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The Speed of the KLM Air Services Gave a Lead to Other European Countries


ONE OF THE DOUGLAS DC-3 AIR LINERS used on the KLM long-distance service to Batavia

ONE OF THE DOUGLAS DC-3 AIR LINERS used on the KLM long-distance service to Batavia. These aircraft, of American design, are built in Holland under licence, by the Fokker Company. The passenger’s comfort is increased by the provision of only twelve seats in the cabin instead of the twenty-one for which the machines were designed. These aircraft carry a useful load of 8,120 lb at a cruising speed of 178 miles an hour. In Dutch the letters IJ and Y are interchangeable; thus Maatschappij and Maatschappy (partly seen in the photograph) are both correct.

IT is a tribute to the enterprise and efficiency of the Dutch that the initials K.L.M. are known throughout the world as representing high standards of progress in civil air transport. The Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij voor Nederland en Kolonien, or Royal Dutch Air Lines, is the modern counterpart of the Dutch East India Company, whose fleet of sailing ships made history in the days of sail. The Dutch were among the first people in Europe to make a commercial success of fast, long-distance transport by air.

Although Holland is a small country, her colonial possessions are large, populous and valuable, for the Dutch have a genius for making the most of the sea, the land and the air. The extensive Netherlands East Indies have been brought within six days of Amsterdam by air and the whole of Europe within one day. In the West Indies, there are in operation about 1,440 miles of routes linking various Dutch and British islands with the oil centres of Venezuela, on the mainland of South America.

One of the world’s outstanding aeroplane designers, Anton Fokker, supplies most of the machines of the K.L.M. The fleet comprises, at the time of writing, thirteen Douglas DC-2 and eighteen DC-3 machines, a Fokker F.36, two Fokker F.18s and a number of smaller Fokker and Koolhoven machines. Six Lockheed 14 Super Electra aeroplanes are a recent addition.

The Douglas aeroplanes are low-wing cantilever monoplanes; they were built in Holland by the Fokker Company, which has the European manufacturing and selling licences for these American-designed machines.

Douglas DC-3 air liners are used on the route to the Dutch East Indies. Normally the DC-3 seats twenty-one passengers, but to give more comfort on the long route only twelve lounge chairs are fitted in the main cabin and one of these, with a table, is placed in the front of the cabin, for the use of the navigating officer. Powered by two 1,000 horsepower Wright Cyclone engines, the liner has a cruising speed of 178 miles an hour, maximum speed being 212 miles an hour. Wing span is 95 feet and length 64 ft. 6 in. The useful load, including petrol and oil, is 8,120 lb. Landing speed is reduced to a minimum in the air by wing flaps and on the ground by wheel brakes.

The passenger cabin is 27 ft. 8 in. long, 7 ft. 8 in. wide and 6 ft. 6 in. high. The chairs are 20 in. wide and can be adjusted to various angles and extended to form couches. Radio equipment enables the operator to be in communication with the radio stations of Scheveningen, Holland, and Bandoeng, (Java) so that passengers can send radiograms while in flight.

On the route to the Far East the current service provides for three flights a week in either direction. The machines leave on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, meeting and passing one another over India. In summer the route is via Budapest, Hungary, and Athens, to Batavia, and is 8,681 miles long; the winter route is via Naples, Italy, and Athens; its length is 8,865 miles. The summer route is flown from May 1 to November 1; in winter, weather conditions make the longer route through Italy preferable.

The machines on the summer route take off from Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, at 6 a.m. and fly a little south of eastward parallel with the southern shore of the Zuider Zee. The passenger sees the Naarder Meer, a sanctuary of waterfowl, Gooiland, with its golden sands, fir trees, brown moorlands and green meadows, the military aerodrome of Soesterberg, and then the province of Gelderland, a region of red-roofed farmhouses.

Zutphen is passed, and the Douglas crosses the border into Germany. It flies over Munster, and then over the southern slopes of the Harz Mountains, before it lands at Schkeuditz (Halle-Leipzig), the airport near Leipzig. This first stage of 326 miles is flown in two hours five minutes; half an hour is allowed at Leipzig for refreshments.

From Leipzig the aeroplane flies approximately south-east for the second stage of 416 miles to Budapest, reached in two and a half hours. The route is above the Erzgebirge (Iron Ore Mountains) into Czechoslovakia. Having passed above Prague, the liner crosses the border and alights at Matyasfold, the airport of Budapest, at 10.45 a.m., local time. Here the passenger lunches, rejoining the aeroplane at 11.30 a.m. for the longest flight of the entire journey, to Batavia. This is a stage of 742 miles to Athens, and is flown in four and a half hours.

Time Zones

At first the aeroplane passes above the great plain of Hungary, with its herds of horses, sheep and cattle. Near Subotica the Douglas crosses the frontier into Yugoslavia and follows the Danube to Belgrade. Beyond the Yugoslav capital the lofty Balkans loom ahead, with black or red-brown masses of rock, waterfalls and patches of forest, The machine crosses the mountain barrier by a pass and follows the valley of the River Yardar into Greece.

Soon the Gulf of Salonika is seen below; to starboard rises Mount Olympus, dwelling of the gods of Greek mythology. Land and sea alternate until the liner descends at Tatoi Aerodrome, the airport of Athens, at 5 p.m., local time. During the day’s flight the passenger has had to advance his watch twenty minutes when he passed from Holland into Germany and an hour on the flight from Hungary to Greece. This is his introduction into the mysteries of time zones and the speed of modern air liners.

In winter the first leg of the course is southward to Marseilles for 612 miles. The liner passes over the polders (reclaimed tracts of land) of north and south Holland and the heathland of Brabant, crosses the Belgian border over manufacturing areas and then the French frontier near Sedan. Having flown above hills, then above the Forest of Argonne and the Plateau de Langres, the liner passes Dijon, the railway junction for lines from Paris to Switzerland and to the Riviera.

THE EUROPEAN ROUTES of the K.L.M. services

THE EUROPEAN ROUTES of the K.L.M. services. Many countries are served by these routes, which begin at the Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam. The dotted lines indicate the summer and winter routes taken by the air liners on the long-distance route to Batavia. There are three routes from Amsterdam to England. Two of these are to London, one direct and the other via Rotterdam. The third route is to Doncaster, Manchester and Liverpool.

Farther south the Jura Mountains and then the Alps are seen, with Mont Blanc in the distance to port. Mont Blanc remains in view for about 200 miles along the route. The machine crosses the River Rhone east of Lyons and continues eastward of the railway and road that follow the Rhone through Valence, Orange, Avignon, Tarascon and Arles. The liner lands at Marignane, the airport of Marseilles.

This southerly journey has taken the passenger from the bracing but bleak North Sea winds to the softer atmosphere of the Mediterranean. He has not had to advance his watch, but does so during the next stage, which is one of 503 miles to Naples.

Having taken off from Marignane, the Douglas steers south-east with the lovely coastline to starboard and the Maritime Alps to port. The liner leaves the coast between Toulon and Nice and speeds above the Ligurian Sea; the mountains of Corsica appear on the starboard bow. The machine crosses the northern peninsula of the rugged island near Bastia and is soon over the sea again, with the island of Elba to port and the islet of Monte Cristo to starboard. The Italian coast is reached and the machine goes on to Naples.

If the weather is favourable, the liner crosses the Apennine Mountains to Brindisi, in the “heel” of Italy, and flies over the Strait of Otranto and past the island of Corfu to the mainland of Greece. Should the weather be less fair, the pilot avoids the mountains by flying along the coast, passing between Naples and Capri, and then crossing the “toe” of Italy. Having left the mainland, the Douglas crosses the Ionian Sea and approaches Greece between the islands of Kephalonia and Levkas. The aeroplane passes above the Gulf of Patras and the Gulf of Corinth, and lands at Tatoi, Athens. This alternative route is rather longer than the fine-weather route of 553 miles via the Apennines, Brindisi and Corfu. At Athens the passenger has to allow for the fact that he is, by local time, two hours ahead of Greenwich mean time.

The second day of the summer route takes the passenger to Basra. The liner leaves Tatoi Aerodrome at 5.45 a.m., local time, for Egypt. When the machine has left the mainland of Greece the passenger sees innumerable islands in the Aegean Sea. The machine flies over the island of Milo (Melos) and then over the large island of Crete. Thence it steers either for Alexandria via Mersa Matruh, in Egypt, or for Alexandria direct. The distance from Tatoi to Mersa Matruh is 508 miles, flown in three hours; the direct route to Alexandria is 590 miles long. The flight from Athens to Alexandria is scheduled to take four and a half hours, including a stay of thirty minutes at Mersa Matruh.

After half an hour at Alexandria the aeroplane leaves at 10.45 a.m., local time, for a flight of 305 miles in two hours to Lydda, in Palestine. Lydda is the airport for Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Jaffa. At Lydda the passenger stays for forty-five minutes; he leaves at

1.30 p.m. after luncheon for the long stage of 574 miles to Baghdad, reached in three and a quarter hours.

By Ancient Trade Routes

The aeroplane crosses the Jordan Valley and flies over the desolate mountains of Transjordan into the arid regions of Iraq. It lands at Baghdad, the ancient city which aeroplanes have restored to the trade routes of the twentieth century. At Baghdad the passenger adjusts his watch to the local time and stops half an hour for tea. He takes his seat in the Douglas and at 6.15 p.m., local time, the machine leaves the airport for the flight of 279 miles to Basra, where it arrives at 8 p.m. The second night is spent here.

Basra has a modern airport used by landplanes and flying boats. The King of Iraq officially opened the airport on March 25, 1938, the ceremony marking a considerable achievement.

Desolate as the land from Lydda to Basra appears, the aeroplane, with its need for fuel, is helping to restore to prosperity a country whose story goes back to the beginning of human endeavour. Part of the route to Baghdad is parallel with the pipe line carrying oil from Iraq to the Levant. New oilfields are being developed on the shores of the Persian Gulf. On land and sea oil is carried to the Western countries; in the air, the European pilots steer their courses above the caravan routes of the East.

PIONEER WORK on the K.L.M. line to the Dutch East Indies was carried out on Fokker-designed aircraft

PIONEER WORK on the K.L.M. line to the Dutch East Indies was carried out on Fokker-designed aircraft, a three-engined example of which is shown in this photograph. Machines of Fokker design are still in use by K.L.M., but they now carry freight on the European lines only.

From Basra the Douglas flies to Jask, which lies on the Iranian side of the Gulf of Oman, the approach to the Persian Gulf from the Arabian Sea. The flight of 711 miles is made in four hours twenty minutes. The Douglas leaves Basra at 5 a.m., local time, and arrives at Jask at 10.15 a.m., local time; at Jask another adjustment of watches is necessary. The route is over the green waters of the Persian Gulf within sight of the mountains forming the wild coastline of Iran. Having passed Bushire, where there is an airport, the liner follows the Iranian coast to Lingeh. It then crosses., the projecting tip of the Arabian coast and flies over the head of the Gulf of Oman to Jask, where there is a British cable station.

The flight is resumed after a halt of forty-five minutes, the machine taking off at 11 a.m., local time, for the flight of 592 miles to Karachi. The frontier between Iran and Baluchistan is crossed near Gwadar, where the local industry is drying dead sharks in the fierce sun on the beach to render their fins palatable to the Chinese. Along the desolate coast the passenger is glad of luncheon to take his eye and mind from the inhospitable and barren country. The flying time is three hours forty minutes, but five hours fifteen minutes have elapsed according to the difference in local times when the passenger lands at Drigh Road Airport, Karachi, India, glad of tea and an hour’s rest. He is not yet out of the region of rock, sand and desert.

Having left at 5.15 p.m., local time, the aeroplane flies over Hyderabad for the stage of 382 miles to Jodhpur, which is reached two and a half hours later. Jodhpur, where the third night is spent, is the capital of the State of Marwar, in Rajputana. With its rock fortress, temples, lakes, good roads and aerodrome, the city is an attractive blend of ancient and modern.

The fourth day of the flight is occupied in flying across India to Burma. Having left Jodhpur at 5 a.m., local time, the Douglas begins the stage of 542 miles to Allahabad. The first part of the flight is over Rajputana, which contains much barren, wild country; but later the United Provinces, watered by the Ganges and its tributaries, are entered. Rivers and rice fields, towns and villages appear in profusion. The aeroplane descends at Bamraoli Airport, Allahabad, at 8.15 a.m., three hours fifteen minutes from Jodhpur. On this flight the traveller has not had to advance his watch.

After a meal, he joins the machine at 8.45 a.m. for the flight of 466 miles to Calcutta, the flying time being two hours fifty minutes. He is now, however, in a different time zone, and arrives at Calcutta at noon locally, for luncheon. The Ganges has been followed to Mirzapur, after which the aircraft’s course has not followed the windings of the river, although the passenger has seen the city of Benares in the distance. The machine has flown over the hills of Bihar, which turn the Ganges towards the north-east, and then over the Plain of Bengal. Thankful for the comfort of travelling in a controlled temperature, the passenger lands at Dum-Dum Airport, Calcutta.

Over the Ganges Delta

At 12.45 p.m. he is in the air again for the stage of 644 miles to Rangoon, Burma. This flight occupies four hours ten minutes, but the difference in time zones makes the time of arrival 5.30 p.m. at Rangoon. The route is first over the Delta of the Ganges, and then over the Bay of Bengal to Burma, where the machine passes forest-clad mountains before reaching the Burmese port. Mingloden Aerodrome is the airport of Rangoon. The fourth night is spent at Rangoon.

The passenger’s fifth day of travel begins at 5.30 a.m., local time, when the machine takes off for Bangkok, crossing the Gulf of Martaban, and flying inland and over the hills of the border into Siam. Don Muang aerodrome, Bangkok, is reached at 8.15 a.m. local time. The flying time for the 360 miles is two hours fifteen minutes, the passenger losing thirty minutes in the eastward journey against the sun.

The next stage, in which the passenger loses twenty minutes, is of 621 miles. First the machine flies along the east coast of the long peninsula, and then over the neck of Malaya to Penang. The flying time is three hours forty minutes, the arrival being at 12.45 p.m., local time. Half an hour later the machine takes off and crosses the Malacca Strait to Medan, in Sumatra, and alights on soil which is under the flag of the Netherlands. The flight of 161 miles is made in one hour five minutes by the clock, but in only fifteen minutes according to local times, because on this occasion the short deviation to the south-west has caused complications in the time zone adjustments.

Medan is the last stage on the K.L.M. route proper, the remaining routes being operated either by combined services of the company and of those of the K.N.I.L.M. (Koninklijke Nederlandsch Indische Luchtvaart Maatschappij, or Royal Netherlands Indies Airways), or by the K.N.I.L.M. Solely.


THE K.L.M. ROUTE TO THE FAR EAST. During the winter months the track followed to Athens is nearly 200 miles longer than the summer route, which is via Leipzig, Vienna and Budapest. This greater distance, however, is justified by the finer weather generally experienced when the aircraft are flying via Marseilles and Naples. After Athens the route is th2 same for winter and summer services.

The main route crosses the Malacca Strait again, to Singapore. After an hour at Medan the passenger resumes his seat and the aeroplane takes off at 2.30 p.m., to fly the 390 miles to Singapore in two hours twenty-five minutes. Because of the difference in the local times the aeroplane lands at 5.45 p.m. The fifth night is spent at Singapore. The next morning the Douglas takes off at 6 a.m. and again crosses the Strait, to Sumatra, covering the 303 miles to Palembang in two hours five minutes, although the local time on arrival is only 7.45 a.m. A direct service from Medan to Palembang is flown to link with the mail steamer from the neighbouring port of Belawan to Holland; this route avoids Singapore.

Palembang lies on and partly in the River Musi, as some of the dwellings are on land, others are on rafts moored to the shore, and yet others are on piles. It is an important air, sea, railway and river junction. The aeroplane leaves at 8.15 a.m. and crosses the end of Sumatra and the sea, landing at Batavia, the famous port of the island of Java, 277 miles distant, in one hour forty-five minutes. The arrival by local time is 10.30 a.m., for again the passenger is in another time zone. Bandoeng, Java, sixty-six miles farther, is reached in thirty minutes.

From Bandoeng the K.N.I.L.M. services carry the passenger to Samarang and Surabaya, in Java, and then across the strait to Bali and across the sea to Macassar, in Celebes.

Bangkok is the air junction for the Air France route to Saigon and to Hanoi. From Hanoi other air liners go to China to connect with the flying boats to the Philippines, Honolulu and San Francisco. Singapore provides connexion with the Qantas section of the Imperial Airways route to Australia.

The following is a selection of fares from London (at the time of writing); Calcutta, single £108, return £194 8s.; Rangoon, single £120, return £216; Bangkok, single £140, return £252; Penang, single £150, return £270; Singapore, single £156, return £280 16s.; Batavia, single £170, return £306.

In the homeward direction from Bandoeng the stages are: first day Medan, second day Rangoon, third day Jodhpur, fourth day Basra, fifth day Athens, Amsterdam being reached on the afternoon of the sixth day.

On the European routes there are many well established K.L.M. services. There are services between Amsterdam and London, either direct or via Rotterdam; also between Amsterdam and Paris, either direct or via Rotterdam and Brussels. The “Blue Danube Air Express” links Rotterdam, Prague, Vienna and Budapest; the “Berlin Air Express” Amsterdam and Berlin. By the “Scandinavian Air Express” passengers fly from Amsterdam to Copenhagen and Stockholm. Other cities and towns in direct air communication with Amsterdam include Frankfurt, Manchester, and Liverpool, as well as various places in Holland.

South American Air Links

In the West Indies the services link the Dutch islands of Curacao and Aruba, where vast quantities of petroleum are prepared, for tankers, with La Guaira, Coro and Maracaibo in Venezuela, and with Trinidad and Barbados. These services connect with those of Pan American Airways to the United States and to South America.

A new air service is to be operated in the Far East by the K.N.I.L.M. and Pan American Airways between Batavia and Manila, in the Philippine Islands. Manila is an air junction. Here the Pan American flying boats which cross the Pacific connect with Sikorsky flying boats to Hong Kong. The service from the Netherlands East Indies to Manila will enable passengers from Australia and the East Indies to fly to Hong Kong without going, as at present, via Indo-China. It will also enable them to fly via Manila and Honolulu to the United States.

The pioneer flight to the Dutch East Indies was made by a single-engined Fokker machine in 1924. After years of experiment the company began regular services on this route in 1930. The enterprise of the Dutch in developing the route stimulated other countries, because the speeds attained were so high that other countries revised their schedules. In 1934 a K.L.M. air liner took part in the air race from Mildenhall (Suffolk) to Melbourne, and this machine, a DC-2, piloted by K. D. Parmentier and J. J. Moll, showed that air liners were able to fly at almost the speed of an aeroplane built specially for racing.


A DUTCH MACHINE AT MILAN AERODROME, ITALY. Milan is on the K.L.M route from Amsterdam to Rome. Frankfurt, Germany, is also on this route. The aeroplane is a DC-2, of American design. Like the K.L.M. DC-3s, the DC-2s are built under licence in Holland by the Fokker Company. Seats for fourteen passengers are normally provided in machines of this type.

You can read more on “Across the Pacific”, “Air Travel to the Continent” and

“World-Wide French Services” on this website.

Royal Dutch Air Lines