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Posts Tagged ‘Germany’

 

 

Every year, Shirl designs our Christmas cards around our best aviation story of the year.  Last year’s card had a Spitfire, and we have cards marking horrendous air traffic, a migration to a magical grass airfield, a year of endless, er … maintenance, a year of aerobatic training.  It was a close call this year, because I had to choose between flying in an actual dogfight vs. celebrating another kind of aerial victory.  Given the Season, it was an easy choice.

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In 1948, just 3 years after the World War against Germany ended, the Soviet Union blockaded West Berlin to force its former allies out of the city.  Deep inside East Germany, West Berlin was a democratic island in the middle of a Communist sea.

    

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Allied pilots flew over two million of tons of food, coal and other critical supplies to Berlin in 1948-49.  It was one of the coldest winters in Germany.  During his final approaches in a heavily-laden C-54 cargo airplane, American pilot Gail Halvorsen dropped parachutes with gum and chocolate bars to German kids who waited all day at the end of the runways.  He had met the German kids at the perimeter fence, and he realized that they had never tasted chocolate bars or chewing gum before. 

  

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The Airlift defeated the Soviet blockade, won the hearts and minds of a former enemy, turned around an impossible election for an American President, preserved democracy in West Berlin, and left an indelible mark in the hearts of German kids who today run Germany.

  

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I’m a supply chain professional, and a pilot.  I always wanted to fly, since I was a very young child.  I love candy and chocolate.  The story of the Berlin Airlift captivated me.  This is a heart-warming tale of pilots, kids, chewing gum, an incredible supply chain case study, fabulous feats of flying, and an aerial victory without any shots fired, neither at a former enemy or at a former ally.

This year I went to Tempelhof, toured the Allied Museum, walked the runways I had read about decades ago, and stood on the ramp beside a C-54 on that had actually flown in the Airlift, nearly 70 years ago. 

 

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I tried to give everyone a card until I ran out. And a few illustrated books about the Candy Bomber, which were really written for children. To all of you, especially those whose cards are lost in the post office supply chain, …

       

… Merry Christmas!  Frohe Weinachten!

  

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Posted from Manila

24 December, 2015

  

  

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It was a tough year.  Intense, exhausting, relentlessly stressful.  In aviation, the mystery of Air France Flight 447 was solved, and sadly.  A well-loved Cabinet Secretary died in an air crash in the Philippines – same sad findings.  We need to be seriously careful out there.  Training fails are the worst kind of fails.  Whether it’s a 20,000-hour ATPL or 10-hour SPL, the license is merely a permit to continue learning.  If you stop, you go, and badly.

  

  

Cathay Pacific bumped me up to Diamond status last month.  Upgrades to First when seats are available.  Sadly, it’s like getting a prize from the power or phone company for being a top customer.  The fact that long-haul flights now mean my BlackBerry email is silent for 12-16 hours makes it even more depressing.

I flew in the brand new Thai Airways A380.  It was surprisingly one of the gentlest airplanes I’ve ever been in.  It levitated effortlessly into the air and sailed placidly through turbulence.  Best of all, it was completely silent.  I could hear no engine noise.  Just the gentle rush of air passing by.  Gentle giant.

  

I closed my office in Bangkok.  After eight years in Thailand, I have come to love the Thais, who are gentle and complicated at the same time, who can be exasperating unless you have the ‘unlock’ key, and who have the most mature ‘live and let live’ Buddhist outlook I have ever seen in a population.

When we close that apartment door for the last time in eight years, I won’t be able to hold it.  It was home.

    

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Earlier this year my sons and I spent a once-in-a-lifetime holiday in Italy.  All the stars, moons and vacation leaves lined up for 10 straight days.  Once in a lifetime.  Easter Mass at the Vatican, superb food and wine in Siena and Tuscany, Alfa Romeos on the Autostrada, and 3,000 years of power, sex and ruin in the Roman Forum.

                

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I was able to spend a day in Germany’s Weinachtmarkts, or Christmas Markets.  Aachen, Bonn and Köln, within an hour of each other by German rail, were more festive and crowded than ever.  Proof that Germany is one of the more vibrant economies in Europe.

  

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Not a bad year, after all, huh! 

On that note, Carlo and I thank you for sharing in our stories in Flying in Crosswinds.  We wish all of you a truly Merry Christmas, in this the year of our good Lord, 2012.

       

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Posted from Manila, December 24, 2012

  

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