75 years ago today (August 11), Lufthansa completed its first non-stop transatlantic flight when a Focke-Wulf FW200 Condor landed in front of thousands of onlookers at New York’s Floyd Bennett Field after departing Berlin’s Staaken airport the previous day.
The aircraft completed the the non-stop flight in 24 hours 36 minutes, setting a new record for a transatlantic crossing. It would break its own record on August 13 when it returned to Berlin in only 19 hours 55 minutes. The aircraft, D-ACON and nicknamed “Brandenburg”, was piloted by Captain Alfred Wenke and Captain von Moreau.
Keep in mind that this was the pre-war version of Lufthansa. During WWII, Lufthansa was liquidated by the government and assets were seized for service in the Luftwaffe. The second iteration of Lufthansa emerged shortly after the end of the war and became the Lufthansa we know today.
For the record setting flight from Berlin, the aircraft averaged an altitude of only 2000 meters (6500 feet) and average speed was approximately 255km/hr or 158 miles per hour. The low altitude was required since pressurized cabins had not yet been introduced and 6500 feet above ground level is known as the maximum height that most people can withstand without experiencing altitude sickness.
This feat confirmed the viability of long-haul airline operations and created the impetus for aircraft manufacturers to develop and deliver aircraft that could reach all corners of the globe in unprecedented fashion.
“Brandenburg” would go on to set yet another record when it completed an amazing non-stop flight from Berlin to TOKYO in 46 hours 18 minutes on November 28, 1938 piloted by the same crew. Unfortunately during the return flight the aircraft was lost when it performed an emergency landing in the Pacific near Manila, Philippines.
For you Lufthansa fans, you may recognize that the ‘Brandenburg’ name flies proudly today. It is the nickname that was bestowed upon Lufthansa’s first 747-8i, D-ABYA that entered service on June 1, 2012.