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German Aviation Industry Under Weimar

One of the reasons why commercial flying has not been a financial success in France, England, Belgium and Italy is that the aircraft used for commercial services were not adapted to the kind of service required of them. In almost any case of commercial exploitation by aerial lines in Europe, aeroplanes which were originally designed for war services were modified so as to allow for their being used as commercial carriers. This handicap, under which commercial aviation was born in Europe, is due to the enormous number of military aeroplanes left over when the war stopped. The aircraft manufacturing industry was also handicapped by the fact that aeroplanes were sold by the Governments from the stocks left over after the demobilization, at such a price that aircraft manufacturers could not compete with the Government in selling their products.

In Germany, the treaty of Versailles practically wiped out all aircraft existing in Germany at the time when the Armistice was signed. All the aeroplanes and flying equipment had to be handed over to the Allies so that Germany, right after the war found itself with no aeroplanes.

By 1920 the aircraft industry in Germany had almost ceased to exist, so far as construction was concerned, new building being forbidden under the terms of the treaty. A good deal of building of new airplanes and remodelling of military machines for commercial purposes, however, went on between the time of the armistice and the going into effect of the stipulations of the treaty, and the machines produced at that time were being used to some extent. Although a number of airplane transport companies were doing business regularly, the Zeppelin line had been discontinued. This line operated the Nordstern, and also the Bodensee, which had been redesigned to carry more passengers. A single agency in Berlin was booking passages by eight different lines, Albatros, Junkers, Rumpler, Sablatnig, Hawa, Balug, Dansk Luft Express, and Wiener Fluggesellschaft.

Regular trips had been made from Bremen as a center to Berlin, Hamburg, Wangeroog, Norderney, Borkum and Sylt, as well as between Berlin and Warnemunde and Berlin and Leipzig. The fares were moderate, the charge from Berlin to Leipzig during the Leipzig festivals having been only 800 marks ($16.00 for about 125 miles). A number of builders, although unable to do anything, were carrying on experiments on aircraft elements and keeping their shops in shape to start work again as soon as the ban was lifted.

Two opposite tendencies were shown in the supreme council regarding the future of aeronautics in Germany. French, Italian and Belgian experts were in favor of prohibiting to the central empire the construction and the use of flying machines (both aeroplanes and dirigbles) for an indefinite period of time, until such a date as the rest of the world might feel confident that the defeated nations had abandoned any projects of future aggression. This tendency was opposed by English and American delegates, who finally succeeded in carrying the point.

The decision arrived at was that military aeronautics had to be suppressed in Germany, that all the existing aeronautical material had to be either destroyed or handed over to the Allies, but at the same time it was agreed that commercial aeronautics could be born in Germany, although a number of limitations were imposed on the German aircraft manufacturing industry, which, however, were entirely removed, Germany having complied with the conditions imposed on them by the Treaty of Versailles.

Due to the situation brought about by the Peace Treaty, commercial aviation was born in Germany without the handicap of the existing large number of war aircraft, which in the other countries made it difficult for the aircraft manufacturers to design and manufacture commercial aeroplanes well adapted for commercial use, when such large numbers of aeroplanes could be bought at an extremely low price from the Government and transformed in a more or less inefficient way to commercial use.

The war did not altogether destroy the air transport and airplane industry in Germany and statistics covering the period from February 5. 1919, to November 26, 1920, indicated that German aeroplanes covered approximately 1,000,000 kilometres and conveyed 5545 passengers, 453,000 kilograms of freight, and 35,000 kilograms of air mail. Similar statistics for the first eight months of the year 1921, showed 3714 scheduled flights as compared with 1878 flights in twelve months in 1920. In eight months of 1921, 5581 persons were transported by the regular air service. During all of 1920 only 2030 persons were carried. These figures indicated not only an increased amount of flying, amounting it was claimed to some 6000 miles a day, but also the establishment of new air routes and the addition of new planes for such service.

The German Air Navigation Service, an association of allied aerial enterprises operating from Berlin as a center in 1920 had 150 airplanes of various types in service or ready for operation. The published air service schedule showed that from Berlin there were daily trips to and from Brunswick, Dortmund, Dresden, Hamburg, and Bremen, extended by the Baltic Ah- Service of the Sablatnig aeroplane firm to Travemuende, Warnemuende and Sassnitz, making connections with the steamers leaving those towns for Sweden, Norway, and Denmark.

By 1922 nine strong and well organized aerial transport companies were in existence in Germany, and were making plans for future developments for establishing communications between Germany, Sweden, Holland, the Balkan States and Russia.

The consequences of the situation is that since the war, Germany developed some exceptionally good commercial aeroplanes, and built a fleet of such planes which were far superior to those used by the other nations. They were more efficient, and better adapted to commercial exploitation. They were so much so that the progress made by Germany in aeronautical construction elicited some uneasy feelings throughout the rest of Europe. On 13 October 1921, in an editorial appearing in the London Times, some sanctions against further expansions of German aeronautical activities were invoked. It was pointed out in that editorial the very obvious fact that the technical progress made by the development of the aircraft manufacturing industry in Germany constituted a potential military danger for the future, considering the fact that a commercial aeroplane can, without much trouble, and in a very short time, be transformed from a commercial flying machine to a war engine.

These conclusions were obvious and they are well in accordance with the opinions expressed by the French, Italian and Belgian experts advocating the suppression of all aeronautical activities in Germany for an indefinite period of time. It is rather surprising that in some British quarters, anxiety should be voiced about the future of German commercial aviation, which was indebted for its very existence to the British and American stand taken in the Supreme Council.



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