By Whale to Oslo
By: Rob Mulder
On July 18, 2002 Lufthansa could celebrate the opening for 75 years ago of its air service to Oslo. From 1927 to 1933 the air service was operated by aircraft of the type Dornier Wal and Superwal. These aircraft were in Norway known as the “Aerobus to the Continent”. Many German (military) pilots gathered valuable flying experiences on this air service.
Trying to get a connection
One of the pioneers of Norwegian aviation was Captain Wilhelm Meisterlin. He was born in Trondheim, well 500 km north of Oslo, and carried the English rang of Captain after his contribution in the Boer Wars in South Africa at the end of the 19th Century. He became general agent in Norway for Handley Page Ltd. and together they planned to start an airline company in Norway that would operate a through service to Copenhagen and London. For this purpose, Captain Meisterlin purchased in England three Norman Thompson NT.2B flying boats that were delivered in 1920. The scheduled air service Kristiania (until 1925 Oslo carried this name) – Göteborg (Gothenburg, Sweden) – København (Copenhagen, Denmark) could not be opened. The following year Captain Meisterlin became personal member of the International Air Traffic Association – IATA and started to convince other IATA-members to open an air service to Norway in co-operation with Captain Meisterlin. Deutscher Aero Lloyd AG and Dutch KLM were among those interested, but it never got that far.
Deutsche Luft Hansa AG is interested
After the formation of the Deutsche Luft Hansa AG – DLH in Germany (on January 6, 1926), Captain Meisterlin saw again a new chance and took contact with the management. DLHs director Major a. D. Martin Wronsky replied that an air service Oslo – Kiel / Norderney – Harwich was of no interest, but that DLH would consider a service between Oslo and Berlin. During the IATA-meeting in Wien (Vienna) in February 1927 it was decided that DLH would operate the air service Stettin – København – Göteborg – Oslo. As there existed no air treaty between Norway and Germany an airline company in Norway was needed. This company was to be the carrier of the Norwegian concession. On July 8, 1927 Captain Meisterlin formed Norske Luftruter AS – NLR with a stock capital of 40,000 kroner. The stockholders were Captain and Mrs Meisterlin, the former Minister Haakon Hanau, the steaming ship company Søndenfjeldske Norske Dampskibsselskap, Mr Christian Berg-Hansen and the lawyer Birger Stuevold-Hansen. The concession was given to NLR but as this company did not have any aircraft at its disposal it signed an agreement with DLH to let them operate the air service.
On July 11, 1927 the German airport staff arrived in Norway and set up a workshop in the hangar at the seaplane airport of Oslo, Gressholmen. The German staff consisted of Station Manager Fraisenet and the engineers Stöber and Schneider. On July 16 at 10 am the German pilot Fritz Kießner landed the first Dornier Wal (D 861 Hai, c/n 41) in Oslo and moored at the new Gressholmen airport. This aircraft was to be used on the first flight from Oslo to Stettin. On board was beside the crew the DLH-director Otto Bertram, the manager of the Danish airline company DDL, Knud Krebs, as were six other passengers. Some speeches were held. Captain Meisterlin spook, as did Otto Bertram and Knud Krebs and some Norwegian nobilities. Champagne was offered and journalists were invited for a flight above Oslo. It was not until July 18 that the inaugural flight was made. Soon the expression “take the airbus to the Continent” was commonly used in Norway.
The airport of Oslo, Gressholmen, was situated on a small island in the Oslo Fjord and could only be reached by motorboat. During the following years a hangar and a small terminal building were erected. From 1928 most personnel on the airport was of Norwegian origin and only a German engineer was employed during the months of operation. The German personnel had a nice time in Norway, as there was only one landing and start per day. So they could really enjoy the Norwegian summer. It should finally be mentioned that the original hangar and terminal building still are in use this day. It is now used for the storage of motor and sailing boats.
Domestic air services
NLR received from DLH a monthly remuneration for the handling of the aircraft. These incomes could cover some of the company’s expenses, but was certainly not enough. Captain Meisterlin used private assents to cover any losses and received a small subsidy from the Norwegian State. During the company’s short life (1927-1934) it tried to open domestic air routes. The first plan was to operate with Dornier Wal flying boats a coastal route to Kristiansand, Stavanger and Bergen with possible extensions further north. In 1928 Captain Meisterlin bought his first LFG V 13 Strehla (ex D160, c/n 85). Norwegian pilot Christian Hellesen and DLH engineer Ulbricht flew the landplane on June 28, 1928 to Norway, where it was registered as N-31. The aircraft was converted into a LFG V130 by placing floats and Hellesen made during the summer of 1928 numerous joy ride flights across the Oslo Fjord. In 1929 a trial service was operated as well: Oslo – Lillehammer – Bygdin, situated at the foot of the mighty Jotunheimen Mountains. In June 1929 the second LFG V 13 Strehla (N-32, c/n 88) was delivered and was also converted into a seaplane. Both aircraft were used for joy ride and charter flights and that year they flew 11,600 kilometres and carried 661 paying passengers. NLR tried to obtain the airmail contract for the airmail service Oslo – Göteborg – Malmö, but both 1929 and 1930 the concession (much to the surprise of DLH) went to Halle & Peterson A/S. After this disappointment, NLR decided to sell the obsolete aircraft: N-31 went to Mr O Chr Vinness and N-32 was in such a bad condition that it was scrapped in September 1932.
The loyal Dornier Wal and Superwal
Back to the Whales! On July 18 German pilot Fritz Kießner took the Dornier Wal, D 861 on the first flight from Oslo to Stettin, via Göteborg and København. In the years up to 1934 (when the Junkers Ju-52/3m-See took over) the Dornier Wal and Superwal were the standard aircraft for the route. In 1927 DLH used the Dornier Wal D 861, D 862 Sägefisch (c/n 42), the D 863 Thunfish (c/n 43), D 864 Hecht (c/n 44) and D-1213 (c/n 82). On September 6, 1927 the largest aircraft ever to have landed in Oslo arrived: the Junkers G 24a-See, D-954 Donar (c/n 922). At that time the Junkers aircraft was owned by Severa GmbH (this was a flying school of the secret German Navy).
The first season ended on September 30 and the results were encouraging: 636 passengers and 9,591 kg baggage freight and mail carried.
DLH saw its subsidy for 1928 reduced and had to reduce its flight schedule. The start of the season was first postponed from 14 to 21 May. The frequency was reduced to three times a week in each direction, no flights on Sundays. In addition the aircraft now started from Lübeck-Travemünde instead of Stettin. Hence larger aircraft were introduced. A new type of aircraft the Rohrbach Ro V Rocco (D-1261, c/n 26) made the first flight to Oslo. This aircraft did not belong to DLH, but to Severa GmbH.
It was a twin-engine passenger and cargo flying boat built in only one example. Its cabin could carry ten passengers. Two 650 hp Rolls Royce Condor III water-cooled engines powered the Rohrbach Rocco. It had a span of 26 metres and a length of 19.20 metres. Its cruising speed was 168 kph, which was just 7 kph slower than the twin-engine Dornier Superwal. The aircraft was used to train German naval pilots to fly long distances. Between May 21 and June 16 the aircraft made seven round trips between Oslo and Lübeck-Travemünde and flew 10,780 kilometres. Fritz Kießner was the pilot on these flights. The aircraft did not prove satisfactory and was take out of service in June 1928.
Also new on the air service was the introduction of the brand new Dornier Do R Ris Superwal, of which the first aircraft, the D-1447 Graf Zeppelin (c/n 146) arrived in Oslo for the first time on July 20, 1928. This was the four-engine version of the Superwal. Also the two-engine version was used. The first arrival in Oslo of that aircraft was the Dornier Superwal, D-1255 Narwal (c/n 147). Some flights were operated by the Junkers G 24a-see, D-949 Dyonysos (c/n 917) and the Dornier Wals D-861
On January 23, 1928 an air treaty between Norway and Germany was finally signed and DLH could now act as holder of the concession and use NLR as general agent. The 1929-season started May 21 and lasted until August 31. A number of minor accidents were recorded throughout the years. On June 10, 1929 the pilot Carl Kuring suffered severe injuries when his Dornier Wal D-1397 Lübeck (c/n 105) during the landing in the harbour of Göteborg due to low tide had to make a sharp turn. He sailed the aircraft right on a cliff. On July 22 engine problems led to the extra-ordinary landing of the Dornier Wal, D-1647 Bremerhaven (c/n 109) near Varberg, Sweden. A new engine was transported to Varberg the following day and the aircraft could continue. Its passengers and mail were by then already on their way to their destination.
The first aircraft to leave Oslo that year was the Dornier Wal, D-1397 and the first to arrive was the Dornier Superwal, D-1255 Narwal. Other aircraft used in 1929 were the Dornier Superwal, D-1500 Hugo Eckener (c/n 172) and the Dornier Wals, D-1488 (c/n 107), D-1626 Flensburg (c/n 108) and D-1648 Helgoland (c/n 110). The Dornier Wals mentioned here belonged to the new generation of Whales to be introduced and were to replace the elderly Dornier Wal (D 861 – D 864). That year the aircraft flew more than 130,000 kilometres and carried 682 passengers, 8,770 kg baggage, 1,139 kg of freight and 244 kg of airmail.
The pilot Josef Kasper opened on May 15, 1930 with the Dornier Superwal, D-1447 the service from Oslo, while Arthur Neumann had the privilege to open the air service to Oslo with the Dornier Wal, D-1397. The frequency was again daily and both aircraft types operated the air service without any incidents. Oslo was given a better connection to Europe for each year the service was operated. Via Lübeck-Travemünde and Berlin connections were established to Praha (by ČSA) and Wien (by ÖLAG) as well to Paris (by SGTA Lignes Farman).
During the winter the Dornier Wal had their engines replaced by the more powerful and more reliable Gnome & Rhône Jupiter 9AK. Also in 1930 aircraft from the DLH, Abt. Küstenflug (the successor of Severa GmbH) was used. Among them the Junkers G 24a-See, D-954. But mainly Dornier Wal and Superwal were operating the service. Due to overhaul of the Superwal the Junkers G 24a-See was chartered for a short period (July 26 – August 31). A sad moment in 1930: On August 30 the last arrival of a Dornier Superwal in Oslo was recorded.
Oslo also had the last arrival of the “old” generation of Dornier Wal (with the registration D861 – D864). The Dornier Wal, D862 left Oslo for the last time on June 13. The 1931-season was marked by engine troubles. The German engineer Feige travelled frequently by car to Norwegian and Swedish coastal towns to repair the broken engines. Captain Meisterlin sent a report on the matter to DLHs man in charge, Hans Schiller.
During the months of operation (May 15 – September 12) only four flying boats were used, all Dornier Wals: D-862, D-1397, D-1647 and D-1648. The results were appalling: They ended 33 % lower than in 1930. The main reason was the social unrest in Norway with strikes and lockouts and a conflict between Denmark and Norway about the status of Greenland. This effected business between the two countries. Also the financial crisis in Germany (combined with currency restrictions) led to a reduction in traffic results. This resulted in a reduction of the flying season in 1932.
In 1932 the air service was operated between June 1 and August 31. There was no money to extend the season. The number of Dornier Wals used was reduced to three: D-1626, D-1647 and D-1648. Despite the reduction of the season, the number of passengers increased by 10 %. Regularity ended on 99 % and it was clear the operational side of the air service was well under control. The aircraft flew 121.000 kilometres and the average occupancy factor was 46.5 %.
DLH now had the possibility to extend the air service again and on May 1 the German pilot Fritz Palm took off with the first Dornier Wal, D-1397 from Oslo to Lübeck-Travemünde. The pilot with most experience was without doubt Josef Kasper. Until May 1, 1933 he had flown 224 times to and from Oslo and flew 173,000 kilometres. Another well-known pilot was Fritz Kießner. Until May 1, 1933 he had flown 204,000 kilometres on this route. This was more than Kasper had done, but Kasper continued to fly until 1938 and thus passed Kießner. Latter made his final flight to Oslo in 1933.
Without doubt the year 1933 was the best year of the co-operation between the two airline companies. On May 18, 1933 flight number 1,000 was recorded in the books! The results for 1933 improved enormously: 1.230 passengers (compared with 1932: +126 %), 19,365 kg baggage (+ 148 %), 2,097 kg freight (+ 161 %) and 1,555 kg airmail (+92 %). It was obvious that the Dornier Wal had become too small and in 1934 the Junkers Ju-52/3m was chosen to replace the Wals. These aircraft had seats for 17 persons, 7-8 more than the Dornier Wal.
The year 1933 was thus the last year where the Dornier Wal and Superwal were operated. The last departure of a Dornier Wal from Oslo was on September 30, 1933, when D-1648 left the city. A total of 1,153 flights by flying boats were made:
By Dornier Wal 1,031 flights;
By Dornier Superwal 108 flights; and
By Rohrbach Ro V Rocco 14 flights.
In addition, the Junkers G 24-See made 61 flights. The Dornier Wal, D-1397 made between 1929 and 1933 a grand total of 221 flights between German and Norway, while the Dornier Superwal, D-1447 made 72 flights.
On May 1, 1934 DLH resumed the air service to Oslo and now by the all-metal Junkers Ju-52/3m-See. The first aircraft leaving Oslo was the D-ABIS Kurt Wolf (c/n 4030) with Josef Kasper as pilot. He had 18 passengers on board! Three aircraft were used in 1934: D-ABIS, D-2725 Paul Bäumer (c/n) and D-3127 Otto Parschau (c/n 4040).
By the autumn of 1933 it became clear that aviation in Norway was at a turning point. The Government invited the Norwegian companies to send in a tender for the operations of all national and international routes. The Norwegian ship owner Rudolf Olsen visited DLH in Berlin and presented his plans. Afterwards Hans Schiller came to Oslo and held talks with the Norwegian Government and Captain Meisterlin. It became obvious to him that NLR would never get a new concession or a subsidy. On January 25, 1935 leading Norwegian ship owners formed the new national airline company: Det Norske Luftfartsselskap, Fred. Olsen & Bergenske AS – DNL. On June 1, 1934 DLH had already transferred the handling of freight and one month later the handling of passengers to the ship owner Rudolf Olsen. DLH was not satisfied with the handling and co-operation with NLR and ended the contract officially on May 22.
Interesting figures and facts:
Traffic results for the air service Oslo – Göteborg – København – Stettin and from
|Passengers||636||590||682||935||774||582||1 230||2 387||7 816|
|Baggage (kg)||6 751||7 516||8 770||12 402||10 574||7 805||19 365||31 416||104 599|
|Freight (kg)||1 878||1 355||1 139||3 669||1 877||802||2 097||5 713||18 530|
|Airmail (kg)||942||50||244||1 480||1 680||807||1 555||2 424||9 182|
|Kilometres||95 000||72 000||130 000||152 000||152 000||121 000||205 000||927 000|
|Load factor (%)||68,2||60,9||53,4||39,8||55,0||46,5||57,5||50,6||53,99|
Aircraft used on the air service to and from Oslo (1927 – 1934)
|Type of aircraft||Registration||Name||C/n||First flight *||Last flight *||Remarks|
|Dornier Wal||D 861||Hai||41||16.07.1927||26.09.1927|
|D 863||Thunfisch||43||18.07.1927||02.06.1928||Flew 1928 mainly Stettin –København – Stettin|
|D-1397||Lübeck||105||21.05.1929||27.09.1933||Since 1930: Kiel|
|D-1648||Helgoland||110||11.06.1929||30.09.1933||Made last flight of a Dornier Wal from Oslo.|
|Dornier Superwal||D-1255||Narwal||147||08.08.1928||09.08.1929||Twin-engine Superwal|
|D-1447||Graf Zeppelin||146||20.07.1928||30.08.1930||Four-engine Superwal|
|D-1500||Eckener||172||06.08.1929||29.08.1930||Four-engine Superwal, since 1930: Blauwal|
|Junkers G24a-See||D 949||Dyonusos||917||04.06.1928||25.08.1928||G24ge|
|Junkers Ju-52/3m-See||D-ABIS||Kurt Wolf||4043||01.05.1934||29.09.1934|
|D-3127||Otto von Parschau||4040||15.06.1934||20.08.1934||1934 re-registered as D-APAR|
* First and last flight to and from Oslo. Aircraft was not used every year!
** Flew empty to Oslo and only once from Oslo to Copenhagen.
Pilots that operated on the air service between Norway and Germany
|Helmuth von Roques||7||7||14|
|Jobst von Studnitz||2||1||3||6|
O = Oslo, S = Stettin, L = Lübeck-Travemünde and K = Copenhagen
All pictures: Lufthansa AG and Dornier Werke AG.