Diorama of the German Lufthansa (DHL), Motherships for airplanes in the South Atlantic, since 1934

In the beginning, the idea was to build an air mail service from Europe to South America with the help of scheduled airliners in order to reduce the previous mail transit times from at least 3 weeks (from Berlin to Buenos Aires in 1934) to a few days. The airplane material at that time could not make such a long non-stop-flight, and so a concept was developed that worked well and worked until the outbreak of the new World War: 

The DLH Junkers Ju 52 airliners carried the mail across Spain to Bathurst in West Africa, later sometimes Heinkel He 111 airliners were deployed.  There the cargo was reloaded on flying boats such as Dornier Wal (until 1937), later Dornier Do 18 or even later on the float plane Blohm & Voss Ha 139. These planes should take over the Atlantic route from Bathurst / West Africa to Natal / Brazil.

 In Brazil, the cargo was reloaded again onto Ju 52s of national companies and then distributed to the recipient cities. Depending on the weather conditions, the ships in Brazil also met the planes halfway on their flight route. 

Since the range of the aircraft for the long flight West Africa to Brazil or vice versa was not enough, the idea of ​​an aircraft mother ship was conceived: A flying boat loaded to the limit was hoisted on board and placed on a (Heinkel) catapult. With the help of this steam catapult the heavy plane was quickly airborn, thus not wasting its fuel in the starting procedure, but put it into distance. Often the ships with the aircraft on board sailed a few hundred kilometers in direction of the destination.

The ships had another special feature: the so-called tow sail, which was laid out at the stern of the ship on the water to calm the waves before the aircraft could be hoisted on board after landing. The aircraft had to "roll"- say swim - on this tow, then the on-board crane could do its work on the calm plane. 

The first ships were converted freighters, which received a catapult and a crane system with the tow sail. These were the“Schwabenland” and the “Westfalen”. In 1936, the newly designed               “Ostmark”was built in Kiel and put into service from the end of May. About 300 flights were organized from 1936 - 1939 when the war broke out. 

The Ostmark moved to the neutral country of Portuguese Guinea for about one year, but was then supposed to join the service of the German Air Force at home. Nothing came of it, because on September 24, 1940 off the French coast it was sunk by  a British submarine.

Except for one man, the crew could be saved. The wreck was discovered in 2002 by French divers.

Curtiss F11C Goshawk

Curtiss Hawk 1

The Goshawk was a US Navy carrier, fighter and dive fighter of the early 1930s. This type became particularly well known in Germany because the RLM (Reich Aviation Ministry) bought two of them in early 1934 (D-IRIK and D-IRIS). The reason for this was Hermann Göring's wish to lure the very well-known and popular pilot Ernst Udet via new Luftwaffe into the NS system. Udet was an apolitical man who just wanted to fly. Things turned out differently, and the Goshawks were the beginning of: aerobatics, nose dives and the development of the dive bomber idea, the means for the new Blitzkrieg or lightning warfare.

In June 1934 the D-IRIS crashed over Tempelhof. Udet was able to save himself with his parachute. After the chaos of war, the D-IRIK finally survived and ended up in the Krakow Aviation Museum, where it was lovingly and extensively restored.

In 1932, the US Navy placed an order with the US company Curtiss (-Wright) for such planes. The fuselage was a metal construction made of tubular steel and covered with fabric, as were control surfaces. The wings were a covered wooden construction, so all in all it was a mixed construction. A total of about 40 aircraft were built.

Curtiss Hawk

Technical data (F11C2):

Length 7.62 m, wingspan 9.60 m, wing area 24.34 m², altitude 3.23 m, engine: 1 x air-cooled 9-cylinder radial engine (Curtiss) WrightR-1820-78 Cyclone with 700 HP/520 kW, empty weight 1378 kg, take-off weight 1869 kg, v/max 330 km/h, range 901 km, crew: 1 pilot


Udet 1932 bei den Cleveland Air-Races, USA


Udet mit der Goshawk im Sturzflug 1934 Berlin

Bristol M.1,Fighter Monoplane

Bristol M1c 1

In 1916, the British company Bristol built a new single-seater fighter at its own risk. The front-mounted engine with draught propeller was new while the previous British fighters were all those with pusher propeller and grid frame fuselage. The success of Fokker's German monoplane additionallly strengthened the new concept.

The new plane made ist maiden flight in July 1916, and the Ministry of War took over the plane and tested it. And it was actually better than the German Fokker E or the French Morane monoplanes. However, the downward view was difficult, especially during the landing.

The government ordered four more aircraft and tested it with the force. Howevver, the pilots did not really love the Bristol, they believed in the superiority of the biplanes, possibly resulting from bad experiences of the RFC with the French Moranes.

A total of 125 MICs were built in 1917. However, they ended up in flight schools or in the fight against the Turks in Mesopotamia (Palestine). 12 surviving planes were sold to Chile after the war. With one of these Bristol aircraft the Andes were crossed for the first time in December 1918 (summer in Chile!).


Technical data:

Length 6.24 m, wingspan 9.37 m, wing area 13.60 m², height 2.37 m, engine: 1 x Le Rhone 9J rotary engine with 110 PS/82 kW, v/max 209 km/h, max. flight time 1.45 h, service peak height 6096 m, empty weight 409 kg, take-off weight 611 kg, crew 1, armament 1 x 7.7 mm Vickers MG, synchronized firing through the propeller circle.

Messerschmitt Bf 109 E-1,Single Seater Fighter

bf109 e1

The Emil, as the E-Series was called, was the real goal of the 109 development. Since the end of the twenties Messerschmitt was in the know  about the development of a 1000 hp-engine by Daimler-Benz. This engine was supposed to be available in the second half of the thirties. (BTW: after the German reunification this engine bobed up, was excellently refurbished and now can be seen at the MTU-Museum in Munic).

Hence, the engine for the 109 had already been determined.

In the meantime other engines had to be mounted: Junkers 12-cylinder Jumo 210 carburettor engines, later replaced by injection engines with 700 hp. Those planes were the B,C and D types which were tested by the Legion Condor in the Spanish Civil War. They were just on a par with the Soviet Polikarpov I-16 Mosca/Rata.

This instantly changed with the additional 300 hp of the E-type. Several 109 prototypes had been used in the meantime; the best known is the 109 V13, still equipped with the carburettor engine DB 600 with just under 1000 hp  - the racing model had about 1670 hp. With this „sprint“ model the test pilot Dr. Wurster established a new speed record for landplanes in November of 1937 with 610,95 km/h. The old record had been set by Howard Hughes with his H-1; in September 1935 he achieved a speed of 567,115 km/h.

The first standard version of the Emil was the E-1 with an injector DB 601 with 990 hp (which then delivered 1350 hp in the E-7 and 109 F as 601 N!). It was built in series from January 1939. The air force's equipment began in April 1939, including the Condor Legion in Spain, which soon handed these aircraft over to the (new) Spanish Air Force. One of these has been rescued by chance and is being completely restored by its British owner at Meier Motors in Bremgarten). In autumn 1939 - after the Polish campaign - the conversion was almost complete, the former 109 were given to flight training and to night hunting.

The most important externally distinguishable changes were:

  1. 1. the new engine stem with now only the oil cooler below the engine. The air inlet to the loader was on the left side.
  1. 2. the inlets for engine cooling were installed in the rear third of both wings close to the fuselage and led to the "Junkers nozzle cooler". Behind it were up and down extendable flaps to regulate the cooling air flow. The whole thing brought an additional boost (the Spitfire and the NA-P-51 D Mustang used this so-called Meredith effect even more intensively).
  1. 3. A new 3-blade VDM controllable pitch propeller converted the higher engine power into thrust more effectively.

All these measures resulted in a veritable performance gain. While the Dora with 700 HP Jumo 210 brought about 450 km/h, the Emil flew 100 km/h faster.

In addition, new equipment such as radios and reflex sights were installed. The armament was still the same as the Dora: 2 x MG 17 (7.92 mm) above the engine and 2 x MG 17 in the wings (these were replaced first in the E-3 by 20 mm MG FF). This was the Luftwaffe fighter equipment from the beginning of the war up to the air battle over England.

Compared to the Hawker Hurricane were only minor differences in performance, the outcome of a fight depended on the pilots. The Spitfire was different: the Supermarine Spitfire II was technically similar to the Emil, it was superior to the 109 to 5000 m altitude, especially during relatively slow manoeuvres, while at higher altitudes the109 had advantages. The performance race of the air forces took off.

Technical data:

Length 8.64 m, wingspan 9.87 m, wing area 16.2 m², height 2.60 m, empty weight 2010 kg, take-off weight 2505 kg, v/max in 5 km 560 km/h, service peak height 10500 m, range (without aerial combat) 800 km, Crew 1 pilot, engine: 1 x Daimler-Benz DB 601A with 990 PS/729 kW, suspended 12 cylinder liquid cooler V-engine with Bosch direct injection and 4 valves/cylinder.

DFS-Weihe (Harrier)

The Weihe is one of the first highlights in high performance glider flying with wooden planes. The idea behind this developement was to build a glider with the following charasteristics: easy to produce, cheap, but with a higher performance.

The Weihe was a single seater, shoulder-wing aeroplane with an elongated fuselage. It landed on a skid, take-off took place with the help of a little two-wheeled cart or trolley which fell off after rotation. The gliders which were built by Focke-Wulf since 1950, named „Weihe 50“, had a central bottom roller.

dfs weihe

The Weihe very quickly became the high performance glider worldwide. Even the disastrous  WW II could not stop its success. More than 300 planes were built in Germany by companies like Schweyer and Jacobs-Schweyer, in addition to planes produced under license in France, Yugoslavia and Spain.

Many world records were achieved with this plane in the following categories: duration flight, distance-to-target flight, triangle flight and altitude flight.

The success of this plane was also demonstrated by the number of participating Weihe planes at glider world championships:

1950 in Sweden: 15 out of 29 (world champion B. Nilson also flew this plane)

1952 in Spain:     13 out of 59

1954 in England:   4 out of 32

This was a demonstration of the high performance of the design of the Weihe, but the success of this glider was hardly reckognised in Germany. In later years the Weihe was surpassed by the Schleicher Ka 6 and the Foka or the Zephyr from Poland.

As mentioned above Focke-Wulf in Bremen with Hans Jacob planned a new edition of the DFS Weihe - it was forseeable that glider flying would soon be permitted again in West Germany. The fuselage was a bit shortened, the central bottom roller was introduced as well as an aerodynically more efficient plexiglass panorama dome. The new glider made its maiden flight on March 8th, 1952 with the famous Hanna Reitsch at the controls.

The production of the plane was simplified and only eight gliders were built. But you could built your private plane under license. The wing spar had to be bought at Focke-Wolf. Nobody knows the number of these planes built under license. Eight veteran gliders exist today, four of them are still airworthy.

Technical data (1938 – 1945)

wingspan 18 m; wing area 18.2 m2; length 8.13 m; height 1.50 m; aspect ratio 17.8; empty weight 195 kg; max. take off weight 355 kg; v/max 210 km/h; min. sinkrate 0.6 m/s at 60 km/h; glide ratio 30 at 70 km/h