Tancred Ibsen and A/S Aero

By: Rob Mulder

In Norwegian history 1978 was marked by two events: First of all I met my wife and secondly the death of the grandson of the famous Norwegian writer Henrik Ibsen: Tancred Ibsen. Big deal…was it not for his fantastic career in the world of movies! Movies? – You will ask: “What does this has to do with aviation?” Nothing would my answer be, but in fact he started his career in the world of aviation. He was to form the first active airline company in Norway: A/S Aero.

The start of his life

Tancred Ibsen was born on July 11, 1893 and was the son of Bergliot Bjørnson and Sigurd Ibsen. As grandfathers he had two of Norway’s most famous writers ever: Henrik Ibsen and Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson. But Tancred did not continue in his grandfather’s footsteps. At a young age he got interested in aviation. At the age of 5 he went on a hiking trip with a guest of the family (Mr Ollendorf, a High Court Attorney) near the family’s holiday resort Aulestad (close to Lillehammer). While they sat on the top of a mountain they saw birds flying around them. Tancred asked Ollendorf “…will people ever fly?” Ollendorf replied, “Oh yes, but not like a bird, but more like a fly!”

His first encounter with a real aircraft was not until 1911 when the French pilot Gournay was in Kristiania (until 1925 the name of Oslo) and performed demonstration flights from Etterstad (a part of Kristiania). Here Tancred Ibsen decided to become pilot!

But he started his career in the Army and continued as founder of an airline company to the world of movies. He became one of Norway’s most important film directors. In 1919 he married the well-known Norwegian actress Lillebil Ibsen and moved in 1923 to Hollywood (USA) where he worked for two years. For several years he worked in Denmark and Sweden as director of silent movies, until he in 1931 made the first Norwegian sound movie “De store barnedåpen” (based on Oskar Braathens play). In 1937 he produced two films, which are regarded as two classics in Norway: “To levende og en død” (two living and one death) and “Fant”. He directed his last movies in 1962 and finally died on December 4, 1978. So much about his film career.

But let us return to the year 1917. Tancred Ibsen started his career in the Army at the Hærens Flyvevåpen (the Army’s Air Force) and started the training for pilot at Kjeller Airport, just north of Kristiania (until 1925 this was the name of Oslo). He started his training as all new pilots in Norway at that time in the Farman trainers and later Løytnant (lieutenant) Christian Hellesen taught Tancred Ibsen to fly the AVRO-trainer. Ibsen lost his first flight logbook in a fire at Kjeller, but his second logbook opened on March 2, 1918. He was given some administrative function and participated in the training of new students. In June 1918 he was transferred to the naval air base at Horten to learn to fly seaplanes. After this training he was transferred back to Kjeller to finalize his military training. He finished his regular training program including long distance flights and landings at Gardermoen airfield. The only test left was the altitude test.

A Scandinavian altitude record

Now before we tell you about this, it is important to tell you, the reader, that the history Tancred Ibsen told in his biography has been repeated in numerous publications, but it has so far not been possible to get it confirmed from official sources. Tancred Ibsen claimed to have held a Scandinavian Altitude Record of 5,100 metres. In his memoirs he wrote about his final certification exam, ”…Three thousand metres and landing within a given distance from a given point. It thus happened that I at the same time quite unexpectedly set a new Scandinavian altitude record”.

Since he had to do the altitude test his altitude metre in his aircraft Hærens Flyvemaskinfabrikk FF.3 Hydro was sealed. The aircraft carried the name “Oscarborg Fred. Olsens gavefly”. He had a flying student Johnsen on board as passenger. At 3,000 metres he decided to continue and flew up to 4,000 and than to 5,000 metres. Johnsen was freezing since he was not dressed to fly at these altitudes. Ibsen decided to decent again. But on its way down the engine stalled and he had to get down to a lower altitude in order to be able to warm up his engine. He was lucky with the landing and he landed the aircraft without power at Kjeller airport. A hazard flight came to an end. The altitude metre had stopped at 5,100 metres! A Scandinavian record. In 1917 First Lieutenant Ibsen obtained certificate number 61 and was now ready to start flying.

Some more hazardous flights

One of his other wishes was to be able to do acrobatic flying. This was however forbidden in the military since the risk of accidents was quite high. One day, when most of the officers were on training course at London/Croydon, he nevertheless took one of the newly delivered English BE-aircraft up in the air. He took the aircraft up to 2,000 metres in order to be certain not to fall to his death when looping at lower altitude. During his first loop he already lost five hundred metres, but made a perfect loop. Upon his return to the ground he was jelled at by the Officer of the training school and by the engineer of the aircraft factory who both said that the BE-aircraft was not suited for this kind of flying. He could learn to loop, once the factory’s own aircraft, the T-1, was ready.

After this “hazardous” flying he later found out that ground strafing was a nice sport as well. For those not familiar with the expression: ground strafing is flying at near to zero altitude over treetops. But Tancred Ibsen wanted to be different and in May 1919 he decided to “land” at Slottsbakken, the area in front of the Royal Palace. He flew low above the houses along the Karl Johans gate, the street leading to the Royal Palace. But he touched down rather late and was too close to the palace. He managed to pull up the aircraft in time not to touch the house of the royal guards. Luckily for Tancred Ibsen the episode was not reported. The King and Queen were also not at home, so perhaps this helped him as well.

Flying the new T-1

In September 1918 the Flyfabrikk (the Army’s aircraft factory at Kjeller) presented its first local designed and constructed aircraft, the T-1. The official name of the aircraft was Hærens Flyvemaskinfabrikk FF.5/T.1 and was designed to replace the old Maurice Farman Longhorn –and Shorthorn trainers. Its layout resembled the British trainer BE.2E. It even had the same 90 hp RAF IA engine. In 1919 a further six FF.5Bs (or T.1B) were constructed and built as improvement of the T.1. The T.1B was neither ideal, but the final version, T.1C, was fully accepted and went into production. Eleven aircraft were built in 1921.

Tancred Ibsen was ordered to make a training flight to Trondheim, some 500 kilometres north of Kjeller Airport. He was dressed in the newest flying suite and received the weather report: nice weather at both Kjeller and Trondheim. No information about the weather in between! Once above the Rondane Mountains a storm from the west forced Ibsen to make a decision. He should have returned but in stead he continued and found himself suddenly between two weather fronts. Snow blinded him and steep mountains surrounded him. After two hours he suddenly discovered the Dovrebane, which is the railroad between Kristiania and Trondheim. He decided to try to follow this line, but the sever weather conditions forced him to turn around and return in southern direction. He managed to land his aircraft on a small piece of land and was frozen once the aircraft came to a halt. He realised that he had been lucky. Locals, who had never seen an aircraft on close hold, soon surrounded him. It turned out that he had landed 200 km from target and was now at Flatmark in the Romsdal Valley. After an extensive meal he flew with the little petrol left to the nearby Dombås Tourist Hotel where he telephoned for more petrol and to report that he was fine. He was welcomed by the hotel-owners, the Sæter-family, who had marked the “air field” with white bed sheets and towels. The next day the mechanic Enerud arrived with the petrol and oil and subsequently checked the engine before take-off. They were to return to Kjeller. He departed from Dombås and flew in southern direction, while climbing to a suitable altitude. On his was up Tancred Ibsen heard a funny noise from the engine, so he tapped Enerud on his shoulder and tried to point this out for him. He was just eating his sandwich, but put down his sandwich, climbed out to the engine, fixed the problem, returned to his seat and continued eating… the problem was fixed and Ibsen and Enerud returned safely at Kjeller.

Showing the Norwegian flag abroad

On April 9, 1919 the Forsvarsdepartement (War Ministry) made public the names of those chosen to participate in the “Skandinaviske Stjerneflyvning” (Scandinavian Star Flight) that was organised in connection with the Scandinavian Air Exhibition in København (Copenhagen, Denmark): From the Navy Lieutenant Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen and Emil Horgen and from the Army Lieutenant Tancred Ibsen. Lieutenant Fredrik Lützow-Holm later replaced Horgen. The original objective of the contest was that one had to fly as many kilometres as possible between 6 am and 6 pm. The starting point was to be in one of the Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Denmark or Norway), one could land wherever one wanted but also fly between two points as often as possible. Of the nine Swedish participants none arrived in København. The Danes signed in nine aircraft as well, of which in the end three participated. Norway participated with the three earlier mentioned crews.

The Naval pilots Riiser-Larsen and Lützow-Holm scheduled to start on April 13 from Kristiansand and fly to Horten, Kristiania, Horten, Göteborg (Gothenburg, Sweden) and København. Engine trouble delayed the flight of Riiser-Larsen, but Lützow-Holm made a successful 850 km long flight and arrived after 10½ hours flying at the Tivoli Gardens at around 5 o’clock. Both Riiser-Larsen and Lützow-Holm used Sopwith Baby’s. Riiser-Larsen departed the following day (April 14), managed to get to København (despite problems with the engine), but arrived ten minutes too late.

Tancred Ibsen started his trip from Kjeller Aerodrome. He had installed a genius undercarriage. Since there still was snow on the Kjeller airfield he had to take off on skies, but land in København on his wheel carriage. So the technicians designed a device that made it possible to shake off the skies after take off. On April 13 the device was tested properly and found sound and safe.

On April 14 at 7.25 am Tancred Ibsen departed with the FF.5/T.1 from Kjeller with fuel for 5 flying hours. He expected to need 3½ hours for the flight. In addition he wanted to fly from København to Århus and other Danish cities to obtain as many as possible kilometres. On board he took along the engineer Leif Lier, who later made a splendid career in the Norwegian aviation, but ended his life tragically during a flight in the Arctic.

They met bad weather in Göteborg and the aircraft was forced east by strong winds. They were fired at by a canon from a Swedish fortress near Vänersborg, because they were above military area. He managed to get to Göteborg and landed safely. As the Norwegian petrol had been stopped by Swedish customs, Ibsen and Lier had to wait for four hours before they could refill. The weather did not improve either and they were advised not to take off. But Leif Lier started at 2 pm the engine, quickly jumped on board and they took off for København, where they arrived at 5.45 pm. Here Bjørn Bjørnson (Ibsen’s uncle) met them. Shortly afterwards Riiser-Larsen landed with his Sopwith Baby. On Thursday, April 17, the three would together with the Danish pilot Crawford-Jensen be part of the air show. The Norwegians performed well during the air show and were praised in the Danish press. Tancred Ibsen climbed to 1,000 metres and started to make loopings. He performed in all eight loopings. The day after he took up the Danish poet Sven Lange and the newspapers wrote the day after: “The first Danish poet flies above København”. The picture shows Tancred Ibsen and his uncle Bjørn Bjørnson in København.

None of the Norwegians won, but Lieutenant Fredrik Lützow-Holm was given a price of honour for his achievement. Lieutenant Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen was given Nordisk Luftkrafts price of honour, while Tancred Ibsen was handed over the price of honour of the Dansk Aeronautic Selskab (Danish Aeronautic Society). His aircraft was transported back to Kjeller by train, since there was still snow at this airport.

Foundation of A/S Aero

During the next months Tancred Ibsen was busy with the training of new military pilots, but he was not content with this work. He therefore decided to start up a private venture. He visited his uncle Einar Bjørnson, a respectable businessman, and discussed the possibilities for private aviation in post-war Norway. Bjørnson found the idea interesting enough to promise the young lieutenant financial aid. Thus A/S Aero was formed.

In January 1920 Lieutenant Ibsen explained in the newspapers about his plans. Ibsen’s vision about aviation was rather quite the opposite of what the major Norwegian airline company A/S Det Norske Luftfartrederi – DNL had in mind. Ibsen believed much more in the gradually extension of air services. He believed that the aircraft available in 1919 were not suited for very long distances and thus the first air services should be short and make calls at several towns. He did not believe that time was right for long distance air services as DNL planned.

In order to show how it should be done Tancred Ibsen allied himself with Christian Hellesen of the A/S Norske Aeroplanfabrik in Tønsberg and formed in January 1920 an airline company under the name of A/S Aero (A/S standing for Aktieselskap – Limited company). The company had a stock capital of 100,000 Norwegian Crowns and the shareholders were Ibsen’s uncle and businessman Einar Bjørnson and the two ship owners Erling Lund and G M Bryde. The aim of the company was the transportation of passengers around Kristiania and to the inland lakes in southeast of Norway. Also to make joy ride and demonstration flights. The company was to have a sport aviation department as well as an advertising agency and flying school. They expected that the general public was curious about flying and that this would be the main target group at that moment. He mentioned in the newspapers that a business traveller could fly all the way along the coastline from Kristiania to Kristiansand and be back in the evening. He also advertised that his company could be used for aerial photography and help Norwegian landowners to police their areas for forest fires. Finally he also wanted to start selling aircraft in Norway. As mentioned he allied himself with Christian Hellesen, who acted as technical consultant. Ibsen would like to employ some military pilots, so they could uphold their flying skills.

One of the first contracts A/S Aero signed was with the company A/S Maritime at Bestumkilen (a small sound just outside the centre of Kristiania). The A/S Maritime was used as a technical base. The reason for choosing this site was it was close to Kristiania. The site was at the end of a “Bygdøy”-street car line and near the Drammensvei, the main road out of the city. The joy-riding trips would cost 50 Norwegian Crowns per person. Ibsen expected that the chartering of an aircraft would be around 2,50 Norwegian Crowns per flown kilometre.

Christian Hellesen had good connections in Germany and had learnt that a group of Germans could supply five aircraft. This deal would be partially illegal as the Entente prohibited the export of German surplus aircraft. Actually, the aircraft had to be destroyed. Ibsen applied at Det Kongelige Forsvarsdepartement (the Norwegian Ministry of Defence) for permission to import five German aircraft and visa for five German pilots and mechanics. This concession was awarded at February 19, 1920. Two days later Ibsen and Hellesen boarded the train for København (Copenhagen, Denmark). By the time they arrived at København they received a telegram that Einar Bjørnson had put the 100,000 Norwegian Crowns at Ibsen’s disposal. They travelled to Berlin, Germany and booked a room at the Pension Klik, a bed & breakfast in Berlin. They employed in the end four (in stead of five) German crewmembers, which checked in as well. Soon Ibsen, Hellesen and the German group agreed upon the terms of the sales. The Norwegians bought one Hansa Brandenburg W.29 and four Friedrichshafen FF.49s. They paid 32,500 Norwegian Crowns that was exchanged into a few billion German Marks (due to the inflation there). Ibsen believed the aircraft came from storage at Warnemünde. A hangar had just before their delivery gone up in flames and he believed the aircraft had already been transferred out before the fire started. From the remains in the hangar it was impossible to establish what aircraft were destroyed…

Since there was no pure petrol to find, benzyl was used as petrol. This was not ideal and made the flight back to Norway hazardous. One of the Friedrichshafen FF.49 with the pilot Willy Nolding (or Molting) crashed near København, Denmark and was destroyed beyond repair. The remainder arrived on February 28 at the factory of A/S Norske Aeroplanfabrik in Tønsberg. It is not clear if all aircraft were transferred together as the accident with Willy Nolting did not happen until April 15. The remainder three Friedrichshafen FF.49s were taken on land at Tønsberg and converted for civil use, by building a canopy on the backseat of the aircraft. In Germany the FF.49C was certified for four passengers, but in Norway only three passengers were allowed to enter the aircraft. One notable modification was the installation of a parachute to all passengers! It is not known whether the passengers were “trained” before departure, as the parachutes of that time were not as easy to use as in our days…

On May 15 the three Friedrichshafen FF.49Cs were registered in Norway as N-6, N-9 and N-8. Five days later the second aircraft was re-registered as N-7. The Hansa Brandenburg W.29 had been registered as early as April 6 as N-5. It was in service until October after which it was first chartered and later sold to the Army where it was registered 501. Tancred Ibsen and Christian Hellesen also imported fifteen German engines for use in aircraft to be built by the A/S Norske Aeroplanfabrik.

Meanwhile other plans were taking shape. A/S Aero wanted to start up air service as outlined earlier. The first service scheduled was to run from Kristiania to Moss, Fredrikstad and Tønsberg with return to Kristiania via Drammen (when interesting enough for the locals). But these plans were never realised.

Meanwhile the first joy-ride flights were organised (see advertisement on the right). The Bestumkilen was reserved for aircraft and no boat traffic was allowed in this area. The aircraft was to be able to take-off and land safely. Tancred Ibsen received soon his permit as traffic pilot. The German mechanic Smitz was taken in service as well. He had joined Tancred Ibsen and Christian Hellesen on their delivery flight from Germany and remained in Norway as the company’s mechanic. Joy ride flights took off and hundreds of passengers came to Bestumkilen for a flight with Tancred Ibsen. Each passenger paid 50 Norwegian Crowns for a flight and this price included for the first time in Norway a passengers’ insurance. In case of death 5,000 Norwegian Kroner was paid and in case of permanent invalidity an amount of 5,000 was paid and in addition 2,50 Norwegian Kroner per day. Two of the aircraft (the Hansa Brandenburg W.29, N-5 and one Friedrichshafen FF.49C, N-6) were stationed at Oslo/Bestumkilen, while the other two Friedrichshafen FF.49Cs (N-7 and N-8) aircraft were based at Tønsberg in reserve.

In the beginning Tancred Ibsen had to perform all these flights alone and made an average of three tours per hour, ten hours a day. That meant that they earned some 6,000 Norwegian Crowns per day! Unbelievable. He later employed Oskar Omdal, who was trained by Tancred Ibsen and after two short flights received his permit of traffic pilot. With the employment of Oskar Omdal it was now possible to increase the number of joy-ride flights and it was now also possible to accept charter flights. On May 28 thousand of spectators met up near the Gressvik Church to see Tancred Ibsen land on the river with three passengers on board. Among the passengers was the director Andreas Jacobsen.

A/S Aero received also a special assignment: Making advertisement flights for the Norwegian chocolate factory Freia throughout Norway. Freia makes some of the best chocolate, and I can confirm that, because they still do! With the Friedrichshafen FF.49C, N-6 Tancred Ibsen and Leif Lier made a round trip along the Norwegian coast from Kristiania to Trondheim. They dropped some 2-3 million leaflets above several cities advertising for the chocolate of Freia.

On Saturday, July 2 Tancred Ibsen was flying his Friedrichshafen FF.49C and showed his two passengers the beautiful city of Kristiania from the air. At 9.30 pm he landed his aircraft on Bestumkilen, where he suddenly collided with a small boat. As mentioned before the whole area around Bestumkilen was band for motor vessels, because of the starts and landings of the aircraft. Police officer Bjørn Hansen told the newspaper Aftenposten that he was short of petrol and was on it way to A/S Maritime to get more petrol. He did not notice the aircraft landing some 10 metres from him. They were completely surprised and felt in the water. Bjørn Hansen could save himself by hanging on to a paddle. But worse it went for his mother. She could not swim and Tancred Ibsen jumped right out of the aircraft and saved the lady. Engineer Smitz, who had witnessed the accident, took a boat out. The wet passengers were pulled on board and brought to land. Mr Hansen had no injuries, but his mother had broken some ribs. In his memoirs Tancred Ibsen described this incident as well in detail, but he mentioned that Mrs Hansen died a few days later.

Special flights for newspapers

One of the Norwegian newspapers for farmers was “Nationen” (The Nation) and it scheduled to have a general assembly in Kristiansand in June 1920. The newspaper wanted to support “Norway’s first air service for mail and passengers”. Now before we can accept this fact it is important to establish that this air service opened could not be regarded as a regular air service. John Stroud once wrote (1) that an air service would have to qualify to six qualifications before it could be called a daily, scheduled, international passenger-carrying commercial air services: passengers, civil, daily, regular, international and sustained. He adds that the term daily needs qualification because it was frequently used to denote Monday to Saturday inclusive. Many air services opened before did not always all meet all qualifications. Deutsche Luft Reederei GmbH became closest when it opened the air service Berlin – Weimar on February 5, 1919. It met all the qualifications except international. Finally, on August 25, 1919 the British airline Aircraft Transport & Travel met all six qualifications when it inaugurated a regular, sustained, civil, daily (Monday to Saturday) passenger service between London and Paris. In Norway the air service operated by A/S Aero did not meet many of the earlier mentioned qualifications. But at that time it was an achievement.

Many other newspapers had organized special flights where newspapers were transported, but the plan was now to operate an air service Kristiania – Kristiansand during the three days annual assembly of the “Norsk Landmandsforbund” (Norwegian Farmers Association). The newspaper wrote after the last flight was made: “We wanted the country to show what the aeroplane could mean for this neglected area. Sørlandet (the southern part of Norway is called Sørlandet – meaning southern country – RM), Norway’s farmers and the Norwegian authorities would see the evidence and in the four days the service was operated thousands of the newspaper Nationen were delivered to Kristiansand the same day they had been printed in Kristiania. The aeroplane did not disappoint us and helped us in our work. This bird of the 20th Century proved to be a good friend for us and the country”.

Aero A/S used his Hansa Brandenburg W.29, N-6 for this service. It was a sturdy aircraft, well suited for operating this service. Tancred Ibsen and occasionally Oskar Omdal were the pilots, while Smitz acted as mechanic. Before the service was opened a trial (and propaganda) flight was made. Tancred Ibsen had claimed that the trial flight would be made regardless the weather in order to show that the aircraft could take-off and land in any weather situation. He was challenged to the limit. On May 5, 1920 (the day of the trial flight) a storm hit Kristiania. Tancred Ibsen had promised a take-off, so he, Oskar Omdal and two passengers (one from Nationen and one from the Norsk Landmandsforbund) boarded the Hansa Brandenburg W.29, N-6 and took off from Bestumkilen. He returned from Kristiansand to Tønsberg (A/S Norske Aeroplanfabrik was situated here) for overhaul. The journalist of Nationen wrote that the flight started with a swim! Ibsen had to start the aircraft against the wind and thus had to fly towards land. When he turned the aircraft a wind pushed the aircraft towards a towed sailing boat and twisted the wing into the lines. When Ibsen and Omdal were about to untwist the lines the wind suddenly pushed Ibsen into the water. Before they could take off, Ibsen had to change clothes and went home. After a short while he returned and the aircraft could take off. But again the wind made the take-off difficult. The first attempt had to be aborted and after several attempts they eventually managed to take-off. The hazardous flight took one hour and 35 minutes. They set a new record time, as the fastest flight over this route had so far been two hours. Ibsen proved to be right.

The regular air service was opened on June 19, 1920 and operated for three days. On the first flight 1,500 newspapers and three passengers were carried in the little cabin of the Hansa Brandenburg W.29. In all seven passengers, some mail and well 10,000 newspapers were carried. No problems occurred on these flights between the capital and Kristiansand.

In July the Norwegian national newspaper Aftenposten asked Tancred Ibsen, if he was interested to make a bet: Fly within 24 hours from Kristiania to Stockholm (Sweden), København (Denmark) and back to Kristiania. If he would succeed he was to receive 2,000 Norwegian Kroner and all expenses covered. The trip would be announced as the “Aftenpostens skandinaviske rundflyvning” (Aftenposten Scandinavian Flight). Tancred Ibsen accepted the challenge and the engineer Smitz prepared the Hansa Brandenburg W.29, N-5 for the trip. In those days it was still a daring flight. The distance Kristiania – Stockholm was 480 km, Stockholm – København 650 km (along the eastern and southern coast of Sweden) and København – Kristiania 480 km. On Thursday, July 22 at 6.15 am the journalist Johe Wiers-Jenssen entered the Hansa Brandenburg W.29, N-5 and together with Tancred Ibsen as pilot and Smitz as engineer, they took off from Bestumkilen. The flight to Stockholm went smoothly. Tancred Ibsen climbed to a height of 2,000 metres and flew in southern direction across the Kristiania Fjord to the scenic city of Fredrikstad. He crossed the Norwegian-Swedish border and proceeded across the Lake Vänern (the largest lake of Sweden) to Örebro. From there he continued across Lake Hjälmaren to the base of Svenska Lufttrafik AB near Stockholm, where they landed smoothly at 9.36 am. Upon arrival in Stockholm they were delayed by custom formalities despite the fact that all papers were approved. Ibsen and Wiers-Jenssen had to use two hours at the customs.

They eventually took off from Stockholm around 12 noon and proceed on the longest part of the journey. In the beginning of the tour the journalist Wiers-Jenssen was inspired to write lyrical articles during the flight along the Swedish east coast with its hundreds of islands and beautiful archipelago. He had never seen such a majestic landscape. But after some time he got bored and fell a sleep. But luck was running out. The landing at Kristianopel (Sweden) went fine, petrol was refilled and the aircraft left without any problems. The next stop was near Hellevig as they only had 10 litres petrol left. The whole village came to the harbour to see the aircraft and Ibsen went ashore to get more petrol. But after an hour he returned without petrol. Despite the written flying permit from the Swedish State that he could buy petrol the local policeman denied Ibsen to buy any. Despite a long discussion with this policeman Ibsen did not managed to persuade him. They were glad that they had 10 litres left and decided to fly on to the next village. The Hansa Brandenburg W.29 departed and flew to Åhus, where they landed at 6.30 pm. Ibsen went again ashore to buy petrol and Smitz checked the engine. Wiers-Jenssen answered the thousand of questions that came from the spectators. But after refuelling they discovered that one of the floats was damaged and leaking. They tried to take-off, but did not manage. Unfortunately the aircraft had return to Åhus. All water was taken out and finally they could leave.

Soon they encountered bad weather and it was getting dark. The aircraft was thrown from left to right and up and down, but Ibsen managed to keep control over the aircraft. The headwinds caused a higher use of petrol and soon Ibsen had to go down near Östra Torp, ten kilometres from Trelleborg. After discussions between the crew it was decided not to continue the flight, but to stay and wait until the next day. The storm had damaged the float even more and Ibsen found it right to continue alone. The passengers had to take the train back to Kristiania, while Ibsen departed with the aircraft towards København (Copenhagen, Denmark).

He stayed in København to do some repairs and did not depart for the last leg to Kristiania until 5.09 pm. During the flight to Norway he encountered three storms, but was lucky to reach Norway with enough petrol. He had to make a shortcut in order to be able to reach Kristiania and upon arrival he had only 5 litres petrol left. After a flight of 3 hours and 10 minutes he landed at 8.19 pm at Kristiania/Bestumkilen. His mascot (a little yellow teddy bear) had survived the tour as well. Tancred Ibsen had flown the 1,650 kilometres long tour in approximately 16 flying hours. Despite the fact that he did not manage to make the tour within 24 hours, Aftenposten paid him the 2,000 Norwegian Kroner as they were impressed by the achievement of Tancred Ibsen.

(The picture of the N-5 (above) is the only picture known to us. It comes from the newspaper Aftenposten).

Flying for Det Norske Luftfartrederi AS

During its short existence Det Norske Luftfartrederi AS tried to be recognized as the national airline company of Norway. It failed and was dissolved in 1920-21. But it operated for a short period a trial flight between Bergen, Haugesund and Stavanger. The problem was that the aircraft operated were not suited for the extreme climate of the west coast of Norway. The delivery of the ordered aircraft was also delayed and thus DNL took up contact with A/S Aero. From August 15 two Friedrichshafen FF.49Cs (with the registration N-6 and N-8) were leased to DNL and flown to Stavanger.

The newspaper Aftenposten used the transfer of one of the Friedrichshafen FF.49C (both N-6 and N-8 were to be flown to Stavanger) from Kristiania to Stavanger (480 km) as an event and supported the flight by sending newspapers along. The flight would take place on Friday August 13, 1920. A/S Aero-pilot Oskar Omdal had prepared the aircraft and the journalist and drawer of Aftenposten arrived at Bestumkilen at 5 am. Along the brought the 1,000 newspapers meant for the population of Stavanger. It was to be the first time airmail was taken to Stavanger. The weather that day was far from ideal: heavy clouds and no wind. This would make the take-off of the little plane more difficult. At 6 am Oskar Omdal and the passengers climbed on board the aircraft. They taxied out of the Bestumkilen and after a long ride on the fjord, the aircraft finally took off and cruised in southwestern direction. Weather improved, but after Tønsberg (the oldest town of Norway) fog made the flight more dangerous. Omdal decided to land at the city of Larvik, where he waited ten minutes for the fog to clear up. But he took off again and soon the fog disappeared. They landed in Kristiansand for a check-up of the engine and fill up more petrol, but at 11.20 am they took for the last stretch to Stavanger. They cruised at 1,500-2,000 metres and reached Stavanger without any problems at 1.20 pm. The flight had taken 4 hours and 10 minutes and was given a lot of attention in Stavanger. Thousands of people turned up to see the aircraft land at Vågen in the centre of the city and wanted to secure a sample of the Aftenposten. However, the first newspaper was handed over to the Lord Mayor of Stavanger, Mr Wetteland.

The second aircraft, the Friedrichshafen FF.49C, N-8, was transferred later. The engine of the N-8 had to be changed before it could be flown to Stavanger as well. A/S Aero-pilot Christian Luxdorph departed Tønsberg (where the factory of A/S Norske Aeroplanfabrik was situated) at 6 pm and arrived the next morning at Stavanger.

The aircraft had crews from A/S Aero, which operated under Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen. Now the company had two Supermarine Channel-flying boats and two Friedrichshafen FF.49Cs at its disposal. On August 16 the line Bergen – Haugesund – Stavanger was inaugurated. The three pilots, beside Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen, employed by DNL were Fredrik Lie Vogt, Arthur Christoffersen and O Stangeland.

Oskar Omdahl flew the N-6 and Christian Luxdorph the N-8, while Fredrik Lie Vogt later joined with the Friedrichshafen FF.49C, N-3. Latter aircraft was purchased in September 1920 from the A/S Phoenix Packing Co. Ltd. in Haugesund and put into service on September 17.

The company had not much fortune with its proving flights on this line. The weather during the months August and September can be really extreme in these parts of the world. On August 28 the Friedrichshafen FF.49C, N-8 slipped near Haugesund and had to be take out of service. This accident was followed by one of the Friedrichshafen FF.49C, N-6, on September 10. During take-off one of the floats was damaged. Oskar Omdahl flew the aircraft. As a replacement for the damaged aircraft, A/S Aero sent the Friedrichshafen FF.49C, N-7. Unfortunately the pilot on this aircraft was one not experienced with the flying of these aircraft. The pilot drove after an engine failure during the first landings with the seaplane on the beach at Jæderen. Soon afterwards the aircraft was damaged beyond repair and never managed to join the DNL-fleet.

On September 10 the Friedrichshafen FF.49C, N-6, had to be transferred to A/S Norske Aeroplanfabrik in Tønsberg for major repairs, after which DNL was left without any extra aircraft. Again new aircraft had to be purchased to consolidate the service and DNL bought the Friedrichshafen FF.49C, N-3 that joined the two Supermarine Channel I-flying-boats left. Another setback was the loss of the Supermarine Channel I flying boat (registered N-11). DNL was again forced to find a replacement. It bought the ex-Navy Lübeck/Travemünde F.4. But on October 4 the decision was made to close down the service on October 15, 1920, as enough experience was gained.

The end of A/S Aero

All three aircraft were transferred to Tønsberg for repairs and overhaul and thus no aircraft were at A/S Aero’s disposal. The Hansa Brandenburg W.29, N-5 had also been in for overhaul. Since no aircraft were available Tancred Ibsen decided to travel to London to visit his wife, who was performing there at the Coliseum Music Hall. But as soon as the Hansa Brandenburg W.29 was ready, Ibsen returned to Norway and resumed the joy-ride flights from Kristiania. He was really fat up with this kind of work and once his wife returned home and begged him to stop flying it was not difficult for Tancred Ibsen to make a decision. He visited his uncle Einar Bjørnson and ship owner Erling Lund and together they decided to stop. The venture had been an economical success. Erling Lund, Halvor Schou (main share holder of the A/S Norske Aeroplanfabrik), Christian Hellesen and Tancred Ibsen attended a meeting at the High Court Attorney Christian Vogt ‘s office. Here it was decided to merge A/S Aero with the A/S Norske Aeroplanfabrik. All aircraft, the profit of the company and the stock capital were transferred to the aircraft factory. Tancred Ibsen was given a monthly imbursement of 2,500 Norwegian Kroner.  For Tancred Ibsen this was the end of his civil aviation career.

But a few years later the A/S Norske Aeroplanfabrik went brook and this turned out to be a disaster for Tancred Ibsen. The A/S Aero was never registered as a limited company, but as a personal company on Tancred Ibsen’s name. So when the aircraft factory went bankrupt the debt of the factory was regarded as a personal debt for Tancred Ibsen. Thanks to his lawyer Annæus Schjødt, the bank and Ibsen managed to get to a favourable settlement.

The economical success of the company was huge. In the years after A/S Aero had disappeared several other similar small airline companies were set up, but did not quite achieve the popularity the Tancred Ibsen and his A/S Aero had.

(1) Information extracted from the article “The Birth of Air Transport” by John Stroud as published in the “Putnam Aeronautical Review”, No. 3, October 1989.

For the photographs I would like to thank Kay Hagby. The drawings came from the newspaper Aftenposten.

C/n ? Hansa Brandenburg W.29
Engine: 1x 185 hp Benz
Regn. Date Remarks
.18 Flew for German Navy.
02.20 Bought by Tancred Ibsen and Christian Hellesen for A/S Aero
N-5 06.04.20 Registered to A/S Aero, Kristiania
04.10.20 Registration cancelled
501 10.20 Chartered to Hærens Flyvåpenet
10.20 Bought by Hærens Flyvåpenet
10.20 Crashed and cancelled
C/n ? Friedrichshafen FF.49
Engine 1x 185 hp Mercedes
Regn. Date Remarks
.18 Scheduled for delivery to German Navy. Not taken up.
02.20 Bought by Tancred Ibsen and Christian Hellesen for A/S Aero
06.04.20 Delivery flight to Norway, but crashed near Copenhagen
C/n ? Friedrichshafen FF.49
Engine: 1x 185 hp Mercedes
Regn. Date Remarks
.18 Scheduled for delivery to German Navy. Not taken up.
02.20 Bought by Tancred Ibsen and Christian Hellesen for A/S Aero
06.04.20 Delivery flight to Norway.
04.20 Modified for civil use.
N-6 01.05.20 Registered to A/S Aero, Kristiania
15.05.20 Flying Permit issued
13.08.20 Chartered to Det Norske Luftrederi A/S, Kristiania
10.09.20 Damaged floats at take-off near Haugesund
Transferred to Tønsberg for repairs.
.21 Minor accident and stored in Kristiansand.
03.22 Demolished by the Hærens Flyvåpenet.
C/n ? Friedrichshafen FF.49
Engine: 1x 185 h Mercedes
Regn. Date Remarks
.18 Scheduled for delivery to German Navy. Not taken up.
02.20 Bought by Tancred Ibsen and Christian Hellesen for A/S Aero
06.04.20 Delivery flight to Norway.
04.20 Modified for civil use.
N-9 15.05.20 Registered to A/S Aero, Kristiania
20.05.20 Registration cancelled
N-7 20.05.20 Registered to A/S Aero, Kristiania
08.07.20 Certified
08.20 Chartered to Det Norske Luftrederi A/S, Kristiania
07.09.20 Emergency landing near Jæren.
10.09.20 Crashed during landing at Hafrsfjord. Not repaired.
.21/.22 Cancelled
C/n ? Friedrichshafen FF.49
Engine: 1x 185 h Mercedes
Regn. Date Remarks
.18 Scheduled for delivery to German Navy. Not taken up.
02.20 Bought by Tancred Ibsen and Christian Hellesen for A/S Aero
06.04.20 Delivery flight to Norway.
04.20 Modified for civil use.
N-8 15.05.20 Registered to A/S Aero, Kristiania
21.06.20 Certified
06.20 Chartered to Det Norske Luftrederi A/S, Kristiania
28.08.20 Crashed near Haugesund. Destroyed beyond repair.
09.20 Cancelled