Air Express Co Ltd, Luftfrako and Deutramp
By: Rob Mulder
With the introduction of civil aviation at the end of the Great War (1914-1918) the aircraft started to find implant in the transportation of airmail and cargo. The trade and industry were not yet ready for this new form of transportation and could at that moment not foresee the great impact the aircraft would have. Its potential payload was not recognized either. But that would soon change. The story here is about the Trost Brothers and their co-operation with Junkers Flugzeugwerk AG and the German Junkers-affiliated air brokers Luftfrako and Deutramp.
The founders of airline companies in general first tried to obtain lucrative airmail contracts and government subsidies before thinking of cargo and passenger transportation. The first air services of the post-war period were airmail services mainly operated by the military. Both in France, between England and France and in Germany, as well as between Italy and the newly formed Republic of Austria these air services were already in operation. The French air force operated airmail services across the Balkan and all the way into Turkey (Istanbul).
Freight figures in different countries in the first years (1919-1921) were still not too impressive but increasing. But from 1919 airline companies tried to sign lucrative cargo contracts with the industry. These were, however, still sceptical towards this new mean of transport. It was therefore important for airline companies to be the frontrunner in the field of cargo transportation. It proved to be a good regular income and the income per flown kilometre was higher than when transporting passengers. The only disadvantage was that the transport of cargo could never count on government subsidies.
Dutch airline company KLM was one of the frontrunners and already in 1920 the company transported fruit, flowers and plants and newspapers. In the mid-twenties of the last century it converted aircraft from civil to plain cargo aircraft and as early as 1931 it introduced a pure freighter: the Dutch designed and built Carley Jumbo. In 1920 KLM ferried 21,963 kgs freight, but this had by 1927 increased to 402,000 kgs.
In Germany the situation was not different. Before 1926 over 100 flying-permits were issued, but only a few airline companies managed to start up and establish themselves. Mergers were unavoidable in order to be able to obtain a subsidy. The first major co-operation became the Deutscher Aero Lloyd AG – DAL (formed on February 6, 1923). This company subsequently started to support local airline companies by participating in their stock capital. Also in other countries DAL supported the formation of airline companies. Be it in Spain, Austria, Albania, Norway or Sweden.
Another active partner in Germany was the airline company of Junkers Flugzeugwerk AG (Jfa), the Junkers Werke, Abt. Luftverkehr (Junkers Works, Department of Aviation). The founder of the Jfa, Prof Dr Hugo Junkers, was a strong believer in the peaceful use of the aircraft. His line of civil aircraft (the F 13, the K 16 the G 24 and F 24) proved his right. These aircraft were versatile and used for both passenger and freight transportation. The vision of Prof Dr Junkers was to set up a world-spanned network of air services. For this purpose he worked with his partner Gotthard Sachsenberg on the opening of a passenger- an air cargo air service between London and Ankara (Turkey) and from Marseille (France) to Wien (Vienna) in Austria. The ultimate plan was to prolong these services through Persia (nowadays called Islamic Republic of Iran) to the British colony India. Prof Dr Junkers believed that the British Empire offered the greatest possibilities for his sturdy products. The all-metal Junkers-aircraft could withstand the humid and hot climate much better than the wooden surplus aircraft.
But it was clear that a German airline company could not obtain a flying permit in all countries along the route. Therefore Gotthard Sachsenberg and Prof Dr Junkers worked on the formation of airline companies in the countries along the route. For Marseille – Wien Jfa purchased in 1922 the shares of Ad Astra Aero AG in Switzerland and supported the formation of the Austrian airline company Österreichische Luftverkehrs AG – ÖLAG (March 1923). In Hungary Aeroëxpress RT (January 1923) was formed, in the Netherlands the NV Nederlandsche Wereldverkeer Maatschappij and in Bulgaria Bunavad (First Airline Company of Bulgaria). In the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (later called Yugoslavia) and in Rumania the Jfa encountered difficulties although an airline company in Croatia was nearly formed! But what about the country at the starting point: United Kingdom?
In August 1921 Junkers Werke AG had several constructive meetings with the Handley Page Ltd from Cricklewood, England about the production of civil and military aircraft in Belgium (!). A certain Mr Richard had already held talks with the Belgian Government about this issue. A co-operation between Handley Page Ltd and Junkers Werke AG in Belgium could count on support from the Belgian government. Handley Page started the production in Belgium (licence production of HP-products in co-operation with Société Anonyme Belge de Constructions Aéronautiques – SABCA, Belgian Aeronautical Constructions Ltd), but not with Junkers.
But the first Junkers F 13 in England was delivered as early as 1921. In July 1921 the production at Jfa had been partly terminated and finished aircraft were supplied as war compensation to the Entente (the victorious countries after the Great War). Twenty-three aircraft were taken over of which five went to the United Kingdom:
W/Nr 594, ready from the production line: October 16, 1920
W/Nr 595, ready from the production line: October 19, 1920
W/Nr 596, ready from the production line: October 22, 1920
W/Nr 598, ready from the production line: October 25, 1920
W/Nr 599, ready from the production line: October 25, 1920
On June 1, 1921 all these aircraft were at the Junkers-storage at Nijmegen and were (possible after August 1921) delivered to the United Kingdom as war compensation. One of these was subsequently registered J7232 to the Air Ministry and assembled at Handley Page Ltd. Two years later it was flown to the Royal Aircraft Establishment – RAE for wind tunnel tests. The wing was tested to destruction at Farnborough in June 1923 and the fuselage dumped in the open for exposure tests until December 1930. It was then tested as part of the investigation into the crash of the Junkers F 13ge, G-AAZK (see below). The fate of the other four Junkers F 13s is unknown.
The air service between London and Ankara was still scheduled and partly opened (Genève – Zürich – München – Wien – Budapest) when Junkers Luftverkehr AG – Jlag (the successor of Prof Dr Junkers owned Aero Union GmbH) in the autumn of 1925 was forced to merge with DAL to form one new national airline company: Deutsche Luft Hansa AG – DLH. Between 1926 and 1928 DLH operated only to Wien and Budapest. But by 1928 the company took up the idea of freight services and flights to Turkey and to other cities on the Balkan.
Between April 23 and September 29, 1928 DLH flew a 3,855 km long network of pure airfreight services. For this purpose it had the year before (on August 13, 1927) signed a co-operation contract with the German Reichsbahn (German Railways) about the transportation of goods: the so-called Flei-Verkehr. The word Flei stood for FLug- und EIsenbahn-Verkehr / Air and Train Traffic. Goods could be transported by train to the closest railway station for transportation through the air. The first freight services were between Berlin, Hannover, Essen/Mülheim, Köln and London with return from London to Amsterdam (Netherlands), Hannover and Berlin. In pool with the French airline company SGTA – Lignes Farman a service between Köln and Paris was set up as well. Since August the latest freight air route between München in the south of Germany across the Alps to Milano had been opened and run in co-operation with FIAT-owned Italian airline company Avio Linee Italiana SA – ALI.
Aircraft operating to London and Paris were of the type Junkers W 33 (the successor of the Junkers F 13) of which 133 were produced. DLHs fleet of W33s were mainly purchased through the Reichsluftfahrtsministerium (the German Air Ministry). But Junkers was still interested in the formation of a company solely for the transportation of freight. Therefore, in both the United Kingdom and later in Germany companies with this purpose in mind were formed.
Air Express Company Ltd (1925-1931)
In the United Kingdom Prof Dr Hugo Junkers had as early as in January 1919 the first interesting contacts. The Professor knew the Trost-family from their pre-war period in Aachen (Germany) and he believed that this family would be ideal as UK and Ireland-representative. Mr Trost Senior had before the Great War upheld contacts with the British Admiralty and several British firms. Up to 1925 the Trost Brothers, London were used as information office for Jfa and received a reimbursement of £ 100.-.- per month. But finally on July 21, 1925 and on initiative of Jlag the Air Express Company, Limited – AEC was formed with a stock-capital of £ 100,-,-. Prof Dr Hugo Junkers possessed 42 %, while Messr A H Trost and Henry R Trost owned the remainder 58 %. But only £ 2.-.- was fully paid in. At October 1, 1927 £ 62.-.- was fully paid in of which £ 60.-.- was paid in by Junkers Werke AG on April 13, 1927 (see below). The question about the participation of the Trost Brothers was postponed until later. The matter was not taken care of until Jfa and Jlag were taken over by the Reich (the German State took over the companies at the end of 1925. Jlag was forced to merge with Deutscher Aero Lloyd AG). Director Gotthard Sachsenberg and the Trost Brothers agreed about a division of the shares, where Jfa would get 70 % and the brothers the remaining 30 %. Payments of the monthly instalments would start in January 1926 under the condition that Jfa received a review over the expenses made since the foundation of the AEC. Jfa declared itself willing to transfer £ 3,000 for 70 % of the shares. On February 26, 1926 the Trost Brothers accepted the offer and on March 23 the Certificate of Transfer of the shares was issued and send to Jfa. The payment of £ 3,000 that was promised was not paid in 1926, because of differences between the management of Jfa and the Trost Brothers. The reason was the difficult financial situation of Jfa. This situation changed in October 1926. Dr Seyfert met the Trost Brothers in London and they agreed upon that Jfa would only have to pay £ 100.-.- for the 70 shares as this amount was regarded as sufficient. In return Dr Seyfert promised that the amount would be paid before the end of 1926. Also this payment was not done. In 1926 the AEC received only £ 1,250.-.- and for the period January – March 1927 a further £ 750.-.-. Gotthard Sachsenberg wanted to invest the remaining £ 500.-.- in a new airfreight organisation in Berlin. The Trost Brothers disagreed of course and said that the loss of well £ 2,300.-.- should be covered by the paid money and the remaining £ 500.-.-. Dr Hanss Heinz Hagemann had checked the books of AEC and noticed that the Trost Brothers had received each a monthly reimbursement of £ 16.-.- in 1925 and £ 20.-.- in 1926. According to the Trost Brothers this as in appliance with the Board-decisions, but in fact no such decision was ever made. The actual deal was that the Trost Brothers would get 30 % of the shares as payment for their work for AEC. Unfortunately (and very un-Junkers) this agreement had not been confirmed from the side of Jfa. Therefore the £ 680.-.-the Trost Brothers had received should be deducted from the £ 3,000.-.-. It was therefore clear that for 1927 a better contract was to be agreed upon.
The work in 1925 and 1926
Following the foundation of AEC in 1925, the company signed an agreement with Imperial Airways Ltd, where both parties agreed to operate from August 10 the air service London – Amsterdam in conjunction with the air service to Malmö (operated by Swedish airline company AB Aerotransport) and to Essen and Berlin (Nederlandsche Wereldverkeer Maatschappij). In this way London was connected with thirty European cities and passengers and goods could be send along. The rest of 1925 was used to set up the organisation and open an office at Croydon, the airport of London. AEC represented during 1925 all members of the Europa Union KGA (a co-operation of Junkers-affiliated airline companies), but AEC was in itself not an airline company, but more an airfreight broker. The original object (constituent of the Europa Union KGA) did not materialise, because the Europa Union KGA collapsed towards the end of 1925. That year the company had mainly expenses and at the end of December AEC had made a loss of £ 1,064.8.5.,
In the first month of 1926 the situation was not different from 1925, but in February the company started to function. The main income came from its work as airfreight broker and especially the air route London – Paris turned out to be a goldmine. The income covered the expenses in the best months, but during the winter period the results declined and again a loss had to be booked. In 1926 it was actually planned to fly a Junkers F 13 to London for joy ride flights, but unfortunately this was not done. When at the end of 1926 the balance was made up AEC had since its foundation lost £ 2,305.4.2.
Due to all the changes in German aviation (the merger of DAL with Jlag into DLH and the take over of Jlag and Jfa by the German State) the AEC kept a rather low profile. The management of the AEC had always been in the hands of the Trost Brothers in London and the daily costs of the AEC were partially covered by Junkers Werke AG. Once Jlag had merged with Deutscher Aero Lloyd into Deutsche Luft Hansa AG, Jfa could not decide at once to close the AEC and cut their losses whilst they were small, but preferred to keep AEC going for a while in the expectation that it might turn out to be useful in connection with some other expansion scheme. For various reasons it was decided to occupy AEC on air freight agency work and to keep it actively going that way, even though it meant working with a loss. This was done and the situation reviewed from time to time and there were always three alternatives:
- to provide the AEC with adequate working capital to operate on a sufficiently large scale to run at a profit;
- to shut it up and cut losses; or
- to continue without capital in a small way with a minimum loss and with hardly any prospect of improvement.
At each review, Jfa decided essentially on the last-named course. In one of his reviews Dr Hanns Heinz Hageman (Jfa) wrote, that it would be essential to support the AEC more and start up similar airfreight brokers in other parts of Europe. To start with in Berlin, followed by Köln (Cologne) and Wien (Vienna). In July 1927 a company called Internationales Luftfracht- und Maklerkontor Air Express GmbH (later called Luftfrako, see below) was formed in Berlin, but Köln and Wien had to wait. One of the objects of Jfa was also to standardize all routines and forms as much as possible. The final object in the long run was to be able to get that much air freight, that the companies could operate their own freight aircraft (Junkers W 33s), but first of all the companies should be able to operate with a profit. It was therefore necessary to start up an European network of airfreight agencies as soon as possible.
Air Express for speed!
A small brochure of AEC called “The Fastest Way” informed the potential clients about the services offered. They were encouraged to send their parcels by “Express Air Freight Service”. The “…parcels (are) collected by our fast motors and delivered by air to your customers in most European cities the following day”. The freight rates as per May 1927 were:
Not Paris * Basle Brussels Cologne
Exceeding s. d. s. d. s. d. s.** d.**
2 lbs. 2 0 2 6 1 6 2 0
7 lbs. 3 6 5 6 2 10 4 6
11 lbs. 4 10 8 10 4 0 7 6
22 lbs. 9 0 17 0 8 2 14 2
33 lbs. 11 6 23 2 10 4 18 8
44 lbs. 14 0 28 3 12 6 23 2
55 lbs. 16 4 33 4 14 8 27 8
66 lbs. 18 8 38 5 16 10 32 2
88 lbs. 23 4 48 7 21 2 41 2
112 lbs. 28 0 58 9 25 6 50 0
* Rates in this column include Collection and Delivery.
** s. = shilling, d.= pence
To other destinations other rates applied. Parcels could be sent to any other town not included in the extended list of towns actually on the airway network; such consignments will be sent by air to the aerodrome nearest destination and will be reforwarded from there immediately by passenger train to consignee. As mentioned before the parcels were collected in the London area by fast motors on receipt of telephone message. The maximum size and weight of the cases should not exceed 3ftx2ftx1ft.6in. Larger cases were only carried by arrangement. Individual packages should not usually exceed 150lbs. An insurance for all risks were effected at lowest rates. But it was also advised to insure all parcels, as same are carried in all cases at owner’s risk in accordance with the conditions set out in the Company’s consignment notes.
On April 13, 1927 a contract between Prof Dr Hugo Junkers and the firm Trost Brothers, London was signed dealing with a lot of questions about the co-operation. Here are some of the main points: Trost Brothers was to take care of the general interests in the UK, Ireland and overseas areas. They were given the right of representation and were allowed to close deals on behalf of Junkers Werke AG. It was also to represent the Jlag in aviation questions and take care of Junkers’ patents and licences. Trost Brothers was not allowed to co-operate with any other aircraft manufacturer or airline company. As reimbursement Trost Brothers received monthly £ 100.-.- and was awarded a commission on the sales it made. The contract also dealt with the transfer of the shares of the Air Express Co Ltd from Trost Brothers to Junkers Werke AG. An amount of £ 4,000 was agreed upon, of which £ 2,500 was paid in at April 13 and the remainder when a syndicate was formed. Trost Brothers was to join Junkers and form a Syndicate that would own the shares of the Air Express Co Ltd. 2 shares of Air Express Co Ltd were kept by the Trost Brothers, but could at any time be bought by Junkers Werke AG. The 60 shares that Junkers Werke AG acquired were to be sold in three portions:
6 shares were to be sold to Junkers Werke AG, Dessau;
12 shares were to be sold to a later to be appointed middleman; and
42 shares were to be send to Junkers Werke AG that would keep the shares until it decided to buy them. For the time being they were to be kept on the name of the Trost Brothers.
Messr H R and A H Trost formed the management of the Air Express Co Ltd and joined the Board of Directors of that company and the Syndicate instructed them. Other personnel could be employed in accordance with the needs of the company and without approval of Junkers Werke AG. The position of general manager of Air Express Company was paid £ 75.-.- per month and 20 % of the company’s profit. Wages were paid as from April 1, 1927.
A financial report was to be compelled and send to Junkers Werke AG with a monthly interval. The agreement could be cancelled within September 30 of each year. Gotthard Sachsenberg on behalf of Prof Dr Hugo Junkers and A H Trost on behalf of the Trost Brothers, London, signed the contract.
At the end of the year the balance of the company was not too positive. The expected improved profit-earning capacity could not be achieved and after three quarters of the year the company had a loss of £ 1,355.9.9. The increase of the costs was due to the start of the payment of wages to the director. The income from freight decreased from £ 330.-.- to just £ 52.-.-. An improvement of the result in the last quarter of 1927 was not expected.
The reconstruction of the company after two disastrous years (1925 and 1926) started in the spring of 1927 with the signing of the new agreement. The freight traffic was not too impressive: In the period January – November 1927 the AEC imported 2,441 consignments with a total weight of 12,089 kg and exported 317 consignments with a total weight of 2,525 kgs. This barely kept the company going. AEC worked on the London – Paris route with the French counterpart Air Express (This company in Paris was not affiliated with Junkers or Air Express Co Ltd, but was a department of the French airline company Compagnie Aérienne Française – CAF).
The year 1928 – More problems
The company was at the end of 1927 barely alive. Two of its most lucrative clients had cancelled the co-operation with AEC and this resulted in a further decline of the results in 1928. The French competitor Air Express managed to increase its business between Paris and London at the cost of AEC. In 1927 the Board of Directors of Jfa had already decided that the AEC should be closed down, but not dissolved. In a letter date December 16, 1927 the Trost Brothers were informed accordingly. Three days later the contract of April 13, 1927 was cancelled as well. A new contract replaced the 1927-contract and was signed at January 20, 1928. It reduced the reimbursement for the general agency from £ 100.-.- to £ 50.-.- and the brothers refrained from any personal wages until June 1928. As compensation Jfa would pay £ 1,000.-.- and a monthly loan of £ 50.-.-. The shares were now divided between the Jfa (42 shares = 70 % worth £ 3,500.-.-) and the Trost Brothers (18 shares = 30 % worth £ 1,500.-.-). In February 1928 the AEC moved to a new office building at Croydon and despite the higher rent, other costs could be reduced. Indeed new possibilities gloomed at the horizon:
- The formation of associated companies on the European Continent;
- Restoration of contacts with other organisations on behalf of the Junkers Werke AG;
- Establish a closer co-operation between AEC and Air Express/CAF in France.
With regard to point 1 we already mentioned the formation of Luftfrako (see below), although a close co-operation could yet not be established. Point 2: AEC and Jfa managed to start negotiations with the Persian Junkers-affiliated airline company Junkers Luftverkehr Persien. A final deal was made in 1929. The last mentioned point was interesting. The French partner was offered to open an office together with AEC at Croydon that would strengthen the name of the French firm in England. The deal was not made as Jfa did not want to give any financial guarantees and the French company did therefore not accept the suggested contract. In 1929 the CAF inaugurated the short passengers and freight service between the Channel cities Calais (France) and Dover (UK) using flying boats of the type Loiré et Olivier LeO 198. The service was offered on demand. AEC expected to be the general agent for this new air route, but they were not awarded the agency. This meant a further loss of income and a further blow for AEC. It even got worst, when Air Express (France) opened its own office at a prime location in the centre of London and started its own delivery service.
The weak financial situation had a negative influence on the reputation of the AEC. The only ray of hope could be the contract with Junkers Luftverkehr Persien and a co-operation with Luftfrako. Furthermore the scheduled demonstration tour in England could possibly improve the situation. Internal reports from Jfa-management expressed also that the AEC needed capital in order to survive and develop, but the Board of Directors of Jfa were not too keen to invest more money. A new general contract was put forward to the Trost Brothers on April 16, 1928, but the brothers decided not to sign. Despite the repent of the brothers three days later, they had at the end of 1928 still not signed the agreement. Already on May 19 Jfa accepted some changes, but declined a change in the ownership of the shares. The Trost Brothers wanted to reduce their share in the AEC from 18 to 12 shares. This was declined by letter of June 15.
The contract of April 16, 1928 listed many of the same items as the contract of 1927. On January 20 it had been agreed that the Trost Brothers would keep 30 % of the shares and Junkers (represented by Prof Dr Hugo Junkers) the remaining 70 %. Again, both parties would participate in the formation of the previous mentioned syndicate that would take care of the shares. The April-contract was also drawn up, because of the new situation with Luftfrako in Germany. As from January 1, 1928 the AEC would be kept as a community of interest. The parties did not quite agree about the money the Trost Brothers had invested in the AEC. The claimed, that they would have earned much more if Jfa had contributed with more money. Here the parties did not agree.
The end of the co-operation
By June 1928, the Trost Brothers had still not signed the new contract as they came with new demands towards Jfa. They wanted to reduce the number of shares from 18 to 12. There seems to have been an agreement later that year, but the exact date has not been possible to confirm. On December 4, 1928 the Trost Brothers handed over their marketing plan for 1929 and wanted to increase the monthly imbursement from £ 10.-.- to £ 100.-.-. The year 1928 had been a successful year for the Trost Brothers, as they managed to sell one Junkers F 13. The new marketing plans were accepted and the imbursement increased.
But the balance of the AEC was not positive at all. The co-operation of AEC with Luftfrako (see below) was of vital importance to a further co-operation. For the moment AEC survived thanks to the income on the London to Paris route, but the freight figures were not too impressive. AEC could well be used as general agent for Imperial Airways Ltd – IAW and used for the transportation of goods to Persia, since IAW was not allowed to fly there. Mr Ulderup of Luftfrako thought also that the organisation of AEC was too big and too expensive to be able to make any profit. Jfa was of the opinion that the monthly reimbursements to AEC in the near future would stop, since it now was time for AEC to stand on its own feet.
Correspondence between Jfa and the Trost Brothers went extremely slow as the brothers seemed to be busy with anything else but their business. In January 1930 a number of incidents were listed. The Junkers F 13, G-EBZV (see below) was used for demonstration, taxi and joy ride flights, but Jfa did not receive a review of the costs for these flights (made between May 8 and October 6) until October 30, 1929. By that time the Trost Brothers owed Jfa more than 22,000 Mark and was by January 1930 not cleared. The Junkers F 13 is still owed by Jfa and thus the German company wanted to have information about the fate of the aircraft.
On January 7, 1930 it was therefore decided to cancel the contract with the Trost Brothers. In fact the problems leading to the break up were mostly because of the financial problem Jfa encountered. Payments from the Trost Brothers to Jfa always took months and were first done after many reminders. This stood in contrast to the good co-operation with regard to the demonstration flights and the technical site with regards to the Junkers A 50 Junior, which functioned perfectly in the UK. But the total termination of the contract with the Trost was not done as this might lead to negative publicity and the Trost Brothers might speak in a negative way about Junkers. It was therefore decided to form a new company in the UK that was to take care of all the patents, licences, concessions, contracts etc for Junkers in general. This company was the British Junkers Limited. The Board of Jfa was of the opinion that after the formation of the British Junkers Ltd (registered on January 25, 1930 with a stock capital of £ 100.-.-) Henry Trost should be appointed as a member of the board. The German employee Mr H Jansen from Junkers Werke AG in Dessau joined him. All Junkers patents for the UK and Free State of Ireland were transferred to the new company. The law firms Faithful Owen & Fraser and Abel & Imrey did this work. The office of British Junkers Ltd was first at the same address as the law firm, but later transferred to a new location.
Jfa cancelled also the contract with Air Express Co Ltd and stopped all payments as from February 1, 1930. The official version was that the purpose for which the AEC was originally brought into being had ceased to exist immediately after the formation of the AEC and as although Jfa then anticipated that it might prove useful nevertheless to keep AEC in being, the continuation of its existence under the circumstances now ruling cannot be regarded as justifiable. It would be best to close down or if possible to dispose of the business. The Trost Brother had for some months been engaged upon negotiations with a view of disposing of AEC as a going concern on the basis of selling the aeroplane G-AAGU with the company to Walcot Air Lines Ltd, but the serious financial troubles in New York and London (the October Crash at the stock exchange of 1929) caused a general withdrawal from business of a speculative character.
In the spring of 1930, whilst the negotiations for the sale of two Junkers F 13 aircraft were in progress, Jfa decided that their shares in AEC were worthless to them and definitely wrote that they would hand them over without charge to the aircraft purchasers. In the autumn, when clearing up the affairs of AEC, there arose the question of the debt (at the end of the year £ 500.-.-), which was entirely from one creditor (Air Express, Paris). They pressed for payment and indicated that they would probably decide to make AEC bankrupt. Air Express (Paris) was first interested in a take-over, but withdrew its interest later.
In September 1930 an attempt was made to clear up the whole matter and the Trost Brothers offered to absolve Jfa from all further past and future liability in respect of AEC (including a previous debt of £ 1,500.-.-) and at the same time relieving Jfa of the possible public odium of allowing to be made bankrupt a company in which they were the controlling shareholders. Jfa did not make use of this opportunity to get this matter cleared off and decently buried and the matter continued to remain in a unsatisfactory state of suspended animation. In the end Jfa referred to the letter of November 1929 in which it said not to accept any financial responsibility for AEC as from February 1, 1930. It therefore did not recognize the debts made after that date. Dr Manfred von Sydow (from Junkers) travelled to Air Express in Paris and explained Junkers’ side of the story, after which Air Express decided not to take over the AEC. Until April 1931 the matter was not cleared and it seems that no solution was ever found.
Delivery of Junkers-aircraft (1928-1930)
But 1928 saw some positive sights as well. In July 1928 the first Junkers F 13fe was delivered to the Trost Brothers. The F 13fe was the first of a new series on the market. It had a new fuselage (similar to the Junkers W 33 with a new rudder) and had a strengthened fuselage to increase the payload. Its engine was a 385 hp Junkers L 5. New feature was also an outside luggage hedge. The new payload was set at 2,300 kg for the passenger’s version and 2,500 kg for the freight version.
In April two representatives of the British Air Ministry visited the Junkers Flugzeugwerk AG – Jfa in Dessau in connection with the flying permit in the UK and Ireland. It was of interest to notice that the Vice Air Marshal Serton Branker in connection with the first sales of a German aircraft to a UK-customer decided that for private aircraft the German Certificate of Airworthiness was sufficient for the registration in the UK-register! The first permit was issued after the visit and this enabled the Trost Brothers to import more Junkers-aircraft. The Trost Brothers took delivery of the first aircraft in July 1928. It had the constructor’s number 2024 and was registered as G-EBZV on July 12, 1928 (CofR No 1694) to the Rt Hon Frederick (Freddie) Edward Guest. The Certificate of Airworthiness was issued the following day. The Rt Hon Guest used it as a private aircraft. In April 1929 it was decided to change the engine of the aircraft into a 450 hp Bristol Jupiter VI air-cooled 9-cylinder radial engine that was installed in June 1929. The engine change was made, because in the climate it flew the aircraft needed more power at take-off.
The next aircraft imported to the UK was the Junkers F 13, WNr 2047 (WNr stands for Werknummer and equals constructor’s number) that in April 1929 was registered as G-AAGU (CofR No 1962). It was flown on May 26 from Berlin to London/Croydon and its Certificate of Validation (CofV) No 12 was issued on May 30, 1929. The Trost Brothers used the aircraft for joy ride flights and managed to sell the aircraft in 1930 to the small Croydon based airline company Walcot Air Line Ltd that took delivery of the aircraft on May 31. At the same time a second Junkers F 13 for Walcot Air Line Ltd was imported: the WNr 2052. It was registered on May 26, 1930 as G-AAZK (CofR No 2609). Latter aircraft saw a tragic end. Col. Henderson had departed for a flight from the French village of Le Touquet to London/Croydon. On board were beside Col. G L P Henderson as pilot, second pilot Mr Charles D’Urban Shearing, the Marques of Dufferin and Ava, Viscountess Ednam, Sir Edward Ward and Mrs Henrik Loeffler (1). After three hours flight the aircraft crashed near the small village of Meopham, Kent (some five miles south of Gravesend). In the press it was said that the aircraft exploded in the air because of the lightning of gas in the empty petrol tank and there was also a theory of a mid-air explosion, but these theories were generally not accepted in England. It is for a fact that the aircraft certainly did not explode in the air. The Head of the Aeronautical Research Commission –ACR (responsible for the investigation of the accident) Major Cooper was told that the lost of the cover of the engine might well be the reason for the accident. It had happened once before with the German pilot Bapekul and another Junkers F 13 and Jfa had instructed the users of the Junkers F 13 to use extra straps around the hood of the engine. Air Marshal Sir Sefton Brancker was informed about this as well during a visit to Jfa on August 26, 1930. In September the German DVL e.V. desired to be represented at the ACR investigating Junkers’ accident if possible by an observer and nominated Mr Trost. But this never happened. Later that month it was clear that the English press was not too nice about the use of foreign aircraft in England. By mid-September it was however clear that the Air Ministry officially declared that the accident could not be blamed on structural failure. Without doubt the accident made a tremendous impact on the public opinion about air traffic. The final conclusion of the commission was that the tail plane “buffing” (shaking strongly).
Five days before the accident with the Junkers F 13, G-AAZK a fourth aircraft was registered to W Sherwin in Cottingham, Heston as G-ABDC (WNr 2074, CofR No 2741). This was a Junkers F13ge that was an improved version of the Junkers F13fe. It had an extended fuselage and the wings were extended on the back. The engine was originally a 310 hp Junkers L5. On August 22 the new aircraft was delivered through the air from Dessau via Rotterdam to London/Croydon. Personal Flying Services at Heston, who used it for three years, operated it. It was sold to Brooklands Airways Ltd in April 1933, who used it for just eleven months. The company than sold the aircraft to Sweden to Neuendettelsau Lutheran Mission (as SE-AEC).
Beside the Junkers F 13s, the Trost Brothers also imported two Junkers A 50 Juniors to the UK. Both were delivered in 1930 and were powered by the English constructed Armstrong Siddely Genet engine. The first Junkers A 50ce was registered as G-AATH on March 24, 1930 (CofA No 2365) to Henry Trost, who used it for demonstration flights. The flights resulted in a sale and one aircraft was in May 1930 delivered to John Joseph Parkes at Heston (UK), who registered it as G-AAXB. He used it until April 1931. It crashed in June and was cancelled from the register. The first Junkers A 50ce Junior was returned to Jfa in February 1931 via Amsterdam and its registration also cancelled in June 1931.
At the same date of registration of the G-ABDC, the Trost Brothers registered another Junkers F 13ge in the UK: the G-ABDD (WNr 2005). The aircraft had been used in Bulgaria by the Junkers-affiliated airline company Bunavad, but was transferred back to Germany and sold to the Trost Brothers. Due to the break up with Jfa, the Trost Brothers did not manage to sell the aircraft and it was returned to Germany in September 1930, where it was registered D-1949 on the name of the Junkers Flugzeugwerk AG. The South-African airline company Union Airways Ltd subsequently purchased the aircraft and registered it in March 1932 as ZS-AEA. Eight years later the South-African Air Force took over the Junkers F 13ge as “259”.
A final fact worth mentioning was the use of a Junkers F 13 (registration unknown, could be either G-EBZV, G-AAGU of Walcot Air Lines or G-ABDC of the Personal Flying Service Ltd) piloted by Major Clark for a flight for the English daily newspaper Daily Sketch from Abyssinia to the UK with picture of the crowing of the Emperor His Majesty Haile Selassie.
(1) The names and some of the information about the accident were taken from the book: Croydon Airport 1928-1939 by Douglas Cluett, Joanna Nash and Bob Learmonth.
Internationales Luftfracht- und Maklerkontor Air Express Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung
From the early times, airfreight played an important role in the development of an airline company. It was soon clear that the companies could not alone live of passengers and airmail, but needed an extra income in order to survive. The society was however not yet interested in the transportation of goods through the air. They had to be convinced first. That was a painstaking task. But in the beginning of the twenties the aircraft became more and more sturdy and could carry a higher and higher payload. The obsolete surplus aircraft from the Great War had only the possibility to transport the passengers and their luggage together with some airmail. Room for merchandises was just not at hand. But the larger aircraft coming in the mid-twenties (like the Fokker F.VII and the Junkers G 24) had finally the possibility to carry larger quantities of cargo. Airline companies even considered using aircraft solely for the transportation of cargo. One of the first airline companies to do so was the Dutch KLM, which in 1924 started with a Fokker F.III a cargo service to England. Jco saw at an early stage the possibilities its aircraft had huge plans for a Trans-European air service reaching from London across the European continent to Ankara and further to the Middle East. The loss of independence for Jlag in January 1926 (the merger of Jlag with DAL into Deutsche Luft Hansa AG-DLH) meant that those plans had to be postponed. The management of DLH realised that cargo was going to play an important role for the company and started to develop the Jlag-idea for an airmail and airfreight service to the Balkan and beyond. On August 13, 1927 the first steps in Germany was an agreement between the DLH and the Reichsbahn about the transport of goods (Flei-Verkehr, standing for Flug-Eisenbahn-Verkehr, which means Air-Railway-Traffic). The Reichsbahn took goods by train to the nearest airport and the aircraft of DLH continued through the air to other cities in Germany and abroad. But one year later, on April 23, 1928, DLH started up the first international air services solely for freight. They ran from Berlin to Hannover, Essen/Mülheim, Köln, London, Amsterdam and Paris. The network had a total length of 3,855 kilometres.
In the same year as DLH signed the Flei-Verkehr Agreement, Jfa started to consider the possibilities to start up a company specialized in the transportation of goods. And there was no limit to what good be transported. KLM carried a living bull and Jfa thought it could carry everything from newspapers to fish. Jfa already had a contract (from before the merger with DAL in December 1925) with the largest Central European forwarders, the German firm Schenker. After its foundation, DLH did not renew the contract with this firm, but in stead let the small forwarders do the work. These small companies were not in the position to advertise on a large scale and the amount of airfreight declined. But Jfa had the expertise and saw the potential in the market. Furthermore, the aircraft manufacture Junkers Flugzeugwerk AG was also keen to host experience in the transportation of freight through the air by the different Junkers-types of aircraft.
On behalf of Jfa Dr Wilhelm Ulderup, Dr jur Justus Koch and Rudolf Auerswald founded on July 1, 1927 the Internationales Luftfracht- und Maklerkontor Air Express GmbH. The company’s stock-capital of RM.20,000 was divided between the three persons mentioned above as follows:
Dr Wilhelm Ulderup RM 10,000
Dr jur Justus Koch RM 5,000
Rudolf Auerswald RM 5,000
Jfa had an option on all the shares owned by Dr Wilhelm Ulderup. The option was on the name of Prof Dr Hugo Junkers. But the capital for the company was supplied by Jfa.
The director was Mrs Dr Elisabeth Koch-Deneke and in charge of the daily work was Dr Wilhelm Ulderup. The Board of Directors counted the following four members: Dr jur Justus Koch, H R T Zimmerman (from the Deutsch-Amerikanischer Wirtschaftsverband in Berlin), Dr. Bruhn and Oberleutnant a.D. Hans Witte. In November that year the company added the word Luftfrako to its name. This was done to make it easier to work. Dr Wilhelm Ulderup was born in 1876 in Apenrade (now called Åbenrå in Denmark) and started his career on ships and made it to captain. He later became general manager in one of the largest forwarders in German, based in Berlin. Dr. Koch had a good name as solicitor in Berlin. On February 27, 1929 the shares of Rudolf Auerswald were taken over by Dr jur Justus Koch, who then owned 50 % of the company.
The company’s aim was the transportation of goods by airplanes and act as a broker between the airline company and the firms that wanted goods transported by air. The company also possessed several general agencies of airfreight companies, other foreign brokers and transport companies. The start of the company was not easy. The DLH and the RVM did not support Luftfrako and even obstructed a proper functioning. It was difficult to get offices at the Berlin/Tempelhof Airport, but in the end some rooms were available at the new administrational building. The original plan of Luftfrako was to take over all transportation to and from the airport. DLH was to deliver the goods to them and Luftfrako would transport it to its final destination. DLH did not agree with this and wanted to keep it as it was before. It took some time before the regional airports accepted Luftfrako as partner.
Luftfrako managed to sign a contract with DLH and was regarded as a Luftfahrtmakler (Aviation Forwarder). The DLH set up tariffs for the handling and transportation of freight and made it thus possible for Luftfrako to start up. On August 1, 1927 the company started up and in the period up to July 31, 1928 the company could handle 482 packages, weighing a total of 3,663.64 kgs. Even during the winter months the Luftfrako handled increasing numbers of airfreight. But Luftfrako also managed to sign contracts with larger firms, such as Siemens & Halske AG and Siemens-Schuckert Werke AG. These two companies forwarded all their airfreight through Luftfrako. In the first year this gave the company 70 kgs per month, but by 1929 this had increased to 1,800 kgs. Once DLH saw the results it granted Luftfrako a rebate, which Luftfrako could pass on to the Siemens-company. Finally, Luftfrako and Siemens signed an agreement guaranteeing Luftfrako a certain amount of freight for the year 1930. It was the first step to independence without being dependent on (state) subsidy. DLH now more or less accepted the existence of a forwarder as Luftfrako and even contributed by introducing the company for potential customers. It was in its own interest as well.
Articles in industrial magazine and newspapers about the advantages of airfreight were constantly published. A small brochure from the early thirties and produced by Jfa showed the freighters in action. It starts with the Junkers F 13s, G 24s and G 31s and includes some pictures of the latest model on the market: “a single engine freight aeroplane Junkers Ju-52 with large lateral hinged door and upper loading hatch”, as the brochure called it (see picture).
Luftfrako also worked as a broker for the charter of aircraft for aerial advertisements, aerial photography and managed to sign an agreement allowing it to sell air tickets. It had the general agency of the Nordbayerische Verkehrsflug GmbH and the Junkers Luftverkehr Persien. All this gave the company some extra income. It chartered all kind of aircraft, not only Junkers-aircraft and has made agreements with the DLH, the Deutsche Verkehrs Fliegerschule, Deutsche Luftfahrt Verband and the Severa – Deutsche Flugdienst GmbH. If this was not enough it also acted as middleman for selling and buying of aircraft. But the biggest success could be achieved in the transportation of newspapers. DLH and the German Verlag Ullstein operated during two months an air service between Hamburg and Berlin, where Luftfrako operated from June 3 until October, i.e. for nearly five months. In 1928 Luftfrako transported 22,264 kgs and this increased to 55,478 kgs in 1929 (period from March to October 31). In addition, Luftfrako formed a small company: the Deutscher Tramp Luftverkehrs Aktien Gesellschaft. The history of this small airline company will be described later.
Some charter agreements have been preserved in archives and it can be established that the Luftfrako at least chartered the following aircraft: For the period May 10 to June 15, 1928 (later extended to August 28) the Junkers F 13, D 224 Ente, WNr 635 with an Junkers L2 (engine number 847) was chartered. The price per hour was set at RM.50.75, including maintenance, spare-parts and depreciation. Excluded were wages and insurances for aircraft and crew. The contract was made on behalf of the Hungarian Junkers-affiliated airline company Aëroexpress RT. The aircraft had been registered in Hungary as H-MACB. It was on June 1 transferred to Jfa from Aëroexpress RT. And a second Junkers F 13 from Aëroexpress RT, the H-MACD, joined it. In Germany the F 13 was registered in June 1928 as D 226 Gans (WNr 638). The two aircraft made between May 12 and August 28 a total of 229,25 flying-hours. As pilots Luftfrako used Hermann Röder, Waldemar Röder, Fritz Loose, Günther, Helmers and Haal. Engineers during the period were Thormann and Böhme. The aircraft flew with cargo to among other places Breslau, Leipzig and Berlin. Total cost ended on RM 30,7533.05.
Furthermore, the Dietrich DP IIa, D 589 (WNr 165), was chartered from the Fliegerschule Berlin/Staaken and also another Junkers F 13; the D 282 Baumpieper (WNr 780) was used for just one day! That year Luftfrako also scheduled the charter for Deutscher Tramp Luftverkehrs AG – Deutraluft (q.v.) the Junkers K 16 D-1452 (WNr 473), but this aircraft crashed during a test flight in August. For the winter 1928-29, Luftfrako negotiated with the Swedish airline company AB Aerotransport for the chartering of three Junkers F 13s. With the small Hamburg-based airline company Luftverkehrsgesellschaft Hamburg GmbH it talked about the charter of its Junkers F 13, D 224, WNr 635. In 1929 the company charter another Junkers K 16bi for Deutraluft: the aircraft with the registration D-1678 and with the WNr 472.
But all this had its price. Until February 1930, Jfa used some RM.200,000 and each month Luftfrako cost Jfa some RM 4,500. The result for the period 1927-1930 were not too bad:
Year No. of Weight in kgs
1927 92 2,146.49
1928 724 6,905.00
1929 1,585 19,572,17
1930 2,253 26,950,40
* Excluding transportation of newspapers.
And the first eight months of the year 1931 saw a further increase: 1,894 piece goods weighing 21,528.70 kgs. But as earlier mentioned at a high price. Things started to go wrong in the summer of 1931. Actually the whole matter started in 1929. Dr Wilhelm Ulderup made an unsuccessful trip to China to investigate for Jfa the possibilities to start up an airline company. For the Government he was to check if the Chinese were interested in a c-operation with the German State. It turned out that Dr. Ulderup did not have the right connection and when a second expedition was set up the Government withdrew its support and Jfa postponed the trip as well.
Internally, Jfa was in a difficult financial position and was forced to cut expenditure. Dr Ulderup came in September 1931 with a new plan to increase the revenues of the company and make it less dependent from Jfa, but it was too late. It was also no longer a secret that Jfa stood behind the Luftfrako and this made the situation even worse.
Since Luftfrako had cost Jfa a lot of money and Dr Ulderup had lost its creditability at DLH and the German government, Jfa saw no other option than to liquidate the company. In January 1932 Dr Ulderup tried to get DLH interested in buying the companies (Luftfrako and Deutraluft), but DLH was only interested unless the company had no debts. Since it had debts, DLH was not interested. The liquidation of Luftfrako started in December 1931 and was finalized just after March and latest June 1932.
Deutscher Tramp Luftverkehrs Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung – Deutraluft
The company Deutscher Tramp Luftverkehrs Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung – Deutraluft was formed in the summer of 1928 and registered in the Trade Register of Berlin on December 9, 1928 as a branch-office of Luftfrako, Internationales Luftfracht- und Maklerkontor Air Express GmbH (q.v.). The company had a very small stock-capital, as it was not necessary to use money for the purchasing of aircraft. These were chartered when needed. The aim of the company was:
- Transport of passengers and goods by officially registered aircraft;
- The company was to fly in Germany and its surrounding countries;
- The Deutraluft was to fly only on demand and not operate regular air services;
- The operations will have a seasonal character.
Furthermore, aircraft and crews would be chartered for the services needed and not be employed by the Deutraluft. A co-operation with the regional airports was needed in order to secure a broadest possible traffic. The Deutraluft was what one can call the airline company of Luftfrako.
The expression “Tramp” comes from the shipping business. In German the irregular shipping is called Trampfahrt (“wild shipping”) and since Dr Ulderup of Luftfrako came from that branch he wanted to copy the system to the aviation as well. By 1928 he called his business for Lufttramp (“wild aviation business”) and saw great potential. Deutraluft depended on the traffic Luftfrako could produce. The Deutraluft was given the Aviation Licence Nr 134 from the RVM and was not allowed to transport passengers on a regular basis. The licence was in May 1930 extended to include the transportation of passengers. Own or chartered aircraft could transport passengers and goods.
Up to 1929, Luftfrako supplied Deutraluft with aircraft, but in August 1930, Deutraluft chartered the Junkers K 16, D-1678, which was used for national and international flights. One of the highlights was the participation at Air Shows in Neustrelitz (August 18) and Neubrandenburg (September 21). Between October 12 and 19 the Junkers K 16, D-1678, performed joy ride flights in Wittingen. That year a second aircraft was chartered from Hayo Folkerts. It was the Junkers F 13 D 202 (WNr 579, ex B-LATA from Latvijas Gaisa Satiksmes Akziju Saboedríba, which was sold to Jfa and later to Hayo Folkerts in Bayrischzell). But the end of the Luftfrako also meant the end of Deutraluft.
That year (1930) Deutraluft made 151 joy ride flights (14 hours and 1 minute in the air) and carried 300 passengers. On 32 other flights the company carried 773 kgs of freight. The aircraft flew 10,900 km. The next year the company managed to increase the numbers. A total of 460 joy ride flights (in 60 flying-hours) were made, carrying 2,235 passengers. On 59 other flights the aircraft flew 2,835 km and carried 140 passengers.
The liquidation of the company began and by March or latest June 1932 the Deutraluft was dissolved. Jfa was to concentrate completely on the production of aircraft. Notable is the fact, that Deutraluft still had a concession from the RVM, but was not active anymore. In June 1932 it had already informed the RVM that it did not offer any services anymore.
I would like to thank Lennart Andersson, Bernard Martin, and Robert Esperou for their contribution to the article about AEC.
Pictures of the English Junkers F13s came from the website of Thomas Hoffmann.