This is a summary of a presentation given by Dick Twomey to the Society on 16th March 2011
Start with the politics of post-WW2 West Berlin, and the three Air Corridors connecting WB to West Germany. Road access only for “allied” military use, although I had used it a few times, being given semi-diplomatic status when I was the GM in Germany for British Airways. West Berlin was indeed a “James Bond” scene, with old-technology radio listening posts manned on a 24/7 basis (“Allies” listened to the Russians, Russians to the Allies); with Allied unmarked cars with darkened windows making sorties over the Glienicke Bridge into the East “just to prove our rights”; and of course with over-the-wall East to West escape attempts going on all the time: The latter with sometimes macabre results, German shooting German in an awful rejection of normal human feelings.
One day I witnessed one escape, this time a successful one… a man in a hot-air balloon, floating over the wall, and landing in West Berlin…
THE “ISLAND”, WEST BERLIN
You are no doubt too young to remember this: During the long years of the Cold War the citizens of the walled-in, Russian- tank- surrounded, half-city of West Berlin had only their air corridors to rely on, if they were not to be completely cut off from the rest of democratic Germany and the world beyond: Corridors that were height-limited (10, 000 feet maximum), overflown by Russian MIG fighter aircraft, protected always by the Berlin Air Safety Centre which was staffed by US, UK, FR representatives, plus the Russian whose job it was to give “diplomatic clearance” to every flight. Key points inside the West Berlin enclave were its three airports: Tempelhof in the US Sector and Gatow in the British …both much used during the famous Air Lift during the 1948-1949 Berlin Blockade; and the newer airport of Tegel (in the French Sector). During the 10 years I spent in Berlin it was Tegel that was the base of all the bigger “Allied” civil airlines.
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