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Pioneer North Sea and Arctic flights laid the foundations of Norway’s commercial air routes


A THRICE-WEEKLY POSTAL SERVICE runs from Trondheim to the most northerly parts of Norway

A THRICE-WEEKLY POSTAL SERVICE runs from Trondheim to the most northerly parts of Norway. This photograph shows a DNL Airline’s postal machine in the harbour of Bodo. The aircraft is a Junkers Ju.34 seaplane, a type which is at present used on the night mail service between Oslo and Copenhagen. Its BMW Hornet engine gives the seaplane a speed of 134 miles an hour at 3,000 feet.

ALTHOUGH her geographical and economic characteristics do not facilitate civil aviation on an extensive scale, Norway’s contribution to aviation is notable, particularly in the use made by her explorers of aeroplanes and airships.

Norwegian interest in aviation took practical form in 1910 when the Norsk Aero Club was founded at Oslo, or Christiania, as the capital was called until the name was changed in 1925. Two officers, Lieut. Dehli and Lieut. Jacobsen, went to France late in 1910 to learn to fly so that they could instruct other officers at a military flying school in Norway. Both Dehli and Jacobsen became prominent in Norwegian aviation.

Lieut. Dons, of the Royal Norwegian Navy, was another pioneer. His flights from the naval station at Horten, on the western shore of Oslo Fiord, in 1912, did much to stimulate his country’s interest in flying and a national fund to buy military aeroplanes was opened. In 1913 Lieut. Sejersted made a flight of 149 miles in a Farman aeroplane; in 1914 Lieut. Tryggve Gran became the first Norwegian to win international fame as an aviator.

Gran, who was formerly a pupil at the Hall Flying School at Hendon, went to the Bleriot School at Buc, France, where he learned to loop. With a Bleriot monoplane he prepared to attempt the feat of flying from Cruden Bay, in Aberdeenshire, across the North Sea to Norway.

In September 1913 Roland Garros, the French pilot, had made a flight of 700 miles across the Mediterranean, but he had passed over Sardinia. Gran hoped to fly 320 miles entirely across water. He took off at 8 a.m. on July 30, 1914, but when he was about twenty miles on his way he encountered fog; so he returned.

Later in the morning a telegram was received from Norway stating that the weather was clear there. Gran, therefore, made a second start at 1.8 p.m. He followed the coast for a little way and then headed out to sea, shaping a course to allow for the effect of the fresh wind that blew from the northwest.

After he had flown for three hours Gran again encountered fog. He then emerged into sunshine, but not for long, for he soon flew into a further bank of fog. By that time his petrol was nearly exhausted and, anxious as he was, he suffered from airsickness until he climbed up to 6,000 feet above the fog and saw ahead of him the snow-capped mountains of Norway. Gran put the nose of the Bleriot down and descended through the clouds to the shore of a lake about twenty miles south of Stavanger.

He had flown 320 miles in four hours ten minutes. Later he flew on to Bergen and then to Oslo, where he delivered copies of a London newspaper to King Haakon and Queen Maud.

In Great Britain the merit of this flight was overshadowed by the imminence of war, but the flight’s importance was not lost on the Norwegian Government. They bought the Bleriot monoplane and Gran flew it when he resumed his military duties. He soon showed that he was not a one-flight pilot.

In 1915 Gran began an anti-submarine patrol, with an observer. German submarines in the North Sea were held to be infringing Norwegian neutrality by creeping into lonely fiords and resting in these sheltered waters. Gran therefore patrolled the fiords and, whenever a submarine was sighted by his observer, he flew down to within a few feet of the water and drove the Germans out to sea. These patrol flights exceeded more than 1,860 miles over the sea in a land machine —a remarkable feat of piloting, for flying over fiords is complicated by the squalls from the mountains.

In 1920 Gran made another flight across the North Sea, flying from London to Oslo, by way of Skagen, in Denmark, in nine hours.

Norway’s achievements in Arctic aviation began as early as September 1915, when an aeroplane was shipped to a point beyond the Arctic Circle and an officer made a flight of a hundred miles over mountainous country. This was probably the first flight in Polar air.

Before this, however, Roald Amundsen, discoverer of the South Pole, had been eager to apply aviation to exploration. In 1914, on the advice of Lieut. Jacobsen, he bought a Maurice Farman biplane, instructed Jacobsen to fly it to Norway, and later decided to qualify as a pilot. He and Jacobsen crashed just before the qualifying flights were made, but neither was hurt and Amundsen obtained his certificate.

Polar Exploits

The war of 1914-18, however, stopped Amundsen’s plans and he gave his aeroplane to the Norwegian Naval Air Service. Norway’s ships had suffered heavily during the unrestricted submarine campaign, and attention was drawn to aircraft as a means of maintaining communications. A company called the Norwegian Air Route Company was formed, with Lieut, Dehli as technical adviser, to begin a mail service between Norway and Aberdeen. Dehli went to London in 1918 and saw the British Air Minister and the Postmaster-General; but the scheme fell through, mainly because Great Britain could not then spare the machines and the pilots to cooperate with the Norwegians.

When Amundsen returned to exploration, his first attempt to reach the North Pole by air was not a success. In 1925, however, with the personal and financial aid of Lincoln Ellsworth, an American, and the cooperation of Norwegian pilots, he had a remarkable, air adventure in the Arctic. An Arctic reconnaissance flight with two Dornier Wal flying boats, N 24 and N 25, began on May 21, when the two machines took off from King’s Bay, Svalbard (Spitsbergen). Each aircraft was powered by two 370 horse-power Rolls-Royce Eagle engines. The maximum load was two and a half tons, but the N 25 carried about half a ton more than this. Both machines were compelled to alight. Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen piloted the N 25, and Lief Dietrichson the N 24, the other members of the two parties being Amundsen, Ellsworth, Carl Feucht and Oskar Omdahl.

The Sikorsky S-43, used by D.N.L. Airlines

AN AMPHIBIAN FLYING BOAT, the Sikorsky S-43, used by D.N.L. Airlines. The Pratt and Whitney Hornet engines develop 750 horsepower at 7,000 feet. The maximum speed at this height is 190 miles an hour and the cruising speed 166 miles an hour. There are two passenger cabins. The main cabin seats eleven passengers, and a small compartment aft of the main cabin seats four passengers.

When the N 25 had almost reached latitude 88° north one of its engines began to misfire. Riiser-Larsen succeeded in bringing the flying boat down neatly in a crevice of water between the ice. The N 24, which had been damaged during the take-off, did not make such a fortunate landing; it came down near the other machine, but on the ice and was wrecked.

The two crews made contact and the three men from the N 24 salved the remaining petrol and brought it to the N 25. The six men began a struggle against the Arctic to get the flying boat into the air. There was no means of communication with the outside world and rations were of the scantiest.

The main problem was to clear a runway on the ice nearly a mile long and wide enough for the tips of the wings to clear the edges of jagged ice. The only available tools for this work were two small ice axes, three knives, a Boy Scout hatchet and a camera tripod. Weakening under semi-starvation and the heavy toil the aviators made runway after runway. Five runways in succession were wrecked by the movement of the pack ice, which threatened to smash the machine.

Once it seemed that they were doomed, as the ice moved inwards to crush the flying boat. Omdahl, the only member of the party wearing rubber boots, staved off disaster; when the ice threatened to pierce the hull he jumped on the edges and broke them off, piling them under the machine. He continued doing this for hours, until the broken ice which had been pushed under the flying boat lifted the hull above the walls that were moving inwards.

After each failure to get off, the six men had to haul the flying boat to a new position and begin another runway. They estimated they had moved about 500 tons of ice before the sixth runway was prepared. Then they trampled down soft snow — and their fortunes changed; the snow froze and the runway became a smooth slide. With the engines running the flying boat slid over the runway and lifted clear of the grip of the North. The flying boat headed for Svalbard and all breathed a sigh of relief when they, saw their destination. At the last moment an aileron jammed, but the flying boat alighted safely, although on a lumpy sea, not far from a sealing vessel. Before long they were on board this craft.

Seaplanes Over the Fiords

Directly he had returned to civilization Amundsen established contact with General Umberto Nobile, the Italian airship constructor; he was convinced that the airship was the more suitable craft for the conquest of the Arctic, and negotiations began for the purchase of the airship N 1. Amundsen went to the United States to raise as much money as possible by lectures. Lincoln Ellsworth continued his financial and personal support, and preparations were made for a flight by airship across the North Pole. The venture, which had the support of Signor Mussolini, aroused special interest, as an American aviator, Richard Evelyn Byrd, accompanied by Floyd Bennett, was planning a flight in a Fokker aeroplane from Svalbard to the North Pole and back.

The wise planning and attention to detail which had enabled Amundsen to succeed in his previous ventures were again displayed in this airship venture. Various alterations were made under Nobile’s guidance to the N 1, and the Italian constructor was made commander of the airship, which was given the name of Norge. A Norwegian crew was sent to Italy to be trained by Nobile. (See the chapter “Triumph and Tragedy in the Arctic”.

The Norge’s flight ended the collaboration of Amundsen and Nobile, but when Nobile was reported missing in the Arctic in 1928, Amundsen accompanied the French pilot, Major Guilbaud, and the crew of a Latham flying boat, in a search flight. Nobile was rescued, but Amundsen and his comrades perished.

Aviators and seamen searched for Amundsen until a fragment of the flying boat was found, giving mute evidence of his fate. One of the greatest Arctic explorers of all time had perished while trying to aid the man who had once shared the perils of a Polar flight with him.

THE WHOLE OF THE COASTLINE of Norway is served by aeroplanesOn two Norwegian Antarctic expeditions several flights were made from the research ship Norwegia. Most of the coast between Enderby Land and Coats Land was discovered and mapped.

In the summer of 1932 the Norwegians used two aeroplanes for their East Greenland air survey. These were a Lockheed Vega for mapping and a Hermes II Spartan (a British machine) for general utility work.

THE WHOLE OF THE COASTLINE of Norway is served by aeroplanes. A service also runs to Copenhagen, where connexions may be made with air lines running to all other parts of Europe. Passengers are not carried farther north than Tromso ; the route beyond this point is for mail only.

Seaplanes have proved especially suitable for conditions in Norway. In 1919 a good flight was made by a British flying boat to demonstrate the commercial possibilities of this type of aircraft in Norway. Two machines left Felixstowe (Suffolk) and flew to Dundee, whence they set out for Norway. They encountered driving rain and dense fog which thickened off the coast of Norway. One aircraft returned to Dundee; the other, the F.5 flying boat N 4044, piloted by Major Galpin and Captain Scott, went below the fogbank and proceeded to Kristiansand, the landfall being within two miles of the spot intended. This flight of 430 sea miles in seven and a quarter hours in bad weather was considered a remarkable example of navigation in those days.

The flying boat flew on to Oslo, where Queen Maud, a lady-in-waiting and a British diplomat were flown as passengers; the aircraft made a tour of Scandinavia and returned to Felixstowe, having flown 2,450 sea miles in about forty hours’ flying time.

In 1920 three Supermarine flying boats were ordered for use on an experimental mail service between Stavanger and Bergen in conjunction with two Friedrichshafen twin-float seaplanes. The British machines proved the more airworthy, although the German aircraft were better seaboats in rough water. The pilots found that the squalls and eddies in the fiords, caused by the wind striking the mountainous sides of the inlets, were so violent that it was dangerous to fly the German machines. The British aircraft were superior, although it was necessary to keep their Beardmore engines at full throttle to master the treacherous squalls. This service was operated at more than

ninety-four per cent efficiency. A flight from New York to Oslo by way of Greenland and Iceland was made by Thor Solberg, with Paul Oscanyan as radio operator, in 1935. The fliers started from New York on July 18 and encountered storms and fogs, but Solberg flew via Montreal and St. Pierre to Cartwright, on the coast of Labrador, where a halt was made in the hope of fine weather. At last a favourable report was received from Juliane-haab, near the southern extremity of Greenland, and the amphibian took off, although the fog was dense at Cartwright, for the flight of 700 miles.

350 Miles at 200 Feet

Solberg climbed to the ceiling of the aircraft, 10,000 feet, but the fog was still dense. Ice began to form on the wings and he had to descend to lower levels, flying through the fog and relying on his instruments and dead reckoning. The fog persisted until he emerged from it at 4,000 feet and saw the tops of the Greenland mountains rising above the fog. He found a patch of clear air and alighted at Julianehaab. The next stage of 650 miles to Angmagsalik, on the east coast of Greenland, was flown in clear weather, but alighting was difficult in the fiord because of drifting ice. As the floes threatened to smash the moored machine, Solberg took off despite unfavourable weather reports from Iceland.

The weather reports were that the fog was dense on the south coast of Iceland; so course was changed to the north coast. The fliers landed at Biklu-dal, and then flew to Reykjavik, and to Hornafiord. The stage from there to the Faeroes was flown at only 200 feet, which enabled the fliers to get below the fog for the 350 miles. Better weather favoured the leg of 550 miles to Bergen, Norway, and later Solberg flew to Oslo.

Since 1927 Oslo has been linked with the main European network of air routes by the service to Goteborg (Sweden) and Copenhagen.

OSLO’S NEW AIRPORT scheduled to be ready for use in the spring of 1939

OSLO’S NEW AIRPORT, which is scheduled to be ready for use in the spring of 1939, although it will not be completed before 1940. The new aerodrome is at Fornebo, and the journey from the airport to the town of Oslo will take about twenty minutes. Until this new aerodrome is opened aeroplanes requiring customs facilities will use the military aerodrome at Kjeller, eleven miles north-east of Oslo.

This service is now operated by the D.N.L. Airlines (Det Norske Luft-fartselskap) in collaboration with the Swedish and German air lines. In the summer of 1938 this route was flown in either direction twice daily in two hours fifty minutes. A coastal service is operated in the summer between Oslo and Bergen by the same company. The air liner leaves Oslo at 8.25 a.m, stops at Moss, Arendal, Kristiansand, Stavanger, and Haugesund, and alights at Bergen at 12.50 p.m. In the reverse direction the aeroplane leaves Bergen at 2.25 p.m. and reaches Oslo at 7.10 p.m. Bergen is also the southern terminus of the Midnight Sun Airway which goes up the long coast beyond the Arctic Circle to Tromso. This route was scheduled to operate from June 6 to October 1, 1938, three days a week in either direction. The northbound machine takes off from Bergen at 7 a.m. and stops at Aalesund, Molde, Kristian-sund, Trondheim, Bronnoysund, Sand-nessjoen, Bodo, Narvik, Harstad and alights at Tromso at 4 p.m. Tromso is the terminus for passengers, but a mail service is maintained thrice a week by machines which start from Trondheim and continue beyond Tromso to Hammerfest, Vadso and Kirkenes, the two latter places being east of the North Cape, in Finmark.

An important postal service is the night mail from Oslo to Goteborg and Copenhagen, where it links with the European night mail. A direct route across Norway from Oslo to Bergen is to be opened.

The D.N.L. aircraft comprise three three-engined Junkers Ju.52/3m seaplanes seating sixteen passengers, a Junkers Ju. 34 seaplane which is used on the night mail service between Oslo and Copenhagen, and a Sikorsky S-43 amphibian.

The Junker Ju.52/3m is a low-wing cantilever metal monoplane, the span being 95 ft. 11 in. and the length 62 ft. 4 in. The three 650 horse-power B.M.W. Hornet engines give a maximum speed at 3,000 feet of 172 miles an hour and a cruising speed of 152 miles an hour.

The Junkers Ju.34 has a span of 60 ft. 7 in., a length of 36 feet, and its B.M.W. Hornet engine gives it a cruising speed of 134 miles an hour at 3,000 feet.

The Sikorsky twin-engined amphibian flying boat, powered by a Pratt and Whitney Hornet engine, has a span of 86 feet and a length of 51 ft. 2 in. Maximum speed at 7,000 feet is 190 miles an hour and cruising speed 166 miles an hour.

Stavanger-Newcastle Air Link

The Midnight Sun route is one of the most picturesque in the world, and the use of seaplanes overcomes the lack of aerodromes. The machines are maintained at the seaplane base at Oslo.

Norway’s first civil airport was opened at Stavanger in May 1937, and a British company began a service between Newcastle-on-Tyne and Stavanger. The operating company, Allied Airways Ltd., began the service with a four-engined De Havilland D.H.86B machine, which by the summer of 1938 had made more than 120 flights over the North Sea. The flight is scheduled to take three hours ten minutes, against the eighteen hours taken by mail steamer. The service is not subsidized, and is one of the most interesting ones in operation, as it has realized the hopes of the pioneers for a direct service between Norway and Great Britain. The distance is about 400 miles over the sea, and the machine is a landplane.

The chief military aerodrome in Norway is at Kjeller, eleven miles northeast of Oslo. The dimensions are 1,094 by 875 yards. This is the civil customs aerodrome for landplanes at present. A new civil airport is being built to serve Oslo and is scheduled to be ready for use in the spring of 1939, although the buildings will not be completed until 1940. Sola Civil Airport serves Stavanger and has two concrete runways, the longer of which is 1,040 yards. There is a military aerodrome at Vernes, near Trondheim. The principal seaplane station of the Norwegian Royal Naval Air Service is at Horten; other stations are at Kristiansand and Bergen.

Although civil aviation is not as extensive in Norway as in the more southern countries, new aerodromes are being built and other preparations are being made for the change from seaplanes to landplanes. The link between the' air and the sea services is . closer than in most other countries.

JUNKERS THREE-ENGINED SEAPLANE of the type used by D.N.L. in Norway

JUNKERS THREE-ENGINED SEAPLANE of the type used by D.N.L. in Norway. It is a Junkers Ju.52/3m. Along the whole of the trailing edge of the main plane is a flap mounted to give a double-wing effect and to enable the camber of the wings to be varied and thus alter their lift. The outer sections of the flap are operated differentially as ailerons.

You can read more on “Aviation in Sweden”, “Finland’s Airways” and “Triumph and Tragedy in the Arctic” on this website.

Norway’s Airways