Lufty’s letters to America
Just as Hitler was tightening his grip on power, Germany’s national airline was launching a service that might have had a much more beneficial effect on mankind, had war not intervened.
This month marks the 80th anniversary of the launch of Lufthansa’s scheduled transatlantic airmail service to South America, with a relay of aircraft types carrying post the 13,000km from Berlin to Buenos Aires in six days – much quicker than by sea.
In the early 1930s, Germany was keen to develop better business links with South America – a market dominated by US firms.
A letter using the service sent from Berlin would begin its journey on a Heinkel He 70 and travel to Seville, via Stuttgart and Marseille.
From there, it would be transferred to a Junkers Ju 52, which took it to Bathurst in the British Gambia. Mail sacks would be hoisted on to a converted steam liner, or “floating relay station”, which set sail for South America carrying a Dornier Wal flying boat on its deck. Thirty-six hours later the aircraft was catapulted into the air, as if from an aircraft carrier. In Natal in Brazil, a Junkers W 34 seaplane awaited the arrival of the flying boat and was the final link in this relay chain.
By the end of the year transit had been reduced to three days, thanks to the deployment of a second catapult ship, and by the end of the 1930s some 100,000 letters were being carried on each flight. A few days before the outbreak of the Second World War, a flying boat with a cargo of mail crossed the South Atlantic for the last time.
John Davis from Wichita is intrigued by a classified ad placed by Biman Bangladesh Airlines in our 28 January issue about the last flying McDonnell Douglas DC-10.
“What makes this DC-10 particularly interesting,” he says, “is that it is being sold ‘in airworthy condition along with engines, propellers, APU and landing gear installed.’ This is an aircraft that should be preserved as undoubtably it is the last Douglas aircraft with propellers.”
And if no one wants it? According to Graham Dinsdale of Ian Allan Aviation Tours, which is selling seats on the
DC-10’s final scenic flights from Birmingham airport this month, the aircraft’s future has been secured.
“Following a call from Mr Boeing, it appears that the Museum of Flight in Seattle have found room on their ramp for it,” he says.
On the money
A Baliff has been called in at Bristow Helicopters. But no need to panic: Jonathan E Baliff has been named chief executive at the whirlybird specialist, and – as its current chief financial officer – is about as safe a pair of hands as you are likely to get.
Our man in the flak jacket arrives back from a briefing on the hush-hush Taranis UAV
to find the memory stick he was given has been wiped.
“Good job I’m not the paranoid type,” he muses. “Still, better than it self-destructing in my pocket.”