By: Rob Mulder
For: European Airlines
On 18 June 1934, the Norwegian airline Widerøe’s Flyveselskap A/S (Widerøe’s Air Line Co. Ltd.) started up the air service Oslo – Kristiansand – Stavanger – Haugesund. It was the first passenger, freight and mail service in Norway since the airline Det Norske Luftfartederi A/S flew the coastal route Bergen – Haugesund – Stavanger back in 1920. The 1934-results on the WIF air service were promising.
On 19 February 1934, Viggo and Arild Widerøe and engineer Einar Isdahl formed the Widerøe’s Flyveselskap A/S (WIF). The capital was just 25,000 Norwegian Kroner. During 1934, Helge Skappel joined the WIF and he would run the aerial photography section and the flying school. Arild was the technical manager, while Viggo became the general manager. The airline took over a de Havilland D.H.60M Moth, a Simmonds Spartan I and the newly purchased Waco UIC4 Cabin (LN-ABE). Arild picked up the aircraft in the USA and flew it from Ohio to New York. The German steamer „Europa“ shipped it to Bremerhaven. Here Arild assembled the aircraft and flew it via Hamburg and Gothenburg to Oslo. The Waco Company’s standard colour was green and subsequently this colour became the house colours of WIF.
In the autumn of 1933, the shipping company Fred. Olsen A/S formed the Det Norske Luftfartselskap, Fred. Olsen A/S and the company applied for a general concession for the air services Oslo – Kristiansand – Amsterdam and Ålesund – Bergen – Stavanger – Kristiansand. This company was interested to operate the services with landplanes rather than seaplanes, but not all agreed. WIF was also interested to apply for the general concession for air services and wanted to fly these with seaplanes. It decided to operate an air service in 1934, in order to be able to gain experience, but also to strengthen a future concession application. It was not until 15 June 1934 that the State awarded WIF the concession for the first regular, domestic civil air service of Norway since 1920: Oslo – Kristiansand – Stavanger – Haugesund. The public opinion and the Post Office were eager to get WIF to fly on to Bergen, but the range of the seaplanes were simply not big enough to make a round trip per day between Oslo and Bergen. Therefor the service terminated in the small fishing village of Haugesund. The original concession gave the company a financial support for 2.5 month of operation. The air service had a length of 530 km and was operated by the Waco Cabin seaplanes. The State granted a subsidy of 5,000 Norwegian kroner.
The air route
The aircraft started from the summer base of WIF at the beach site Ingierstrand. It flew from there towards Bastøy (island with emergency landing possibilities) and across a 22 km long stretch of water towards Stavern and Jomfruland. Further, it went along the archipelago to Kristiansand, one of the main harbours of Norway. The weather along this part of the line is during the summer months usually fine, though the harbour of Kristiansand had many days with fog. It was no problem to land here on instruments only. The landing jetty at Kongsgårdbukta was even very good to use and there was a lot of space to take off and land. In order to get from Kristiansand to Stavanger there were three alternative routes: weather permitting right across land, along the inside of the coast, or at the outside of the coast. If the pilot flew overland, he could reach a height of 2,000 meter with numerous landing possibilities for seaplanes on lakes down below. Flying along the coast (inside or outside) would allow him to fly at 800 meters. Flying a stretch of 100 km across open water was no problem either, as the weather was calm in this area. At Stavanger, the landing was ideal at the Hafrsfjord, where the company used a jetty during that summer. It was well-protected from northern gales and storms. Between Stavanger, Haugesund and Bergen there were no problems with finding emergency landing sites as the fjords cut deep into the landscape.
Beside Oslo (Ingierstrand), WIF used in Kristiansand the jetty at Kongsgårdbukta, where the staff filled petrol on both the westward and eastward service. In Stavanger WIF landed at Madla near Hafrsfjord where the municipality supplied a small jetty (for kr. 200). On one occasion, the Waco landed on the Lake Stokkavann as high seas and onshore winds made it impossible to land on the Hafrsfjord. A mooring site south on the Risøy Island (near Haugesund) was used, but the last three weeks of the operation, a new jetty at the north end of the same island was taken in use.
WIF placed its two Waco four seated seaplanes, equipped with one Continental engine, at the disposal. The first aircraft (LN-ABE) dated from 1933, while the second one (Waco UKC, LN-ABW) was delivered in June 1934. Only one aircraft flew the service at the time, except for two times, when due to huge passenger interest the second aircraft had to be used. The aircraft flew the 1,050 km line Oslo – Haugesund – Oslo every day in both directions. Both aircraft were used every other day making it possible to maintain the aircraft not flying. For the sake of the service’s safety, the factory’s prescribed 25 hours’ maintenance work was done every night, after just 7-8 flying hours. Two mechanics had close to 6-8 hours’ work on the airliner every night.
Beside them the Navy’s mechanics in Kristiansand and Stavanger were asked to assist and in Stavanger, WIF had its own mechanic stationed. The Waco factory had informed WIF to install better cowlings and baffle plates for sea flying. During the 500 flying hours the service was flown only twice an exhaust pipe holder had to be replaced. This was done during the night and caused no delays. After LN-ABE’s engine had reached 560 flying hours, it was replaced during a stay at the Horten Naval base and after that, the engine ran another 150 hours without problems.
Ditlef Smith and Viggo Widerøe were the first to operate the service. Smith flew two days in a row and then had a resting day. On that day, Viggo Widerøe took over. Later both Erik Engnæs and Arild Widerøe acted as pilots. Even with bad weather, a pilot could fly the service without him getting too tired.
Start of the service
On Monday morning, 18 June 1934, at around 08.00 Viggo Widerøe sat himself in the cockpit of the beautiful green Waco seaplane and together with mail, parcels, newspapers and two passengers he took off for the first flight from Oslo to Kristiansand, Stavanger and Haugesund. The newspapers talked about the start of a new era in Norwegian aviation. The seaplane arrived at Kristiansand at 09.35, at Stavanger at 11.25 and at Haugesund at 12.15 hrs. On the return, the same cities were served, but in addition, also Fredrikstad, where the pilot handed over the mail from western Norway to the southbound international train. With this connection, the mail from that area saved 1.5 days travelling. On the first flight, the Oslo newspaper Aftenposten offered 60 kilograms of newspapers. People in Kristiansand could now read this newspaper in the late morning and in Stavanger and Haugesund at noon. A great improvement. The first delivery of the newspaper was a great success. Within a few minutes, the 500 newspapers were sold out. Viggo Widerøe arrived home just five minutes after schedule with three passengers, mail, freight and parcels. In addition, the landing on a lake at Sarpsborg (near Fredrikstad) went well and on schedule. Widerøe was not completely satisfied with the first flight, but that was to be expected. There were some problems with mooring the aircraft at some of the jetties, but this would be easy to solve. As from 19 June, the service operated without too many problems.
Weather situation and weather service
A challenge was the weather service in Norway. The weather along the line was throughout the year nice, but fog was a returning problem, especially between Kristiansand and Stavanger. Fog delayed only two departure: once 30 minutes near Ny-Hellesund (after the fog had lifted, the pilot could continue) and two hours at Lyngør. It was suggested that a pilot could fly when the sight was at least 100 meters. On many other occasions, the fog reached not higher than 500 meters and could easily be overflown. After the mid of July fog was more seldom, but in August rain showers became more frequent, making the sight bad. Nevertheless, flights were made, even if it would be delayed.
Weather reports during the flight were nearly non-existing. The airline received a weather report from the meteorological institute for the service Oslo – Kristiansand. In Kristiansand he received for the next leg to Stavanger, and there for the leg to Haugesund and back. In Stavanger again for the leg to Kristiansand and there for the last leg back towards Oslo. Upon receive, the messages were just 15-30 minutes old, but of course two hours old for the next landing site. That meant that the pilot had to judge the weather situation during the flight. For the future when the season extended to spring and autumn, a radio installation should be added to the aircraft’s equipment.
The only problems the pilots encountered was during the take-off from quiet water, no wind and “dead air”. This happened only a few times. All passengers and mail were always taken along at the aircraft’s maximum weight: 521 kg.
From Oslo to Stavanger, the aircraft carried maximum two passengers. On the rest of the line, it was possible to take along three. Ticket sales were through local representatives, travel agents or directly at WIF’s office in Oslo. There were no booking problems during the year. The seaplane took daily 75 kg of Oslo newspapers to Kristiansand, Stavanger and Haugesund. It had been agreed upon that the seaplane daily would take along 50 kg mail from Oslo and about the same weight from each of the coastal towns back to Oslo (and Moss/Fredrikstad). However, the amount of mail increase steadily. It was generally 90 kg from Oslo and 60 from the coastal towns. The highest weight transported was 116 kg from Oslo. Most of the mail went to Stavanger and surroundings, and from the mail from coastal towns went more than 50 % to Moss and the international train. Delivery of the mail changed from Sarpsborg to Lake Vannsjø near Moss, where it was picked up by postal vessel. The mail arriving in the morning in Kristiansand and Stavanger could be replied on and send away the same day. It was not until the end of the season (when the jetty in Haugesund moved) the turn-around time increased and it was possible to send the return letter with the same aircraft. Mail was transported further to the following post offices: Setesdals Railway, Kristiansand – east and west of the city – eastward from Brevik to Grimstad, Sandnes, Egersund, Jæren Railway (Ryfylke province), Skudneshavn, Koppervik and Bergen (by boat).
|Westbound in the direction from Oslo||5,318.3 kg|
|Westbound in the direction from Kristiansand||509.8 kg|
|Westbound in the direction from Stavanger||36.2 kg||5,864.3 kg|
|Eastbound in the direction from Haugesund||364.8 kg|
|Eastbound in the direction from Stavanger||2,283.4 kg|
|Eastbound in the direction from Kristiansand||1,405.0 kg||4,053.2 kg|
|Total kg of mail||9,917.5 kg|
|Total of mail and newspapers||14,510.0 kg|
|Oslo – Kristiansand||260||80||20 800|
|Oslo – Stavanger||475||126||59 850|
|Oslo – Haugesund||535||35||18 725|
|Kristiansand – Stavanger||215||27||5 805|
|Kristiansand – Haugesund||275||16||4 400|
|Stavanger – Haugesund||60||129||7 740|
Requests from passengers that could not be honerated due to lack of seats:
Oslo – Kristiansand ………………………………………. 37 passengers
Oslo – Stavanger …………………………………………. 98 passengers
Oslo – Haugesund ………………………………………… 16 passengers
Kristiansand – Stavanger ……………………………… 3 passengers
Kristiansand – Haugesund …………………………….. 1 passenger
Stavanger – Haugesund ………………………………… 20 passengers
Total 175 passengers + 59 passengers (lacking information of destination)
Total 234 passengers had to be denied!
The conclusion and future for WIF
The service was without doubt a huge success. It was obvious that the air route could do with a larger aircraft. In the autumn of 1934, WIF had handed over its concession offer and waited for the answer from the government. Main competitor was DNL of Fred. Olsen & Co. The government did not feel like splitting the concession between the companies and urged them to join forces and form a new large airline. The WIF management had asked a few smaller coastal shipping companies to supply capital and secure a coastal service. They all went to DNL in January 1935 and a strong new airline, but still dominated by Fred. Olsen & Co. and the Bergen-situated shipping company Bergenske A/S. WIF was not interested in joining as the conditions for its personnel were not acceptable. This “new” DNL received in April 1935 a ten-year concession for all national and international air services and, more important, the annual subsidy. WIF was in 1936 taken over (51 %) by DNL and operated as a sister company right until the end of the 1930-ies, when Viggo Widerøe managed to buy out DNL. By then, his brother had already died in a tragic seaplane accident on 1 August 1937 above the Oslofjord. With him perished also DNL-mechanic Chris Braathen and his wife and Dr. Widerøe and his wife. This accident will be a future feature on this website.