Thousands of people had gathered together on Floyd Bennett Field at New York Airport on 11th August 1938. Shortly before 16.00 hours local time, a Focke-Wulf Fw 200 “Condor” landed to the enthusiastic cheers of the onlookers. The aircraft with the registration letters D-ACON had taken off from Berlin the previous day on this special flight to New York. Crew and aircraft completed roughly 6,000 kilometres across the Atlantic non-stop in just under 25 hours, an aviation sensation and a new world record. The aircraft was piloted by Alfred Henke, a captain of the “first”, old Lufthansa, whose liquidation had been started by the Allies in 1945.
The 75th anniversary of the record flight of the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 will be celebrated on 10th August and “Condor” is off to New York once again – this time though as a postcard motif aboard a Lufthansa aircraft: in memory of the aviation pioneer of earlier days, Lufthansa flight LH400 will carry an illustrated anniversary airmail for enthusiasts. On arrival in New York at 12.45 local time, the postcards are planned to be provided with a special stamp and then returned to Berlin to their senders. With flying time of around eight hours and thirty minutes, passengers as well as postcards travel quite a bit faster to America than they did 75 years ago; and thanks to seven daily Lufthansa connections from Frankfurt, Munich and Düsseldorf also much more flexibly.
As the world’s first four-engined, land-based passenger aircraft, with its record time, the Fw 200 indicated the possibilities of a transatlantic air traffic. The revolutionary aircraft offered room for 26 passengers, who travelled in comfortable upholstered seats. For the first time, specially-trained stewardesses were employed on board who looked after the passengers. These were only a few of the many requirements for the design of the aircraft, which Lufthansa set for its manufacturer Focke-Wulf-Flugzeugbau GmbH.
Already the “first” Lufthansa, as the example of the Focke-Wulf Fw 200 indicates, was an aviation pioneer. The Lufthansa Group, too, with its airlines and the operations of Lufthansa Technik, stands for technical and flying competence. For example, in close cooperation with renowned aircraft manufacturers, the Group contributes its experience and technical competence to the development of new aircraft models. Lufthansa is also a trend-setter in the testing of bio-fuels in the regular flight operations. In January 2012, it conducted the first scheduled trans-Atlantic flight from Europe to the USA with bio-fuel. A Boeing 747-400 with 40 tons of bio-kerosene mix in its tanks flew from Frankfurt to Washington, DC. Previously the use of bio-fuel had been tested for six months on the Frankfurt to Hamburg route.
With the start of the Second World War, the National Socialist regime also showed its interest in the Fw 200. In the following years the aircraft was also used for military purposes, primarily as a transport and reconnaissance aircraft, but also as a bomber. Designed for civil aviation, however, the “Condor” proved relatively unsuited for military action. After the war, the revolutionary long-range aircraft was no longer able to demonstrate its potential in civil aviation – also due to technical progress.
Currently, Airbus, Rolls-Royce, the Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin-Stiftung and Lufthansa Technik are restoring probably the last surviving Fw 200. In 1981 its remains were located in a fjord near Trondheim in Norway. The aircraft had made an emergency landing on water due to a technical defect in February 1942 and since then had lain at a depth of over 60 metres. It was finally salvaged in 1999. Lufthansa Technik is contributing its competence to the joint project together with the German Technology Museum Berlin, Airbus in Bremen and Rolls-Royce Deutschland in Berlin-Dahlewitz, in order to restore the aircraft which was badly damaged by the saltwater. Although the “Condor” will not fly again, it should at least taxi along a runway – in view of its former desolate state, a masterly performance.