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Adam Spink

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    On 24 June 1948, ground access to the French, British and American zones of Berlin was cut off by the Soviet forces in East Germany. On 26 June, the first airlift flights departed for West Berlin. Over the following fourteen months over two million people were supplied with food, medicine, clothing, fuel, water and any other necessities by air.

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    The use of the phonetic spelling alphabet – Alfa, Bravo, Charlie etc – is a common sound in air traffic control towers and centres around the world, but where did it come from and why does everyone use the same one?

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    Operation Overlord, arguably remains one of the most complex tasks ever devised: 160,000 troops (of which 24,000 landed by glider or parachute), 5,000 vessels and 11,000 individual aircraft took part. While obviously bearing no relation to each other, today’s air traffic operation can trace some roots back to that day and to similar operations in preceding years.

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    At Heathrow we have a great relationship with London’s Air Ambulance team at the Royal London Hospital. I was recently asked to speak at a human factors symposium organised by London’s Air Ambulance Institute of Pre-Hospital Care at the Queen Mary University of London’s Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry.

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