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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

June 19, 2010

"Raisin bomber" crashes in Berlin

Filed under Life in Europe

That headline might have been published over 60 years ago, but it was again today in Berlin.

A "raisin bomber" made a crash landing today near Berlin’s Schönefeld airport, shortly after take-off. Rosinenbomber "Raisin bomber" or "Rosinenbomber" in German is the nickname for an historic DC-3 aircraft that offers 30 minute excursion flights over Berlin. 25 people were on board today when the plane had problems shortly after take-off and had to make an emergency landing. There were only minor injuries for several of the passengers, but the "raisin bomber" took quite a hit with one wing and an engine being torn from the fuselage. The wreckage was placed in a hangar at the Schönefeld airport, and an investigation into the cause of the crash will likely take a year to complete. Politicians called for a ban on excursion flights using old planes, but some German newspapers declared that the "raisin bomber" must fly again. The plane’s owners said they are looking for replacement parts for the DC-3, which will be hard to find, since the Berlin DC-3 was one of the last ones still flying.

The term "raisin bomber" was first used during the Berlin airlift (June 1948 to May 1949) when the postwar Western allies supplied all of Berlin’s food and fuel needs via a massive airlift when the Soviet Union blockaded Berlin by land and water. DC-3 aircraft were among the first to supply the city but were soon replaced by larger cargo planes. More than 200,000 flights during the blockade enabled Berlin to survive. 17 American and 8 British planes crashed during the airlift, and a total of 101 fatalities were recorded as a result of the operation, including 40 Britons and 31 Americans, mostly due to those crashes.

There are different opinions on the origin of the description "raisin bomber" for the planes supplying Berlin. During the first weeks of the airlift they carried a lot of dried fruit and Berlin residents supposedly called them "Rosinenbomber". The name caught on and was used generically for all planes used during the airlift, regardless of their freight. Another account has it that the name was the result of an interview by the RIAS radio station (in the American sector of Berlin) with one of the airlift pilots. He was quoted as having said: "Just three years ago I was flying by night and fog to drop bombs on Berlin and now I come with raisins."

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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