“From the Bridge”

Commercial Aviation Comes Into Its Own

Sometimes, just to see what was happening, my father would drive to the airport…. Before my birth, during the “Roaring 20’s” Newark Airport was the first major airport to serve the greater New York area. It was opened for traffic on October 1, 1928, on 68 acres of reclaimed marshland adjacent to the Passaic River. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey later took it over from the Army Air Corps and in 1948 started a major expansion and improvement program. Driving by and seeing activity from the road, we drove to where Eastern Airlines had a shiny new DC-3 on display, and as luck would have it, it was open to the public. It was an exciting moment when I boarded this aircraft and discovered that it was first constructed in 1934, the same year I was born. An example of modern technology, it was the first modern airliner and the forerunner of commercial aviation.

The DC-3 was used during World War II, when the military version was identified as the C-47. After the war it continued as the primary carrier keeping Berlin open during the Berlin Airlift. On June 24, 1948 the Soviets prevented access to Berlin to the Western Allies’. Two days after the Soviet (Russians) announcement of the blockade, the United States Air Force airlifted the first cargo into Berlin. The American nicknamed the effort, “Operation Vittles,” while British pilots dubbed the operation “Plain Fare.” In July 1948, the operation was renamed the Combined Airlift Taskforce. Normal daily food requirements for Berlin were 2,000 tons with coal, for heating homes, being the number one commodity and two -thirds of all the tonnage flown in. The airlift ended on May 12, 1949 when the Soviets realized that the blockade wasn’t effective against the “Allied Resolve” and reopened the roads into Berlin.

 A DC-3 in Berlin at Tempelhof Airport

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