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March 2010 Newsletter

by John M. White |

The Berlin Airlift
It’s June 18, 1948 and the Western Allies decided to replace the Reich mark, which had become worthless, with the Deutsche mark. With the collapse of the Reich mark residents were using cigarettes as currency. This move was made in order to stabilize Berlin and West Germany by introducing new banking in order to facilitate commerce. The Russians, who were occupying East Berlin and East Germany, were afraid that they would lose control of commerce in Berlin, and quickly reacted to this change by blockading all road and rail traffic into Berlin located in East Germany which was controlled by the Russians.The Russians assumed that this move to restrict travel into Berlin would cause the Western Allies to abandon Berlin to the Russians. They didn’t count on the will of Great Britain and the United States. President Truman said “We are going to stay, period.” And so Operation Vittles, better known as the Berlin Airlift, was born. On June 26th, 1948 the first flights began delivering some 90 tons of supplies, including a plane load of oranges on the first airplane to land in Berlin. At that time Berlin had 2.2 million residents who required some 4,500 tons of food and coal daily. Coal was necessary to produce electric power, and at first not enough coal was arriving to keep the power plants operating. Berliners chopped down trees in parks for firewood, and lived for the most part using candle light at night. By October the Allies were able to provide 4,760 tons of food and coal daily, exceeding the daily minimum needed by the residents. 3,000 tons of coal was necessary, along with 1,500 tons of food. But as winter arrived the need for coal soared to 6,000 tons per day. Planes were arriving and departing from the cities airports every 3 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By the spring of 1949 more than 400 aircraft, some 250 U.S. aircraft and 150 British aircraft, were delivering a daily average of 8,000 tons of food and coal. As always happens something interesting and unexpected happens during these times. One of the airlift pilots hitched a ride into Berlin and as the aircraft was landing saw a large group of children watching the airplanes come and go. Upon landing he walked over to the group and gave them some sticks of gum as a goodwill gesture. He then promised that the next time he came to Berlin he would drop them some candy from the airplane. The kids asked him how they would know it was him, so he said “I’ll wiggle my wings.” Keeping his word, the very next day he flew into Berlin, wiggled his wings, and dropped candy attached to parachutes made from handkerchiefs. Needless to say, the number of children coming to watch the airplanes land multiplied as they learned of the free candy. Soon other pilots heard about this and began participating by dropping candy as well. Shortly thereafter many letters began to arrive at Allied Headquarters addressed to “Uncle Wiggly Wings.” Thus, Operation Little Vittles was born. Over 3 tons of candy were dropped using some 250,000 parachutes, and it became a huge propaganda triumph for the Allies. By April more cargo was being delivered to Berlin than had been transported in by rail and car. On Easter weekend that year the Allies instituted their Easter Parade, where some 1,398 flights took place carrying 12,941 tons of supplies between noon Saturday and noon on Easter Sunday. During the airlift which lasted from June of 1948 to May of 1949 25 aircraft were lost to accidents and 71 people lost their lives, 40 British and 31 American. The actions of the Soviets blockading Berlin led the countries of Western Europe to support forming a strong West German state. Shortly thereafter the Russians lifted the blockade looking silly and suffered a moral defeat. By the time the first trucks arrived in Berlin the airlift had delivered 2,326,406 tons of food and supplies on 278,228 flights. These aircraft flew more than 92,000,000 miles, nearly the distance from the Earth to the Sun.
Great Poems "Captain"
When you call me "Captain", If I took a poll, Would find few comprehending, The price I paid, the toll. To wear four stripes upon my sleeve Laurels o'er my brow, And sit in high commanding places, To peer beyond the prow. The hours, days, months, years, And "why is daddy gone? The awful, silent, empty nights, My wife has sat...alone. The missions flown in distant lands, The friends forever gone, Or seeing ONCE the havoc wrought, With merely human hands. The dead of night, red eye flight, Begun at dusk till early dawn, Or why I always had to fight, For simple pleasures, mow the lawn. Bearing souls to many places, Joyous, anxious, wanting faces. For their safety ne're abstained, Fatigue endured, and meals refrained. My honored craft and how this hand Will place you soft upon the land, And all for "love" you can not see, No one would know, 'tis not to be. by Rick Barlow
What's New

Managing Fatigue

All of us remember the "Miracle On The Hudson" when Captain Sullenberger made a great water landing in his Airbus aircraft after striking birds, losing two engines and not one person seriously injured. Since then Captain Sullenberger and his First Office Jeffrey Skiles have become celebrities, and one of the things they have attempted to do is bring attention to the fatigue in airline cockpits. The FAA rules on duty time go back to the 1940s, but despite the fact that revising these rules has been one of the top goals the NTSB has set for the FAA, no changes appear to be on the horizon. Yet, year after year fatigue is seeing as a contributing cause in aircraft accidents. Well, USAIG (United States Aircraft Insurance Group) has partnered with Alertness Solutions to offer some science based fatigue and management alertness solutions. This effort is designed to reduce the risk of fatigue for aviation professionals. The Z-Coach Game Plan is web-based and can be accessed 24/7 at Alertness Solutions or on the USAIG website. This pdf outlines ways for individuals to understand and manage their own personal fatigue thresholds and levels of alertness. It teaches the readers how to implement some simple, but very effective, countermeasures meant to reduce stress, irregular sleep patterns and the constant disruption of normal sleep habits. All of these are things aircraft crews deal with on a daily basis, and challenge their ability to safely operate their aircraft and protect their passengers. The Z-Coach inventor, Dr. Mark Rosekind, the President and Chief Scientist of Alertness Solutions, has spent more than 20 years studying the science of sleep and fatigue management. For more information go to: or
Photo of the Month
C54 Aircraft Landing in Berlin for Berlin Airlift
John M. White, Editor Each month we bring you informative, educational and entertaining articles about all things aviation. You can find more timely and current articles here at our blog: All Things Aviation Check Out Our Newsletter Archives
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