THROUGH THE NOOSE AND OUT
(Nineteenth in the series of alternative learning from Krav Maga.)
The lives of two million people was at stake.
The city was surrounded and the only way to send supplies was by air.
That was getting difficult. The fate of these people was in our hands.
And there was trouble.
There was considerable land grab at the end of the World War Two. The allies on one side and the Soviets on another. It was the seeding for the Cold War that was to follow for the next few decades.
The city in question was Berlin. One half was controlled by the soviets. The West Berlin population was not for Soviet occupation or communism.
What could they do, landlocked as they were by the Soviets?
On 24 June 1948, the Soviets cut off the land and water connections to Berlin. They stopped all rail traffic as well. The Berliners had less than 40 days of food and coal. The post-war parleys had not included this provision. It was somehow assumed that supply chains will be allowed to continue. The introduction of the Deutsch Mark as legal tender in the rest of Germany angered the Soviets. Hence, this extreme reaction to force the allies to remove this currency.
With land based supply chains cut off, the Allies rebooked at the “agreement”. Three air corridors were to be permitted. This was made use of and the US forces started air dropping supplies. The beginning of what is now known as the Berlin Airlift, which lasted for 11 months.
As with all startup initiatives with multiple parties involved, the overarching need was to help the Berliners. Beyond that, it was individual country forces that were doing their bit.
The issue at hand:
A large number of disparate aircraft, with different characteristics was put to the task. Basically, whatever was free and available was used to send supplies to Berlin.
A flight system was put in place to accommodate all these, with the focus on delivering the bare minimum first, of medicines, milk and flour. A stacked system of flight co-ordination was developed by the US forces. Each flight took off every four minutes and flew 1000 feet higher than the flight in front. Three 8-hour shifts were organised. Despite all the good intentions, there were issues. Maintenance was the biggest with lack of mechanical expertise and spare parts. Shift allocation and resource handling was not great. Record-keeping was minimal. There were delays with mix-ups as well as extended break duration at the landing location. It was not optimal.
The flight landing procedure was also convoluted and quite risky. Each flight looped around till it got an opportunity to land. This meant that a lot of aircraft were circling the Berlin airports, increasing the chance of a mid-air collision or running out of fuel. Just imagine, a load of flights in the air circling, but only two runways to land! One particular day, 13 August 1948, a C-54 crashed at the end of the runway. Another flight following the C-54 burst its tires trying to avoid the crashed plane. A third flight landed on a runway under construction. The Air Traffic Control was in total disarray and the bad weather added to it. Flights could not take off after unloading and this created a huge backup on the airstrip. A major embarrassment not the mention the potential risk to the forces, this day was dubbed “Black Friday”.
Major General William Turner was in command of the operation and he was in one of the flights hovering in the air.
He had experience with airlifts between Indian and China.
He decided to get back to the basics to set things right.
Flying rules simplification: The landing operations were simplified. All flights will only have one chance to land in Berlin. Each sortie would fly in on time. If for whatever reason they could not land, they would return to the base and get back in line. This Straight-in approach eliminated the birds-circling-in-the-air risk. The Instrument flight rules had to be followed at all times.
Fly-in, offload, fly-out. In the time it took to land nine planes, the planners found that 30 could be landed.
Aircraft standardisation: C-54s and larger aircraft replaced the C-47. The C-47 were brought in as they were available when the Airlift started. Now, though, there was a need for larger bodied aircraft capable of carrying more supplies. Loading and offloading speeds were critical aspects.
Reduced maintenance time: The standardisation also meant that training mechanics and ordering supplies became better. Now, the supply and training team had limited models to train the people in. Economy of scale helped reduce the idle time of aircrafts needing repairs.
Bring the food to the men: It was found that another component of delays was that the crew needed refreshment. So they went into the hangar which quite some distance from the landing strip. Some men took their own time to return to the flight, taking off much after loading was completed. The focus was on efficiency and so, jeep cafes were put into action. As the flight landed and offloading started, a jeep with refreshments will reach the flight, on the tarmac. The crew ate as the work went on. As soon as loading was done, they took off!
Using local talent/force: The local Berlin men stepped into assist. In time, and with the same kind of aircraft and issues, they became adept at solving mechanical problems on the base. They also ensured that the loading/offloading process was smooth — and really fast.
Dropping coal: This was being done before as well. Food and essential supplies went on the planes. Coal was air dropped for people to pick up.
From 30 minutes, to nine minutes, to 45 seconds: A flight landed every 45 seconds at the Tempelhof airport at the height of the Airlift. Talk about efficiency!
A total of 2.3 million tons of food and supplies delivered by over 189,000 flights!
By simplified the process, ironing out the chinks, standardising processes and machinery — Maj Gen Tunner and his team did the impossible. They ensured that the chokehold on Berlin was breached. Two million people were saved.
With small, continued success, the morale of the forces, and the local Berliners, and I dare say, the world at large was buoyed.
Get back to basics.
Krav Maga focuses on economy of movement and speed.
Use the limited space you have between you and the attacker, make your move quickly. Then you escape, move back, to create more space.
Even when it appears that there is no way out, there always is.
In business, we need to put the survivor marketer cap on. Whether it is a pandemic or a global economic recession, or any other factor, we need to get back to the basics. Economize, iron out the chinks, attack with speed.
— — — — — — —
This is the nineteenth in the series of learning from Krav Maga.
- A fully extended arm is useless
- Find the weak spot
- Violence: Avoid it as much as possible!
- You many not have started the fight, BUT
- The meditating monk
- The only mindset that counts
- Action Reaction
- When DONE is DONE! Is it ever?
- Which shoe to buy? I have several!
- Can you escape career quicksand?
- Anger Anger
- Show as little as possible
- The need for an Outlier coach
- Why we do what we do
- Impossibility is a challenge
- Peripheral to the core
- How to defend when you don’t know who?
- Mix and match to grow
Pravin Shekar is an outlier marketer, parallel entrepreneur and a raconteur.
mic @ PravinShekar.com .
For creative collusions, join: http://bit.ly/JoinMyOutlierTribe
Pravin is the author of seven books: Devil Does Care, Marketing lessons from Mythology, Getting paid to speak, a Virtual Summit Playbook, Climb your way out of hell & a collection of travel pics/romantic poems, and stories from the heart!
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