Just popping out
The Royal Air Force Flying Clubs' Association (RAFFCA) encourages adventurous flying activity,
so when a 20-aircraft flying adventure to Berlin was proposed, following the route of the Berlin
Airlift, I jumped at the chance and so found myself at the end of Marham’s runway 24 along
with two companions, ready to launch on a flight of discovery.
My two travelling companions had widely different flying experience
- SAC Grant Mercer had about 10 hours flying experience and was
just about at first solo stage, and Sqn Ldr Daren Howett had many
flying hours in a Tornado, but last flew in a light aircraft over 10
Due to very poor weather, we had been unable to launch on
time and had missed the first night - a stop at Lubeck airfield, an
important staging post for the Airlift. We left Marham and climbed
up to about 5000ft for the Channel crossing. The weather in UK
was beautiful and visibility almost unlimited, allowing us to see
most of the traffic in the world’s busiest sea lane. Once across
the international boundary, we spoke with first Dutch military
controllers, and then into Germany for our first landing of the day -
at Weeze airport, formally RAF Laarbruch. Two international borders
Berlin Airlift Corridors - The three corridors before breakfast wasn’t a bad start to the day!
used to sequence aircraft in and out of The next leg included a competitive element. To simulate the
Berlin. Aircraft were regularly harassed by traffic procedures of the ‘northern corridor’ used by the thousands
Soviet aircraft while inside the corridors.
The montage at
notable events that
Airlift Memorial - The Airlift Memorial at Dakota at Templehoff - Templehoff still has a few gems left - this old DC3 Dakota offers
Templehoff is identical to the one at Rhein-Main. pleasure flights around Berlin.
It features three spikes, symbolising the three
air corridors used to resupply Berlin.
of aircraft that flew into Berlin on a daily basis, all of the aircraft (now probably considerably easier in a light aircraft than a Dakota or C47,
converging on Berlin) were to fly to specific checkpoints and would we could certainly feel from experience what they meant, especially
be judged on precision navigation and timeliness. ‘Spy in the cab’ GPS as the runway was made of mud and grass for the majority of the
would be the final judge of good taste, so there could be no disputes! Airlift.
A handicap system ensured that those with more complex navigation After a very interesting couple of days touring Berlin and finding
equipment were on a par with those with just a map and stopwatch. out more about the Airlift and the division of the city, we returned
The weather really started to affect us on this leg, and we had to home, following a slightly different route, although again through
move around several rain showers and low clouds, but German air Weeze. After glorious weather all across the continent, good old
traffic control were happy, so we zig-zagged our way east at about British weather was ready and waiting for us at home and we
2000ft above the ground. Once we had joined the competition route received a soaking back at Marham. We had flown for just under 15
and found the waypoints, our thoughts turned to getting into Berlin hours in three days, SAC Mercer had completed his first international
Templehoff, an international airport in a major city. As we spoke with flight (he has subsequently soloed the Cessna and been accepted
air traffic, it was clear that the weather had worsened and it was going both for IOT and pilot training - busy chap!) and we had followed
to be a challenge to get the 16 or so aircraft that had made it this in the footsteps of some extremely brave and determined aviators,
far (some had cancelled due to the earlier weather) into the airport learning a lot along the way. The weather and practicalities of the
in a short space of time. The cloud base continued to lower, and we flight gave us an unparalleled empathy with these crews that none
really felt an empathy for those transport crews who had experienced of us will forget. Templehoff is due to close soon, so this was the
similar and worse weather during the difficult months in 1948/9. first and last chance for us to get this historic airfield in our logbooks.
Finally, we were allowed to make our approach, sequenced with Wg Cdr Ian D Gale
all the other aircraft and ran along the site of the former Berlin Wall, OC 31 Sqn
to land on the right-hand runway. Transport crews used to hate this
runway, because it was necessary to approach over a block of flats, If anyone is interested in joining an RAF Flying Club, all the
then make a dirty dive for the displaced runway threshold. Although
details can be found on the RAFFCA website: www.raffca.org
C 47s at Templehoff - Templehoff was a crucial hub of air activity Aircraft at Templehoff - The Marham aircraft on the line at Templehoff,
24 hours a day. There was plenty of parking for our light aircraft! along with 15 others from the RAF Flying Clubs’ Association.