This past Saturday marked
the 80th anniversary of the first non-stop
transatlantic flight of a land-based passenger
aircraft to New York.
Floyd Bennett Field in New York City on
August 11, 1938, just before 16:00 hours
local time, a Lufthansa four-engine Focke-Wulf
VI 200 “Condor,” registered
D-ACON & christened “Brandenburg,”
arrived from Berlin having flown 4,100 miles
(6,000 kilometers) non-stop across the Atlantic
in 24 hours and 57 minutes, at an average
speed of 164 MPH (263kmh/h).
|Condor's inaugural flight arriving at Floyd Bennett Field
PAN AM WAKE UP CALL
caused a sensation, sent shock waves around
the world, and scared the hell out of Pan
American Airways, which had already established
the first commercial air service to Europe
utilizing a puddle-jumping flying boat,
the Sikorsky S42 aircraft.
Pan Am flights went from Port Washington,
New York, to England via Shediac, New Burnswick,
and Botwood, into Foynes, Ireland, and onto
those flights operated across a southern
route from Norfolk, Virginia, to Europe
via Bermuda, and the Azores into Lisbon
where they landed on the Tagus River.
But by 1938
Pan Am had bet the airline on a dozen 100-ton
flying boats from Boeing—B314s, which
it planned to launch from Port Washington
to Europe in 1939, and then move over to
La Guardia Airport in New York City in 1940.
The B314 carried
more people (46 versus 23) and was a sound-deadened,
luxurious first class ride, but it was a
giant lumbering vehicle that operated low
and slow compared to the FW200. It’s
not unfair to say that the FW200 was like
the 1938 version of the fast-moving Concorde,
whereas the B314 was like every other slow-go
aircraft cruising the skies.
WW II ended the high adventure and further
development of commercial air services,
and by 1945 Lufthansa was out of business
the conflict, both aircraft served—the
B314s as the only long-range aircraft in
the USA arsenal at onset, and the Focke-Wulfs
in various transport and other wartime duties
We will never
know how the rivalry between B314 and FW200
might have panned out, although just imagining
the possibilities 80 yeara later is delicious.
book for FW 200s was building at the dawn
of trans-Atlantic flight.
Finnair ordered the FW200 as early as 1941,
anticipating services to New York from Helsinki.
interest, handmade display models of the
first AY aircraft were actually part of
the Finland Pavilion at the 1939 World’s
Fair held in Flushing Meadow, just near
LaGuardia Airport in New York City.
For its part,
Germany had withdrawn from the World’s
Fair in 1939 after Poland, and with the
war looming any effort to further market
and sell FW200s on the international stage
was lost forever.
the FW 200 and its later, more developed
versions would have booked orders from U.S.
carriers including rival TWA, if not Pan
have been an especially intriguing customer
for the FW200 as the carrier was still five
years away from owner Howard Hughes’
move to operate the Lockheed Constellation.
worth noting that less than one month before
the Brandenburg’s arrival at Floyd
Bennett, on July 14, 1938, Howard Hughes
landed at the field after flying his Lockheed
14 around the world, setting a speed record
for that journey of 3 days, 19 hours, and
How the 1939 World’s
Fair (in reality, a mega tradeshow) scenario
might haveimpacted not only Pan Am but also
the developing airline business can only
FLIGHT ALSO SETS RECORDS
historic flight to New York City, which
included a grand ride for the crew all the
way down Flatbush Avenue through Brooklyn
to Manhattan, the return flight of Brandenburg
to Germany on August 13, 1938, took 19 hours
and 47 minutes at an average speed of 205
MPH (330 km/h), riding the ever-sweet tailwind
from New York.
Later in November,
Brandenburg flew from Berlin to Basra, Karachi,
Hanoi, and Tokyo in only 46 hours and 18
minutes, but on the return flight D-ACON
ran out of fuel and ditched in the ocean
The 26-passenger Condor was designed, under
the leadership of Kurt Tank, technical director
of Focke-Wulf Flugzeugbau of Bremen, and
the prototype made its first flight on July
today there are no FW200s left in the world,
although the remains of one that had ditched
in 1942, were discovered in 1981 at the
bottom of a Norwegian fjord near Trondheim.
In 1999, the
plane was salvaged by volunteers and the
German Museum of Technology in Berlin, but
broke apart while being lifted out of 60
feet of mud and water.
the aviation enthusiasts, shipped the remains
of the FW200 home to Germany.
Airbus engineer named Guenter Bueker (left)
lead the restoration. To complete the project,
parts from another downed FW200 recovered
atop Kvitanosi Mountain near Voss in Norway
will never fly again, the beauty pictured
here is destined to be situate in a place
of pride at The German Museum of Technology.
The only B314
experience left in the world is at Foynes,
Ireland, where the Irish National Air Museum
has lovingly and faithfully recreated a
section and interior details of “The
Yankee Clipper,” attached to the museum’s