75th Anniversary: Air Cargo World changes with the times

 

Finding its footing

The early years, of course, were not easy – neither for the magazine nor the air cargo industry, in general. While there was a growing interest in cargo after the war ended in 1945, and established U.S.-based carriers such as American Airlines and United Airlines began coast-to-coast freighter service using DC-3s, air cargo struggled to earn respect, in comparison to the more lucrative passenger trade.

“Despite the hostility air cargo would have to face after the war, the need for it would lift air cargo into its proper place as a serious and vital form of transportation,” Budd wrote in another early Air Transportation editorial. One way to ensure that air cargo would be taken seriously was to find the right people at Air Transportation, and one of Budd’s first decisions in this department may have been his most brilliant move – hiring Richard Malkin as the first editor.

Though he had no background in aviation, Malkin had honed his writing skills at a newspaper in Rockland County, N.Y., and had a passion for writing fiction. When these pursuits proved to be less than lucrative, he said in a 2002 interview with Air Cargo World, he turned to Air Transportation and was almost immediately hooked.

After a few years with the magazine, Malkin, Air Transportation and the industry itself hit their stride in June 1948, when the Cold War began in earnest over the skies of occupied Berlin. As a crisis grew over U.S., British and French intentions to maintain control of West Berlin, the Soviet Union, which controlled the East German zone surrounding the city, began a blockade, cutting off all supplies coming in by road, river and rail. However, three narrow air corridors were allowed to remain open, giving the Allied forces an option to keep the Berliners fed via a virtual conveyor belt of cargo planes flying in and out of Tempelhof Airport.

Seeing a golden opportunity, Budd sent Malkin to Germany to cover what became the Berlin Airlift in person. After setting up a press center in Wiesbaden, Malkin spent several weeks flying with the cargo crews between Frankfurt and Berlin, covering the complex logistics of moving food, medicine, fuel and other goods to keep the 2 million residents of the former German capital alive. In a round-theclock operation that lasted 15 months, using C-47 and C-54 transports, the airlift crews made more than 278,000 sorties to Berlin, carrying in excess of 2.3 million tons of supplies and racking up 93 million air miles – or roughly the distance from the Earth to the Sun.

In 1949, Malkin wrote six articles for Air Transportation recounting the heroism of the Berlin Airlift (see image above), writing about not just the planes and tonnages, but also the stories of the people who toiled for months until the blockade was broken in May 1949. He would later recount these experiences in a book about the early days of the industry called “Boxcars in the Sky,” which is still considered an air cargo classic today.

The Berlin experience put Malkin on the map as the world’s first professional “cargo journalist,” and significantly raised the stature of the magazine, now that the world could see the potential of the cargo airplane to help tie together the global economies and make the world a little smaller.

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