It was a major crisis during the Cold War, if not the defining one, and the Berlin Airlift (June 24, 1948 – May 11, 1949) was also the biggest airlift in history. Allied forces managed to supply over two million isolated inhabitants of West Berlin from the air for just under a year. And everything had to be flown into Berlin at this time, from bread to coal.
The Airlift eventually compelled the Soviet Union to lift its blockade of the city and established the permanence of the Western-held sectors throughout the remaining Cold War period. And none of this would have been possible without the proper technology. And one impressive piece of technology that made this possible was the famous DC-3.
With more than 2.3 million tons flown into Berlin and needing for this 278,228 flights, the DC-3 is an aircraft that is still looked very fondly upon here. Developed in 1935 as a transcontinental airliner by Donald W. Douglas, the DC-3, also sometimes referred to as the Dakota, soon had the opportunity to prove itself to be an indestructible cargo plane, as well. More than 10,000 of these planes were constructed during an illustrious 60 year career of “active duty”, and many of them are still flying to this very day.
Here in Berlin, for instance. That’s right. The DC-3 is back on active duty again, if not quite in the manner it was originally planned for. The Berliners came to call the DC-3 Rosinenbomber (Raison or Candy Bombers) during the Airlift. Pilots began tossing gum and chocolate bars tied in handkerchiefs overboard to the children below and the rest, as they say, was history. The DC-3 soon became synonymous for friendship and perseverance in post-war Berlin.
And now, after a rather lengthy absence, a “new” Candy Bomber can be regularly sighted in the sky above town. And better yet, anyone interested in doing so can actually take an exhilarating ride on this Rosinenbomber, too.
A local company called Air Service Berlin is in the business of offering tours aboard this beautifully restored Candy Bomber original. Purchased in England, a lot of time and great care has been given to recreate the feel of the Airlift era with this plane. Everything from the seat cushions to the pilot’s uniform gives the passengers a feel for that heroic, Berliner past. It’s a sightseeing tour of the German capital a bit different than the others. It’s a tour that will also give you the feeling as if you had also taken a journey through time.
You can easily book these short, 35 minute flights above Berlin just an hour before takeoff at the famous Tempelhof Airport – where an impressive monument in memory of the Airlift still proudly stands, by the way. At an altitude of 600 meters, you and your fellow passengers (25 passengers maximum) will have a chance to experience Berlin from a completely new and unexpected “perspective”.
But other interesting flights are also available with this impressive aircraft. Air Service Berlin also offers daytrips to nearby Dresden, for instance. Other sightseeing flights are also available for the coastal resort town of Usedom and the island of Rügen up north at the Baltic Sea.
The DC-3 is certainly an historic icon of aviation. But for travelers to Berlin it is also a very real adventure in flight and a unique way to experience this beautiful city.