“Controlling” the Berlin Airlift

Barry Davidson has sent in two links

This one link  is a NATS article on the lessons learnt by ATC from the airlift operations and a second link to a video that includes a little footage of ATC in the airlift.

1949 article Berlin Air Lift

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Barry Davidson has provided these eight photos of RAF Gatow during the airlift that include photos of the VCR, Radar, GCA etc.  Barry reports that due to controller fatigue among the RAF/US controllers, civil controllers from the US & UK were detached although not much is known – anyone have any more info?

The IWM have multiple items in their collection relating to the airlift. And here is a second link to the IWM collection including some ATC material.

Barry Davidson has sent in a two page article produced originally by the RAF Air Historical Branch   detailing the techniques used to manage the Berlin Airlift traffic, a forerunner of todays modern flow management systems.


from Chris Stock is this description of approach and landing procedures at GATOW

BAL CS info

and also from Barry here is a Flight article about controlling the airlift


and some photos of a pilot briefing truck and the Berlin Air Safety Control Centre MBUsmall

BASC 2small

BASC 3small

BAL Rhein Main Ops

Rhein Main Ops –The END

from Barry Davidson below

two photos of FASSBERG during the airlift

Fassberg 2


and a scan of a rare Christmas postcard produced by RAF and USAF ATC Staff at Fassberg.

Fassberg 3



BAL 1a gatow bd

BAL 1b gatow bd



RAF Gatow

The  Lancastrians were four of twelve operated by Flight Refuelling supporting the airlift lift and carried diesel fuel and heating oil into Berlin.

including two more RAF GATOW ATC photos, one of which identifies the unit as No 5 GCA (Ground Controlled Approach) unit.

BD BAL Gatow 1

BD BAL Gatow 2

GCA truck and aerial at an RAF Station during the airlift

RAF Luneburg below

I’m told the Spitfire is a PRXI and is reference books suggest it is probably from 400 Squadron which was a Canadian squadron. The serial is thought to be PM156.

4 thoughts on ““Controlling” the Berlin Airlift”

  1. I wont get in to a lecture about campaign stars and medals of wwii, but they are complex. The defence medal was for 3 years service in the UK, and was actually intended originally for civilians serving in the police and fire service. Service in the armed forces overseas in areas subject to enemy attack also qualified. Anyone serving for a minimum of 28 days in the Armed Forces also qualified for the War Medal. The rules for the campaign stars could be quite complicated.


    1. The airlift didnt end when the Russians lifted the blockade. In order not to get caught out the Allies carried on with the airlift for another 3 months. Food was stockpiled in Berlin until the wall came down. My sister and her husband were stationed in Berlin in the late seventies and they got what was called FRIS, Forces Ration Income Supplements. This was basically food from the stockpile nearing the end of its shelf life.


  2. Im confused by the Flt Lts lack of medals. Hes a Flight Engineer, but the only medal hes wearing is what looks to me like the defence medal. Given his rank Id expect him to have more medals than just that one.


    1. Presumably he trained as a flight engineer towards the end of the war, thus qualifying for the Defence Medal, but never flew operationally so he didn’t qualify for any campaign medal. It happened to a great many newly trained aircrew as the war drew to a close.


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