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Early German Aviation Industry

The aeroplane tests in the French autumn maneuvers in Picardy in 1910 first aroused the Germans from their illusions that lighter-than-air machines would solve aerial navigation. After these maneuvers, they could no longer concentrate their undivided efforts on their airships, for the French tests showed conclusively the superiority of the aeroplane as an instrument of war. From thence they set to work vigorously to make up for lost time and develop an aeroplane industry, though they did not abandon the further development of their airships.

The rapid progress in German aviation since 1910 is clear. In the Imperial Maneuvers of 1911 it was with difficulty that Germany could produce eight aeroplanes; in 1912 she produced eight squadrons; at the end of that year, 230 certificates had been granted to pilots by the German Aero Club; in 1913, the number was 600; in 1912 the number of flying machine manufacturing firms was twenty, while there were fifty in 1913. But when they took to manufacturing aeroplanes in 1910 there was not time to invent largely for themselves. They therefore drew their inspirations from the country that was obviously ahead in practical aeroplane accomplishment, France, relying on their own methodical reputation for working out details to make their borrowed designs worthy of what to the Prussian mind is the Art of Arts, War.

By 1912 about 27 German firms were building aeroplanes exclusively and about 24 more constructing them in addition to other products. America had little to learn from Germany in the actual design of aeroplanes, as their ideas and lines came largely from France and America. Many of the aeroplane factories were small, but some of them represent a fairly large capital. At that tiem it was estimated that there are 400 to 500 aeroplanes in use in Germany; 214 pilots, both officers and civilians, who may be called on for military duty, have been licensed by the German military authorities.

Germany numerically led Europe with over 25 aircraft production companies established before World War I. Many of its manufacturers began by obtaining licenses to produce foreign designs. A number of German firms were manufacturing flying machines. All these flying-machine companies not only sold aeroplanes but gave instruction in the art of flying.

  1. Albatross, a 812,500 limited liability corporation, was one of the best known. The company constructed one and two deck machines and was patronized by the military authorities. Albatros, began in 1910 with French designs and then added Taube-type monoplanes to their inventories. Albatros built many German military aircraft used in World War I.
  2. Aviatik, founded in 1910, began by manufacturing two French aircraft. The Automobil und Aviatik Aktiengesellschaft at Muhlhausen built one and two deck machines and had an aeroplane field at Habsheim and a branch at Johannisthal.
  3. The Deutsche Flugzeug Werke (D.F.W.) was founded with the backing of the German government. The Deutsche Flugzeugwerke, at Leipzig-Lindenthal, was formed with 25,000 capital, which had been increased; it also had a branch in Johannisthal. It produced the Maurice Farman biplane in 1910 and later produced a monoplane that won the 1913 Prince Henry trophy. It also built the Mars biplanes used in the Balkan conflicts. D.F.W. gradually developed its own aircraft, including the B.I tractor biplane, which set a new world altitude record in July 1914 when H. Oelerich flew it to a height of 26,740 feet (8,150 meters).
  4. Dorner & Grade was the original inventors of the German one-deck aeroplane, with $25,000 capital and a trial field at Bork.
  5. The Euler company built one, two, and three deck machines, had an aeroplane field at Frankfort on the Main, and in 1912 was the only German firm which had no branch at Johannisthal. August Euler, the first aviator to obtain a German pilot's license, founded the Euler works and began producing Voisin biplanes under license.
  6. Anthony Fokker, a Dutchman, founded one of the more successful early German companies in 1911. His Fokker Spinnes were widely used in both civilian and military flying schools in Germany before World War I. During the war, he provided many of the German combat aircraft. After the war, he moved his company to the Netherlands so he could avoid the restrictions on manufacturing aircraft imposed on the Germans by the Treaty of Versailles.
  7. Gotha produced Taube-type planes, and built many German military aircraft used in World War I.
  8. The Luftverkehrsgesellschaft, capital $375,000, not only manufactured aeroplanes but also conducted a pleasure excursion business with Parseval airships.
  9. Gustav Otto began manufacturing aircraft under license with Henry Farman and then developed his own Otto tractor biplane.
  10. Pfalz Flugzeugwerke built either as a monoplane or as a biplane. It is a machine somewhat similar to the Fokker. The monoplane, however, has two machine guns, one on each side of the pilot, and firing through the propeller.
  11. E. Rumpler was the first, who, in 1910, was licensed to produce the Austrian Taube (Dove). The Rumpler company, with $62,500 capital, manufactured a one-deck machine called "Taube" (dove), said to be much admired for its fine form and graceful flight.
  12. The Wright Flugmaschienen Co., in Johannisthal, started with $125,000 capital, subsequently raised to $150,000. Of this sum it is said $50,000 in cash was paid to the Wright brothers, together with $50,000 value in shares of the company for the use of their patent rights.
Germany also had a successful airship industry that began in 1907 with the establishment of the Zeppelin company. The manufacture of screws, motors, and aeroplane attachments of all kinds was not more flourishing than the main industry. The principal motor factories were the Argus, Daimler, and the Neue Automobil-Gesellschaft. Of foreign motors the most popular was the Gnome. The German automobile industry had not engaged much in the manufacture of motors for flying machines. Several large firms had given it up, because there was no prospect of a market corresponding to the expense involved.

The chief patrons of the aeroplane industry were the military and the airmen who made prize flights a business. The German aerial clubs instituted prize contests; in 1911 the value of the prizes amounted to more than $250,000. The flights overland were very expensive, owing to the frequent failure of the motor to operate and the necessity of landing at unfavorable places with damage to the machine.

The industry was badly affected by the competition of the large number of companies engaged therein. The successful firms were chiefly those supported by the military authorities. Prosperity can only come to the industry by confidence being restored through the increased security of the apparatus.

At the outbreak of hostilities in 1914, thanks to subsidies to contractors and prizes to aircraft pilots, the German aeroplane industry was in a comparatively flourishing condition. There were about twenty-two establishments making different types of heavier-than-air machines, monoplane and biplane. Although Germany woke up equally late to the need for home produced aeroplane engines, the experience gained in building engines for dirigibles sufficed for the production of aeroplane power plants.

The Mercedes filled all requirements together with the Benz and the Maybach. There was a 225 horsepower Benz which was very popular, as were the 100 horse-power and 170 horse-power Mercedes, the last mentioned fitted to the Aviatik biplane of 1917. Aircraft were engined for the most part with the four-cylinder Argus or the six-cylinder Mercedes vertical type engines, each of these being of 100 horse-power-it was not till war brought increasing demands on aircraft that the limit of power began to rise. Contemporary with the Argus and Mercedes were the Austro-Daimler, Benz, and N.A.G., in vertical design, while as far as rotary types were concerned there were two, the Oberursel and the Stahlhertz; of these the former was by far the most promising, and it came to virtual monopoly of the rotary-engined 'plane as soon as the war demand began.

Germany, from the outbreak of war, practically, concentrated on the development of the Mercedes engine; and it is noteworthy that, with one exception, increase of power corresponding with the increased demand for power was attained without increasing the number of cylinders. The various models ranged between 75 and 260 horse-power, the latter being the most recent production of this type. The exception to the rule was the eight-cylinder 240 horse-power, which was replaced by the 260 horse-power six-cylinder model, the latter being more reliable and but very slightly heavier.

Before the War a few machines fitted with more than one engine had been built (the first being a triple Gnome-engined biplane built by Messrs Short Bros, at Eastchurch in 1913), but none of large size had been successfully produced, the total weight probably in no case exceeding about 2 tons. In 1916, however, the twin engine Handley-Page biplane was produced, to be followed by others both in this country and abroad, which represented a very great increase in size and, consequently, load-carrying capacity. By the end of the War period several types were in existence weighing a total of 10 tons when fully loaded, of which some 4 tons or more represented ' useful load ' available for crew, fuel, and bombs or passengers.

The fact that Germany was best prepared in the matter of heavier-than-air service machines in spite of the German faith in the dirigible is one more item of evidence as to who forced hostilities. The Germans came into the field with well over 600 aeroplanes, mainly two-seaters of standardised design, and with factories back in the Fatherland turning out sufficient new machines to make good the losses. There were a few single-seater scouts built for speed, and the two-seater machines were all fitted with cameras and bombdropping gear. Manoeuvres had determined in the German mind what should be the uses of the air fleet; there was photography of fortifications and field works; signalling by Very lights; spotting for the guns, and scouting for news of enemy movements. The methodical German mind had arranged all this beforehand, but had not allowed for the fact that opponents might take counter-measures which would upset the over-perfect mechanism of the air service just as effectually as the great march on Paris was countered by the genius of Joffre.

The day of the Fokker ended when the British B.E.2.C. aeroplane came to France in good quantities, and the F.E. type, together with the De Havilland machines, rendered British aerial superiority a certainty. Germany's best reply-this was about 1916-was the Albatross biplane, which was used by Captain Baron von Richthofen for his famous travelling circus, manned by German star pilots and sent to various parts of the line to hearten up German troops and aviators after any specially bad strafe. Then there were the Aviatik biplane and the Halberstadt fighting scout, a cleanly built and very fast machine with a powerful engine with which Germany tried to win back superiority in the third year of the War, but Allied design kept about three months ahead of that of the enemy, once the Fokker had been mastered, and the race went on.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 02:53:53 ZULU