Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes Akciju Sabiedríba (1922-1928)

By: Rob Mulder
For: www.europeanairlines.no

After the struggle for independence ended in 1920, Latvia started as so many other European countries after the Great War, to rebuild its country. It supported in the beginning mainly on co-operation with Germany as Latvia saw Germany as a liberator of the country from the Russians and because of the historical ties. The foundation of the Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes Akciju Sabiedríba was therefore not surprisingly supported by Germany or more directly by the Junkers Flugzeugwerk AG (Jfa) from Dessau, eager to find ways to avoid destruction of its fleet of Junkers F 13 and increase its sales of Junkers-aircraft.

Already in December 1920 the German postal authorities decided to grant a concession for the transportation of freight and passengers on the link Berlin – Königsberg – Kaunus (Memel) – Riga. But it was a non-German airline company that would open the first airline on Riga. With a Sablatnig P.I of the Estonian airline company A-S Aeronaut opened on July 29, 1921 the Tallinn – Riga route for passengers, freight and mail and with connection in Tallinn to and from Stockholm. The latter was flown with a Savoia S.16 and a Junkers F 13W by the Swedish company Svenska Lufttrafik AB. The 2-2½ hour flights had an experimental character, but turned to be a success. No accidents occurred on the Tallinn – Riga service. A ticket cost 5,000 Estonian Marks one way per person. After one month 17 flights were made and 38 passengers carried.

In 1921 Junkers Werke & Co. (Jco) came in contact with a Russian lawyer living in Riga named Dr Alexander Woskressenski. He was interested to be the representative of Jco in Latvia. On June 15, 1922 a contract was signed between Lloyd-Junkers Luftverkehrs GmbH in Berlin and Dr A Woskressenski, making him general agent for Lloyd-Junkers Luftverkehrs GmbH for Latvia and Estonia. He was paid monthly 20,000 Latvian Rubbles and the contract was valid one year, starting July 1, 1922. Furthermore, an airline company was founded: Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes Akziju Saboedría. The foundation was on July 31, 1922 and with a capital of 100,000 (Lats) Gold francs, divided into 5,000 shares each 20 (Lats) Gold francs. The founders were the two Latvian citizens Captain Janis Lindberg and Lieutenant Janis Osol, together with Dr Woskressenski. The company received a special concession from the Latvian Government for flying international services. Besides being an airline company, Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS was to act as an agent, planned the purchase of workshops for aircraft maintenance and the building of maintenance facilities at airports. In addition § 17 of the company’s charter included the possibility for the company to use the shares of the company for the purchase of aircraft. This was done to give Junkers Flugzeugwerk AG (Jfa) the possibility to deliver aircraft to the company. On the day of the foundation Jfa was officially not the owner of the company, but on August 2, 1922 exactly 2,000 shares went to Junkers Werke AG, Dessau and 2,760 shares to the Junkers-affiliated Danziger Luftpost GmbH from Danzig. From each company the Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS received one silver-coloured Junkers F 13: D 202 Condor (c/n 579) from Jfa and D 215 Fasan (c/n 631) from Danziger Luftpost GmbH. They flew with German registrations first and were later registered as respectively B.L.A.T.A. (latest since September 1923) and B.L.A.T.B. (latest March 1924) in Latvia. At the day of the foundation the 5,000 shares were divided over:

Name/Company

No. of shares

Janis OsolJanis Lindberg

Roderich Bach

Dr A Woskressenski

Wilhelm Schmidt

14,801,680

1,730

100

10

But two days later the shares changed hands:

Name/Company

 

Junkers Werke AG 2,000

No. of shares

Janis OsolJanis Lindberg

Dr A Woskressenski

Roderich Bach

Danziger Luftpost GmbH

Eberhard Cranz

Erhard Milch

Wilhelm Schmidt

Harry Winter

1050

100

10

2,760

25

10

10

25

After that day, the shares changed hands several times. Janis Osol had to sell his shares on March 30, 1924 to Roderich Bach. He had some financial problems with the company and could not stay on as director of the Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS anymore. Early 1923 Danziger Luftpost GmbH transferred 2,410 shares to Janis Lindberg and Theodor Erlanger, only to receive them back again on June 10 that year. Junkers Werke AG’s share remained the same throughout the company’s existence, but through so-called Treuhändervertrag (straw men agreements) it owned 100 % of the company. The shares were only on the name of the above mentioned, but by delivering the two aircraft Jco/Jfa received the shares.

Any detailed results or information on this small airline company are not known, but in the spring of 1923 the Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS joined the Osteuropa Union of Junkers-affiliated airline companies to fly (as from March 7, 1923) on the Tallinn – Riga – Kaunus – Königsberg line. Latvian aircraft flew on this stretch of the network and performed good work. On this line the Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS and other Osteuropa Union-members flew between May and October 1923 107,896km and transported 1,061 passengers, 7,041kg of freight and 581kg of mail. Of the 284 flights planned 257 were actually carried out (= 90% regularity). The Osteuropa Union was followed, after the foundation of Aero O/Y in Finland by the Nordeuropa Union. In 1924 the same line was served again.

On October 15, 1924 the Junkers F 13, B.L.A.T.B. Fasan (c/n 631) crashed and was transported to Königsberg for repair. During a fire in Königsberg the aircraft was subsequently destroyed beyond repair. Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS was offered in April 1925 a new aircraft, the Junkers F 13, D 251 Eule (c/n 570). It received the vacant registration B.L.A.T.B. In May 1925 Dr Woskressenski asked Junkers’ director Dr Kaumann to investigate the possibilities of supplying Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS with one Junkers F 13W and two Junkers G 24s. This plan was abandoned.

In September Harry Winter died and his shares were taken over by Gustav Nordt. The General Managers were Janis Lindberg and Roderich Bach and other personnel working for the company was a secretary under the name of Ms Witte and two pilots: Mr Pawlowski and Mr Jakubow. Finally, there was an unnamed watchman, who received the sum Lats 80 per month to look after the premises at the Riga airport. In 1925 the Board of Directors of the Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS consisted of Janis Lindberg, Dr Alexander Woskressenski, Theodor Erlanger, with as candidates Roderich Bach and Eberhard Cranz. The final revise of the accounts was done by Harry Winter (after Winter’s death in September replaced by Gustav Nordt), Wilhelm Schmidt and Erhard Milch. The year 1924 could be closed with a small profit of Lats 104.35. Of revenue of Lats 366,319.95 the company had only an income of Lats 42,328.86 the sales of airline tickets. The company was still writing of the losses from the financial problems in 1923 of former director Janis Osol.

The Königsberg – Kaunus – Riga – Tallinn – Helsinki service was re-opened on May 1, 1925. One week later, on May 7, the Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS joined the founders of the Europa Union KGA in Berlin, but when Europa Union KGA decided to increase its capital stock (September 1925), the Latvian Government withdrew the subsidy. As a result the company had to pull out of the co-operation and had subsequently to cease operations under Europa Union KGA’s jurisdiction. During the three years it participated on the above mentioned air service Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS flew 603,000 kilometres, carried 5,627 passengers and 84,007 kg. of freight.

In 1926 the two remaining Junkers F 13s were still registered on the name of Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS. During the winter of 1925-26 (when all the changes took place in German aviation), the Junkers F 13, B-LATA was leased by Aero O/y from Junkers to replace D 335, which was on overhaul in Königsberg. On March 10, 1926 this aircraft crashed in Helsinki, with on board the Latvian Air Force delegation, which had just visited Finland. On April 19, 1926 it returned to Königsberg for repairs.

On September 30, 1925 the Junkers Werke AG had already taken over the Jfa/Jlag-shares, so was technically the owner of Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS. A meeting at the head office of Jco in Dessau on June 22, 1926 made it clear that Jco was not willing to support the Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS anymore and subsequently decided to dissolve the company. Between February and August 1926 Jco had paid RM 8,337.02 in financial support. The participants on the Dessau-meeting were Mr Bach (one of the two directors of the Latvian company), Mr Bentheim (Jfa) and Junkers’ lawyer Dr Kottmeier. Neither Jco nor Jfa was willing to support the Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes AS anymore as long as the airline company did not give anything in return. Only if a solid economical platform was created by a subsidy from the Latvian Government, Jco was willing to continue. But it never came that far. Jco wanted to dissolve the company and started to do so. First, on July 1, 1926, the office was moved from the Hotel Bellevue on the 33, Rainis Boulevard, to the 50, Lacplesu Iela at Riga. Important was to get all office material as soon as possible from Riga to Dessau. Mr Bach was the man to start the dissolution of the company and in June and July the two Junkers F 13s were sold. Both B-LATA (c/n 579) and B-LATB (c/n 570) were eventually transferred to DVL eV in Adlershof as respectively D 202 Condor and D 251 Eule for a total of RM 90,954.05.

In 1927 the dissolution of the company was still not finalised. The Board of Directors was formed by the Messg. Lindberg, Cranz and Erlanger, with as candidate Mr Bach. The only item of some interest at the workshop at Riga’s airport was a BMW IIIa-engine, which however could not be used anymore. The Latvian company’s debt with Jco was eventually paid by the return of two stored aircraft floats. By November 1928 the company was dissolved.

To view a time table including the routes across Latvia follow these links to the website of Björn Larsson and David Zekria: www.timetableimages.com/ttimages/lett25a.htm

The picture was supplied by Lennart Andersson.