Category Archives: Flying

More reading…

I AM FAR behind in updating what I have been reading. In a blatant effort to get rich, I’ll share some of the last several week’s reading with you. The links or cover pictures take you to Amazon. If you happen to buy something, I get a few cents. (After doing this for three years, I’m up almost $4!)

About a year ago I was on one of my regular flying trips to the UK. I saw a book there called Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon. I can’t describe exactly why, but I found it interesting, odd, different, a bit darker than my usual reading. Several months later, back in the UK, I found another of his books, Defectors; A Novel. I had the same je ne sais qua feeling about the book, but thought I’d like to read more. On a recent trip, I found Istanbul Passage in a Kansas City book store. Reading up about Kanon on Wikipedia, I learned that almost all his stories take place in the year or so immediately after the end of world war II.

I’ve been to Turkey, though not Istanbul. I have some knowledge of the history, traditions, and culture of Turkey. I rather enjoyed the book. I expect I’ll eventually work my way through all of his books:

Sometimes at the book store I see a name that gets my attention because I’ve read most of that author’s books and am looking forward to the next one. When I see D… Brown I have to think for a second – “Is that Dale Brown or Dan Brown?” Dale – Flight of the Old Dog – Brown’s books are completely different from Dan – DaVinci Code – Brown’s books. Doesn’t matter, they’re all great!

I’ve just finished Dan Brown’s Origin. Read it. That’s all I can say.

Scott Turow has been writing really good lawyer stories for years. His latest, Testimony, takes place in an interesting international environment instead of small town America. I’d say Origin, above, is a bit more riveting. But this is definitely worth a read; it will keep your attention.

The three novels listed above might make you think I’m slacking off on my promise over the last year to continue to raise the caliber of what I’m reading. I also have three non-fiction books to mention.

Some months ago I saw a reference to Nicholas Stargardt’s book Germany at War; A Nation Under Arms, 1939-45. This book focuses on the stories of several real people or families during the course of the war. Rather than discussing grand strategy or the general staff, it describes the every day life for soldiers on the front and family or civilians at home. Very well done. If you have an interest in this era take a look:

As I write this, I am reading two completely unrelated books, a biography that became a movie recently and an aviation safety book. Both are interesting and attention-keeping. (OK, I’ll admit that the aviation safety book isn’t for everyone…)


What do I have in common with the Berlin Airlift?

That’s my favorite sweater. What’s it doing flying an airplane? (Photos courtesy Gunther Träger.)

I did my first ever GCA approach with the controller using the same equipment that helped keep millions of people safe almost 70 years ago.

Very short final. Do you see the helicopter?

In 1948 it was clear cooperation between wartime allies USA and USSR was over. The Soviet Union blocked access to Berlin by road, rail, and ship. Eventually the USA and UK supplied the blockaded citizens of Berlin with everything they needed for a year, by air. It was the largest airlift ever. The USA proved a commitment to freedom and democracy in Europe in the post-WWII era. Transport airplanes landed in Berlin every three minutes, 24 hours per day, seven days a week regardless of the often horrible weather.

This picture shows the three air corridors to Berlin. A smart guy realized they would work better if used as one way roads. You can see Wiesbaden by the southern corridor. This was the headquarters for the Airlift.

Pilots relied on something called a GCA – Ground Controlled Approach – to get on the ground safely. Instead of navigating through the clouds to the runway using his own instruments, the pilot listened to a controller on the ground guide him to make small corrections left, right, up or down. The GCA controller could guide the transport pilots between tall buildings in Berlin to just a few feet above the ground – every three minutes. 24/7.

The base where I am stationed in Germany was the headquarters for the Berlin Airlift. The radar the GCA controllers used in 1948-49 is still here. It still works. It is still used by Army pilots today. And…

The white “golf ball” on the right is a shelter for the GCA radar. The equipment has been there since 1948.

Yesterday, I did my first ever GCA approach with the controller using the same equipment that helped keep millions of people safe almost 70 years ago. The GCA itself was pretty cool and being slightly connected to that critical moment in European history was even better!

The picture below shows Air Force C-54 aircraft on the ramp in Wiesbaden in 1949. The airplanes are gone, but the runway, ramp, and mountains are still there. This is almost exactly the view out my office window! (The streets on the base are named after the men who died to keep Berlin safe and fed.)

U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden file photo
C-54s stand out against the snow at Wiesbaden Air Base during the Berlin Airlift in March 1949.

Lean Uris wrote Armageddon, a great novel about the post-war occupation of Germany and the Berlin Airlift turned enemies into allies.