7 October 1919: Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V., operating under the name KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, was founded on 7 October 1919 by Albert Plesman, making it the oldest carrier in the world still operating under its original name, though the company stopped operating during the Second World War—apart from the operations in the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean.
The first KLM flight was on 17 May 1920, from Croydon Airport, London, to Amsterdam, The Netherlands, carrying two British journalists and a number of newspapers. It was flown by an Airco DH.16, registration G-EALU, piloted by Henry (“Jerry”) Shaw.¹ This airplane, named Arras, was leased from Aircraft Transport and Travel Limited, a British company. Shaw was that company’s chief pilot.
In 1920 KLM carried 440 passengers and 22 tons of freight. In 1921 KLM started scheduled services.
As of September 2018, KLM’s fleet included 120 airliners, mostly Boeing aircraft. Another 19 airliners are on order. The airline has approximately 32,000 employees.
¹ Please see Henry “Jerry” Shaw (1892–1977), an article by Katy Whitaker, English Heritage, 2014, at Britain from Above: http://britainfromabove.org.uk/sites/default/files/Shaw_Final.pdf
20 August 1919: The first airship built after World War I, Bodensee, LZ 120, made its first flight at Friedrichshafen, Germany, with Captain Bernard Lau in command. LZ 120 was built for Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-Aktiengesellschaft, DELAG, (German Airship Travel Corporation) especially to carry a small complement of passengers. It was hoped that this would generate favorable publicity and help to restart intercity travel by air.
Bodensee was the first fully-streamlined airship. Its teardrop shape was developed by engineer Paul Jaray and had no cylindrical sections. The shape had been tested with scale models in a wind tunnel. LZ 120 was the first airship to have the gondola was attached directly to the bottom of the envelope, decreasing aerodynamic drag.
LZ 120 was a rigid airship, or dirigible, with a metal skeleton structure covered with a cotton fabric envelope. Twelve hydrogen-filled buoyancy tanks were contained within the structure. A crew of 12 operated the airship and it could carry 20 passengers.
LZ 120 was 396.33 feet (120.8 meters) in length, with a diameter of 61.38 feet (18.71 meters). The airship had a volume of approximately 20,000 cubic meters (706,000 cubic feet). The airship had an empty weight of 13,646 kilograms (36,698 pounds) and a gross weight of 23,239 kilograms (51,233 pounds).
LZ 120 was powered by four water-cooled, normally-aspirated, 23.093 liter (1,409.2 cubic inches) Maybach Motorenbau GmbH Mb IVa single overhead cam (SOHC) vertical inline six-cylinder engines with a compression ratio of 6.08:1 and four valves per cylinder. The Mb IVa produced 302 horsepower at 1,700 r.p.m., but was derated to 245 horsepower. Two engines were mounted in the aft centerline engine car and drove a two-bladed propeller with a diameter of 5.2 meters (17.1 feet) through a reversible gear train. Each of the other engines were mounted near the center of the airship, outboard. They each turned a two-bladed propeller with a diameter of 3.2 meters (10.5 feet), which were also reversible.
LZ 120 had a maximum speed of 82 miles per hour (132 kilometers per hour).
After two test flights under Captain Lau, Bodensee entered scheduled passenger service on 24 August 1919 under the command of Dr. Hugo Eckener. It flew from Friedrichshafen to the Oberwiesenfeld at Munich, then on to Berlin-Staaken.
In 1921, Bodensee was turned over to Italy as war reparations. It was renamed Esperia and continued in operation until 1928.
8 July 1953: America’s first helicopter airline, New York Airways, began scheduled passenger service, operating flights between the three area airports—La Guardia, Idlewild and Newark. There were 16 flights per day at 90-minute intervals.
The first aircraft used was the Sikorsky S-55, a commercial variant of the military H-19 Chickasaw. It carried 8 passengers and a cargo of U.S. Mail. The mail contract actually was the source of 75% of NYA’s revenue.
As its popularity increased, New York Airways shifted to larger helicopters when they became available, adding three Sikorsky S-58s in 1956. In 1958, the fleet was changed to the Vertol V-44 tandem-rotor helicopter, a commercial model of the Piasecki H-21 Shawnee. In 1962 the turbine-powered Boeing Vertol BV 107-II replaced the earlier helicopters. NYA’s final aircraft was the twin-turbine Sikorsky S-61.
On 16 May 1977, the landing gear of a S-61L failed while on the roof top heliport of the Pan Am building in Manhattan. The helicopter rolled over and spinning rotor blades killed four waiting passengers. Broken blades then fell to the street, fifty-nine stories below, killing a pedestrian and injuring several others.
With its reputation severely damaged and fuel prices escalating, New York Airways filed for bankruptcy in 1979. It’s surviving helicopters are operated today by Columbia Helicopters, Inc., Aurora, Oregon.
2 November 1922: The first scheduled airline passenger to fly aboard the Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Services Limited was Alexander Kennedy. The pilot was Hudson Fysh (later, Sir Hudson Fysh, KBE, DFC). The engineer was W. Arthur Baird. The trip was from Longreach to Cloncurry, Queensland, Australia.
Qantas’ web site describes the event:
An 84-year-old outback pioneer named Alexander Kennedy became the first Qantas passenger on a scheduled flight. He had agreed to subscribe some cash and join the provisional board provided he got ticket No.1. His flight, on 2 November 1922, was on the Longreach-Winton-McKinlay-Cloncurry section of the inaugural mail service from Charleville to Cloncurry.
Hudson Fysh recalled the event in his book, Qantas Rising, “The Armstrong Whitworth was wheeled out of the hangar at the first streak of dawn, many willing hands helping to push her to the then uneven surface of the stony ‘tarmac’. The 160hp Beardmore engine sprang to life after Baird and his helpers had given the propeller a few turns, and flickering flames jetted from the exhaust stubs.
“I climbed into the cockpit and ran the engine up. Yes, she gave her full revs and all was in readiness. Kennedy climbed in, brushing off assistance as he groped for the foot-niches in the side of the fuselage, and then he was settled with safety belt adjusted. Baird was aboard too. The chocks were pulled away from the wheels, and out we taxied to the far corner of the aerodrome.
“The wind was light and fitful, coming from the north-east in warm puffs. It was going to be a scorching western day. When I opened up the throttle with a roar we gathered motion, careering towards the far fence, but we did not seem to be getting the usual lift, the revs were down a shade, and the old AW refused to come unstuck. I shut off and taxied back for another try.
“After three attempts with the same result I taxied back to the hangar again and running up the engine found that we were 50 revs down, just enough to make the difference. The other machine, old G-AUDE, which the day before had opened the service with McGinness, was hastily got out, our load transferred, and we were out for another try.
“No doubt about it this time as we rose in the morning air and headed over the still sleeping town for Winton, our first stop, 35 minutes late on our departure time.” —Qantas
The Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8 was a World War I-era general purpose biplane which had been designed by Dutch engineer Frederick Koolhoven. It was 32 feet, 0 inches (9.754 meters) long, with a wingspan of 43 feet, 8 inches (13.310 meters) and height of 10 feet, 10 inches (3.302 meters). It had an empty weight of 870 kilograms (1.,918 pounds) and maximum takeoff weight of 1,275 kilograms (2,811 pounds).
The F.K.8 was powered by a water-cooled, normally-aspirated 16.629 liter (1,014.74-cubic-inch-displacement) Beardmore Aero Engine, Ltd., 160-h.p. inline six-cylinder engine with a compression ratio of 4.76:1. Although the engine was identified as “160 h.p.”, it produced 174 horsepower at 1,250 r.p.m., and during a maximum power test, 208 horsepower. The engine weighed 620 pounds (281.2 kilograms).
The F.K.8 had maximum speed of 95 miles per hour (153 kilometers per hour) and a service ceiling of 13,000 feet (3,960 meters). Qantas operated three of these biplanes, G-AUCF, G-AUCS and G-AUDE.
Qantas’ Armstrong Whitworth F.K.8, G-AUDE, c/n 69, was formerly Royal Air Force F4231. The airplane had been purchased as surplus equipment by Simpson, Tregilles Aircraft and Transport, Ltd., Perth, Western Australia, and was first registered 28 June 1921. It was sold to Quantas in 5 September 1922. The airplane was damaged beyond economical repair in a forced landing near Blackall, Queensland, 13 September 1923. The pilot was not injured. The airplane was dismantled and later burned.