Saturday, May 27, 2017

Air Cargo Took Off Above The Himalayas

If you want to know exactly when the defining time occurred for air cargo in the 20th century, and what led to its development, just cast a line back seventy two years ago and you will discover that modern air cargo was born in India and China.
     Today, as air cargo’s future is increasingly connected to these two ancient countries, it can be said that what is old is new again.
Early in World War II, President Roosevelt asked Army Air Force General Hap Arnold to devise a method for supplying Chinese and American troops and aviators fighting against the Japanese in China.
Americans were aiding the Nationalist forces of Chiang Kai Shek, while American aviators operating P40B fighter aircraft supplied by the USA were part of an all-volunteer group known as the AVG, under the command of Claire Chennault.
     Later, the world would come to know this pilot group as the legendary Flying Tigers.
     As the enemy closed in, military planners decided that an air route across some of the most rugged territory in the world—the Himalayan Mountains—would be sustainable in any event.
     The route quickly earned a name that has immortalized the effort and heroism of that first great air cargo movement, which kept freedom and hope alive for millions during the darkest days of the conflict: for succeeding generations, “The China-India-Burma Hump (CBI)” described a journey which created an aerial lifeline from the Assam Valley in India to Kunming, China.
     China-India-Burma Hump operations took off after the Japanese closed down the overland truck route, called The Burma Road, as Rangoon and the country fell in early 1942.
     To look at it today, that vaunted and somewhat mysterious Burma Road is/was little more than a mostly unimproved artery hacked out in serpentine form in the rugged mountains.
     But as breathtaking as the sheer cliffs were to passengers and drivers inching along the Burma Road, that experience was nothing compared to the adventure of take-off and landing first-generation, all-cargo aircraft operating back and forth between India and China.
     The Himalayas are rugged mountains, some as high as 14,000 feet, which lay square between the Assam Valley and Kunming.
     Since the Japanese controlled everything else, there was no right or left about it either.
     The only way between the two cities was the relatively short 500-air mile, truly hellish flight up over the mountains.
     Although today, aircraft routinely fly over the Himalayan Mountains, as World War II raged, the otherwise picturesque, snow-capped, remote peaks were a daunting challenge to airmen and their twin-engine aircraft.
     Flights from Assam to Kunming often took several hours.
26/05/17 Flying Typers

0 Comments: