SPECIAL TO THE PULSE BY RICHARD LAWRY –
For two weeks Crider Aircraft Painting at the Mena Intermountain Municipal Airport was the home of the Spirit of America; a Douglas C-54 that was part of the great Berlin Airlift of 1948 and 1949. The crew at Crider Aircraft did a beautiful job repainting the plane. The Spirit of America served in the U. S. Military until 1975 when it entered the private sector. In 1992, it was purchased by the Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation and restoration was begun.
The mission of the Foundation is to preserve the memory of the greatest humanitarian aviation event in history by preserving several aircraft used in the great event and creating “Flying Memorials and Classrooms” with the purpose of educating the public about this pivotal, yet forgotten, event in world history. The Spirit of Freedom flies to airshows and events all around the U.S. Inside the plane is a genuine museum dedicated to the Berlin Airlift, filled with artifacts, displays, and information explaining this all important event in history. The first destination, after leaving Mena with it’s beautiful new paint job, was the Spirit of St. Louis Airport Event.
After World War II the city of Berlin was also split into four sectors, with the Allies taking the western part of the city and the Soviets the eastern. In June 1948, The Soviets attempted to consolidate control of the city by cutting off all land and sea routes to West Berlin in order to pressure the Allies to evacuate. As a result the western section of Berlin and its 2 million people were deprived of food, heating fuel, and other crucial supplies. The Berlin Airlift was the Allies response to the crisis.
During the Berlin Airlift, an average of 2,500 tons of supplies were flown into the city every day. Planes landing at Tempelhof Airport every four minutes, round the clock. More than 1.5 million tons of supplies were flown into Berlin during the airlift.
The Berlin Airlift Historical Foundation extends “a sincere thank you to Roger Crider for taking on the job of painting the C-54 and for doing all he can to reduce the labor costs to help the Foundation.” When the Spirit of Freedom flies around the country educating thousands of people about the Berlin Airlift, it will be taking a little bit of Mena and our fine craftsmanship with her in the form of a beautiful new paint job.