are having a good time. They have all been living in the shadow of the airport for a while. Snoopy takes the cake with 56 years. “As a child I played soldier on the airstrip with my friends,” says the neighbor with great pride. “I was even allowed to look in the control room.”
The four agree: Antwerp Airport is part of the neighborhood. “There’s a big difference between hearing a plane and worrying about it,” Snoopy says. “It is especially difficult for new local residents, and they want the airport to disappear. Then they should just go and live in Tessenderlo, it doesn’t bother them,’ it says with a wink. “I think it’s particularly good that we don’t have to travel all the way to Zaventem to go on a trip,” says Lie. “In twenty minutes you’ll be through the gates and before you know it you’ll be under the Spanish sun.”
“I’m more bothered by the freight trains that go by at night,” says Dominique. “It regularly wakes me up at night. The last flight always leaves here at a reasonable time, so nothing to complain about.” And those planes are already much quieter than they used to be, Snoopy believes. “Decades ago, the first Delta Air flight woke me up at 6.30 and couldn’t fall asleep until the last one took off at 10.30 p.m. Now you hardly hear them flying anymore.”
François (62), who drinks a cup of coffee in the bar with manager Alain, is also more annoyed by the noise of the trains. “A plane makes noise for no more than three seconds,” he says. “Air quality is more of a question mark. Of course, that can’t be healthy, because they fly very low here.’ Despite living in the neighboring blocks of flats for eleven years, he did not notice the closure. “Although I fear that heavier machines will soon be flying through the new runway. But we’ll see that again. In any case, I like to see the planes take off.”