22 April 2011
Richard Ayling looks back at the German airline company’s 85-year history and selects some of the interesting aircraft and the models made of them. ...
**This is an excerpt of the article 'Lufthansa celebrates 85 years' first published in Collector Gazette's May issue. To see which issues of Collectors Gazette are available to buy online, click here.
Deutsche Luft Hansa AG was founded in Berlin in January 1926. It became Lufthansa in 1933 and operated until 1945 when all services were suspended following Germany’s defeat. A new Lufthansa company was formed in January 1953 and commenced operations in 1955.
The early years
In the years prior to WWII, the company pioneered routes to the Far East and across the North Atlantic and the South Atlantic, using a fleet of mostly German-designed aircraft.
Lufthansa was the first airline to establish a commercial trans-Atlantic air mail link between Europe and South America in the 1930s. Air mail was flown by Dornier Wal flying boats, landing in the mid-Atlantic where specially converted seaplane tenders cruised, and where the Wals were refuelled and then catapulted back into the air for the flight to South America or back to West Africa.
The Dornier Do X passenger airship, with a take-off mass of 48 tonnes and top speed of 218kph, was in its time the largest aircraft in the world by far. In 1929, the Do X took off on a round trip with a 10-man crew and 159 works employees: this was a record that stood unbroken for 20 years.
It made many promotional flights across the Atlantic before ending its days on Lake Müggel in Berlin where over a million people viewed the aircraft. From 1935 it was housed in the German Aviation Collection in Berlin until it was destroyed in 1945.
Another of the early Lufthansa aircraft was the Junkers Ju 52 monoplane that was also used as an early Luftwaffe bomber. This aircraft has been completely refurbished and is still flying today.
On 10th August 1938 a Lufthansa Focke-Wulf 200 ‘Condor’, numbered D-ACON, performed the first non-stop Atlantic-Ocean passenger flight at the Airport Tempelhof. Twenty-five hours later they reached New York and landed at the Floyd-Bennett Airport.
After the outbreak of war in 1939, Lufthansa was only able to maintain service to neutral countries, including a South American service for some time, until all services were suspended following Germany’s defeat in 1945.
One of the earlier versions of the Dornier X was a 1/144 scale plastic kit by Otaki in Japan in the late-1970s, which can still be found.
Model Power DC models make a 1/200 scale model of the mammoth 12 engine Dornier X in flying boat. Shown in the silver finish common to most aircraft of the era, the massive 12 engine housing sits astride the high monoplane wing. The length of the model is 274mm with a wingspan of 334cms. In the same scale, and currently available, is the Revell plastic kit featuring 121 parts.