Floundering Around Part 12: "Berlin Airlift"
By Ron Blehm (1 March 2007)
Consider this one authored by Hans Linde
Historical Background:Read the whole story here:
Personal Background:Both of my parents were born and raised in the western part of Berlin and still live there until today. In 1948 they were teenagers. Even now, nearly sixty years later, you hear the emotion in their voices when they talk about their memories of that time. They probably were too old to run for the candy parachutes but they tell how the continuing noise of the engines above was a sweet lullaby every evening. A few years earlier, in the bomb nights of WW-II, this noise had meant fear, death and destruction. Now it meant survival. It meant they still were part of the free world. When weather circumstances forced a pause, every man and woman in West Berlin raised their eyes towards the sky and fearfully hoped for the moment to hear the song of those engines continue.
Without "Operation Vittles" I wouldn't have grown up in a free and democratic country. When I was a kid in the sixties I often stood at the Tempelhof airfield fence, at the place where the kids stood about twenty years earlier, to welcome "Uncle Wiggly Wings". (Long, long ago for the mind of a seven year-old boy.) I watched the last Pan Am DC-7 coming down the same glideslope as their C-54 sisters, before the jet age also dawned in Germany.
Some people think that it's not reasonable to evaluate the events in such a romantic way. They say that the allies saved West Berlin not for the sake of humanity or democracy but for the sake of global political strategy at the beginning of an era which later would be called the "cold war". They say that the allies would have sacrificed West Berlin within days, cold hearted, if it would have served their own interests. I think I'm not the one to reason about that. Perhaps there were some politicians thinking in such categories. But people like Captain Halverson and his fellow airmen, I'm convinced the majority of them dedicated their efforts to an idea, the idea of freedom and humanity. The brain of a cold-hearted strategist wouldn't be able to come up with candy-parachutes for hungry children. This is something which lies beyond the horizon of his mind.
Fact is, after the airlift the term "occupying powers" ("Besatzungsmaechte") meaning the western allies USA, Britain and France, was a term never again used in West Berlin and West Germany. From these days until they left as friends after the German reunion in 1990, when The Wall (www.dieberlinermauer.de) came down and the last totalitary regime vanished from German soil since 1933, the allies were referred to as the "protecting powers" ("Schutzmaechte").
The Planes:Well, I'm afraid you're beginning to think that this flight task involves more reading than flying. Here's the plane I recommend (if you don't already have it) a Douglas C-54 Skymaster.
If you feel more comfortable with a DC-3/C-47, fine. I also found this to be very interesting:
The Flight:In the real airlift this flight never took place in this way. Wunstorf then was a British RAF airfield and the British C-47's were directed to Berlin-Gatow. The American Skymasters came from Frankfurt EDDW through the southern corridor with destination EDDI. The middle corridor which we will fly eastbound towards Berlin was dedicated only to the westbound traffic back to the home bases. Shortest way out! (View the original traffic pattern here.) (The Flounder is also recommending this site!)
This doesn't matter because the flight will take place in the year 2007. I didn't manage to organize a time machine for you. We're going to take the plane out of Wunstorf to Berlin-Tempelhof. But for the sake of fun and challenge we decide to limit ourselves to the navigation aids of the years of 1948/49 which will mean only NDB navigation is allowed! It's a pity but I'm afraid GCA-approach (ground controlled approach) isn't implemented in the sim. So we don't have any radar controllers "talking us down" which was the standard procedure in that days, allowing a traffic density up to 20 planes per hour (3 minutes distance). The only way to simulate this in the sim is a hand-flown ILS approach. So hands off the AP and chase the needles. Imagine you hear the voice of the radar controller reporting: "left and above centerline, left and above, left of centerline, left of centerline, on centerline, on centerline...")
You can fly any time of the day and (nearly) any weather you want. The limit for approach is a ceiling of 400 feet AGL and a visibility of 1 nm at the field. Below this limits you can't land and you're ordered back to home base. (Headquarters order: Court-martial and reduced to co-pilot anyone who breaks the rule.) (The Flounder also recommending overcast weather with light rain, maybe 700 foot ceilings and 5-10 miles visibility)
NOTAM: Despite the weather you've got only ONE shot to bring her down at EDDI. Missed approach procedure is: going back! In 1948 you would have had a bunch of birds coming from behind, like pearls on a necklace, with a distance of three minutes all the way back to homebase. No time and no airspace for circling and a second attempt.
Before we go into start-up procedure, let's take a look at the flight plan:
ETNW - BRU - DBR - EDDI (145.8 nm)
ETNW-BRU (Braunschweig) 43.5 nm, HDG 101 degrees (BRU NDB 427 kHz)
BRU-DBR (Helmholtz) 98.8 nm, HDG 084 degrees (DBR NDB 347 kHz)
DBR-EDDI 3.5 nm (ILS RWY 09R 109.70 MHz)
You can't use the MU (Magdeburg) NDB. It was on the enemy's grounds in 1948.
Fly the plane fully loaded - It's full of flour and wheat!
After engine startup taxi to runway 09. After takeoff fly straight ahead heading 101°. Tune in 427 kHz for BRU and wait until you receive the beacon (approximately when passing EDDV on the left side of the plane.) Climb to assigned cruise level of 6,000 feet. Maintain an airspeed of 170 knots to Berlin. After passing BRU turn to heading 084°. You will now enter East German airspace in a few minutes. After some 40 nm you will lose BRU and have to fly about 20 nm (7 minutes) without navaids before catching DBR ahead. Watch out to hold your course. Leaving the allied corridor would have resulted in a hassle with a bunch of MiGs appearing on both of your wing tips. Watch speed and time to calculate beginning of descent and approximate arrival time. As soon as you catch the ILS for runway 09R, directly follow the ILS down. Don't use the AP once you're on the localizer.
If winds are from the west, fly the runway 27 departure at ETNW and a procedure turn over DIP (Planter, 327 kHz) to circle into the 27L approach (ILS 109.50) at EDDI. Plan your descent to cross over DIP at 2000 feet. If you come down at 27L, watch out for the houses! Dangerous approach. (This is the approach The Flounder did for this report.)
I hope you have enjoyed this flight - I certainly had a good time flying it and it helped me to feel a connection not only with my virtual German brothers but with the pilots who flew in this dangerous time decades ago. Enjoy!
Flightsim Video: Berlin airlift C-54 landing near the fence line