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Lufthansa celebrates 75th anniversary of first non-stop transatlantic flight of a land-based passenger aircraft

Thousands of people had gathered at the Floyd Bennett Field of 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.

A Focke-Wulf Fw200.

A Focke-Wulf Fw200.

The aircraft, with 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 old Lufthansa which was liquidated by the Allies in 1945.

Lufthansa celebrated the 75th anniversary of the record flight on 10th August. With flying time of around eight hours and thirty minutes, passengers travel quite a bit faster to America than they did 75 years ago.

The Fw 200 indicated the possibilities of 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 to look after the passengers. These were only a few of the many features of the aircraft, manufactured by Focke-Wulf-Flugzeugbau GmbH.

With the start of the Second World War, the Nazi regime showed its interest in the Fw 200. In the following years the aircraft was used for military purposes, not only 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 long-range aircraft had been overtaken by technological 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 in Norway. The aircraft made an emergency landing at sea in February 1942 due to a technical defect and since then had lain at a depth of over 60 metres. It was finally salvaged in 1999.

Although the “Condor” will not fly again, it should at least taxi along a runway. In view of its former desolate state, that would be a masterly performance.

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