Farman F.121 Jabiru in Danish service

By: Rob Mulder
For: www.europeanairlines.no

John Stroud wrote in his book “European Transport Aircraft since 1910” that the Farman F.121 Jabiru (Stork) was “…one of the ugliest transport aeroplanes ever built”. He probably wrote this with a smile on his face. But in a way the F-3X and perhaps even more the three-engine version F-4X were not the best looking aircraft, but they were used on air services for some years. Four of them were even used in Denmark. This story is about speed, prestige and safety.

The prototype Farman F-3X Jabiru

The prototype, F-3X was a high-wing strut-braced monoplane with a wooden wing, tapered in a curve from 6 metres chord at the root to 3 metres at the sawn-off tips. The fuselage was of mixed metal and wood construction. The nose was like that of the Goliath only deeper and contained two passenger seats. Behind this front cabin was a small section with semi-bulkheads fore and aft. In the top was the open cockpit for one or two crew. The main cabin had six seats. Four 180 hp Hispano Suiza 8Ac water-cooled engines powered the aircraft. They were mounted in tandem pairs at the ends of stub wings. The biggest problem was the cooling of the rear engines. The prototype, F-ESAR originally had cooling surface on the inner struts, but later two Lamblin radiators were mounted above each pair of engines. Still later, a triangular radiator was mounted in front of each engine.

The prototype flew for the first time in 1923 and was delivered to the French State in 1924 for tests. When the first F-3X was registered (F-AGFC) it was re-designated F.121. Nine aircraft were constructed of which four went to Denmark. They were operated until 1930. In order to solve the cooling problems, a three-engine version (originally F-4X, later F.120T) was constructed. Compagnie Franco-Roumaine de Navigation Aérienne – CFRNA ordered four. The picture above shows the Farman F-3X bis (F-ESAS) as prototype.

Farman in Denmark

Denmark was after the Great War (1914-1918) orientated on France and embraced the products of the French aviation industry. Numerous types of military aircraft were delivered to the Danish air force and also in the civil aviation French aircraft dominated Denmark. The best-known example is the flight of the Danish pilot Mr Krause-Jensen, who transferred after the war a Farman F.60 Goliath from Paris via the Netherlands to Denmark. The pilot on this flight was Monsieur D’Or.

But the Danish airline company Det Danske Luftfartselskap AS – DDL had problems establishing itself in Denmark. Right from the start DDL was acknowledged by the Danish State as the national airline company of Denmark and was given as much support as possible. But during the first years (1918-1925) it did not manage to put together a fleet of its own. It had possessed surplus aircraft from German and England, used chartered Fokker-Grulich F.IIIs and Dornier Komet aircraft, before it in 1924-25 was offered the all-metal Junkers G 24. But during the preparations of the 1926-season it was obvious that the battle between DDL and the Swedish airline company AB Aerotransport on the air service to Paris and London via Amsterdam would reach the top. AB Aerotransport and KLM had agreed to co-operate, but could not agree with DDL. Therefore DDL turned to French airline company SGTA Lignes Farman to talk about a co-operation on an air service from Paris to København (Copenhagen). AB Aerotransport operated the service to Amsterdam with modern three-engine Junkers G 24 and used in its advertisements the fact that three engines meant safety. Therefore it was important for DDL to emphasise this advantage as well. But in 1925 it had only single-engine aircraft and had purchased some single-engine Fokker-Grulich F.IIIs, which were actually already obsolete.

The financial situation of DDL was very bad in the autumn of 1925 and a reconstruction of the airline company was expected to take place. One of the main reasons for this reconstruction was actually the buying of the Farman F.121 Jabiru. The powerful Danish press was very much against this order and was in favour of the single-engine Fokker F.VII. A few years later DDL also purchased the Fokker F.VII. According to the Danish press the Fokker F.VII outclassed the Farman F.121 Jabiru despite its single engine. But the choice the managing director of DDL, Willie Wulff made in favour of the Farman F.121 Jabiru is understandable and defendable since AB Aerotransport operated three engine aircraft and DDL wanted to be better than AB Aerotransport. Another reason to vote for the ordering of the Farman-aircraft was the low exchange rate of the French Francs and that was of importance since the financial situation of DDL was not too sound. With its 175 kmh it was one of the fastest civil airliners of its time.

The first Farman F.121 Jabiru was delivered in September 1925 and registered as T-DOXB in the Danish register. It had been built in France in 1925 and had as previous identity F-AIAN (n/c 2). DDL chartered the aircraft for a month and after this trial period the aircraft was returned to France. DDL was under government control and the Rigsdag (the Danish Parliament) allowed the order of the aircraft. But one of the conditions was that DDL had to let two aircraft be built by the local Danish aircraft industry. Despite the protests of Willie Wulff (to build the aircraft in Denmark would mean nearly a doubling of the costs) the Rigsdag upheld its conditions. An additional subsidy to DDL was promised, but never paid to DDL.

The situation got even worse, when after the sudden death of Mr Holck Colding (from the Ministry of Public Works and responsible for aviation matters) the agreements made between DDL and the Department turned out not to be written down on paper. This meant that new agreements had to be made. On top of this, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of DDL, Director Karl Kiefer ordered an additional Farman F.121 Jabiru on his own initiative. At the beginning of the 1926-season DDL would therefore have two aircraft delivered from France, while the next two were to be delivered at the end of the 1926-season.

The delivery and start of the 1926-season

By May 1926, the first two French-built aircraft were delivered to DDL and landed at Kastrup, the civil airport of København. On May 8, 1926 they were registered as T-DOXB (2, see picture) and T-DOXC. Another reason for the purchase of these aircraft was that the SGTA – Lignes Farman scheduled to use the same aircraft on its air service Paris – Köln (Cologne, Germany). On April 19, 1926 Fokker-Grulich F.III flown by the Danish pilot Rosenberg made a flight to Amsterdam in order to confirm the right of DDL to fly this route. But in stead an air service København – Hamburg – Köln was to be opened on May 17, 1926. This was however postponed until May 26 on request by the French airline company. By then the SGTA Lignes Farman started to operate the air service Paris – Köln – Berlin with connection in Köln to Hamburg and København (operated by DDL).

KLM was not pleased with the opening of this air service to Paris and informed DDL with strong words that it had broken previously made agreements. DDL was of the opinion that it was free to operate other services and was not interested to give in. This decision led to the KLM-decision not to work together with DDL anymore and open its own representation in Denmark. It would take many years before the two parties found each other again and started to work together.

The results on the air service to Köln were however disappointing. In fact nearly no passengers were flown beyond Hamburg. This caused more financial problems for DDL and the final reconstruction of the company. The new management under the leadership of Knud Krebs closed down the air service to Köln and decided only to operate air service in a small scale. As compensation the State paid 200,000 Danish Crowns to the Orlogsværftet for the two Danish built aircraft.

DDL opened in On April 19, 1927 two daily flights to Hamburg: one with the Farman F.121 Jabiru and one with the Fokker-Grulich F.III. But already the next day DDL had to register the loss of its first Farman F.121 Jabiru: The aircraft with the registration T-DOXD Sjælland had to make an extra-ordinary landing due to lack of petrol. The pilot Christian Johannsen managed to put down the aircraft near Karise (Stevns), but could not avoid sever damage. The aircraft had to be written off. This left the company with three aircraft.

In August 1926, the Orlogsværftet (the Army’s Workshops) in København delivered the next two Farman F.121 Jaburis. The aircraft were registered on August 4 as T-DOXD and T-DOXF. From 1928 the Fokker F.VII replaced the Farman F.121 Jabiru. The French aircraft were gradually taken out of services and were all broken up and cancelled from the register in 1931.

The Danish mechanic Asmussen once wrote about the Farman F.121 Jabiru: “Once we had fixed them (i.e. the engines – RM) they were pretty good. The engines did not have a long time – they were former war engines and the French pilots, who flew the aircraft just after their delivery to DDL, were not thinking about the economical side of the engine. They flew the aircraft with maximum rounds per minute.” This led to a short life of the engines. And replacing four engines was rather expensive. Furthermore there were some practical problems with the aircraft: The aeroplane was too high and it was therefore difficult for the pilot to taxi. Also the cooling was still not optimal.

The Farman F.121 Jabiru had only a short operational life in Denmark and was mainly used on the route to Hamburg and for local flying. In 1928 and 1929 the three remaining aircraft were withdrawn from use. With their four engines they were too expensive to operate.

The aircraft delivered to DDL:

C/n 2 Farman F.121 Jabiru Named: -
Engine: 4x 180 hp Hispano Suiza 8A  
Regn. Date Remarks
F-AIAN .25 Registered to Société Farman
  09.25 Delivered to Det Danske Luftfartsselskab AS, København
T-DOXB (1) 08.09.25 Registered to Det Danske Luftfartsselskab AS, København
  10.25 Returned to Société Farman
F-AIAN .25 Registered to Société Farman
C/n 6 Farman F.121 Jabiru Named: Jylland
Engine 4x 180 hp Hispano Suiza 8A  
Regn. Date Remarks
  04.26 Delivered to Det Danske Luftfartsselskab AS, København
T-DOXB (2) 08.05.26 Registered to Det Danske Luftfartsselskab AS, København
OY-DEC   Reserved as new registration, but not taken up
    Demolished at Kastrup Airport.
  04.31 Cancelled from the Danish register.
C/n 7 Farman F.121 Jabiru Named: København
Engine: 4x 180 hp Hispano Suiza 8A  
Regn. Date Remarks
  04.26 Delivered to Det Danske Luftfartsselskab AS, København
T-DOXC 08.05.26 Registered to Det Danske Luftfartsselskab AS, København
    Demolished at Kastrup Airport.
  26.03.31 Cancelled from the Danish register.
C/n 45 Farman F.121 Jabiru Named: Sjælland
Engine: 4x 180 hp Hispano Suiza 8A  
Regn. Date Remarks
  .26 Built at the Orlogsværftet, København
  08.26 Delivered to Det Danske Luftfartsselskab AS, København
T-DOXD 04.08.26 Registered to Det Danske Luftfartsselskab AS, København
  20.04.27 Crashed near Karise at Stevns.
  04.27 Cancelled from the Danish register.
C/n 44 Farman F.121 Jabiru Named: Fyen
Engine 4x 180 hp Hispano Suiza 8A  
Regn. Date Remarks
  .26 Built at the Orlogsværftet, København
  08.26 Delivered to Det Danske Luftfartsselskab AS, København
T-DOXF 04.08.26 Registered to Det Danske Luftfartsselskab AS, København
OY-DAF   Reserved as new registration, but not taken up
  .31 Demolished at Kastrup Airport.
  26.03.31 Cancelled from the Danish register.

Picture of time table from the website of Björn Larsson and David Zekria (http://www.timetableimages.com/)