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Dornier Do X

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The Dornier Do X was the largest, heaviest and most powerful flying boat in the world when it was produced by the Dornier company of Germany in 1929. The aircraft was conceived by Dr. Claudius Dornier, starting in 1924,[1] and took seven years to design and another two years to build. In the design process, a one-to-one wooden mock-up, the first in aviation history, was built.

It was financed by the German Transport Ministry and was manufactured in a specially designed plant at Altenrhein,[1] on the Swiss portion of Lake Constance, in order to circumvent the Treaty of Versailles, which forbade aircraft to be built in Germany after World War I.

While popular with the public, a lack of commercial interest and a number of (non-fatal) accidents prevented more than three models from being built.


The Do X had an all-duralumin hull, with wings composed of a steel-reinforced duralumin framework covered in heavy linen fabric, covered with aluminum paint.

It was initially powered by 12 Template:Convert Siemens-built Bristol Jupiter radial engines (six tractor propellers and six pushers), mounted in six tower nacelles on the wing. The air-cooled Jupiter engines were prone to overheating, and only able to lift the plane to an altitude of 425 m (1,400 ft). The engines were supervised by an engineer, who also controlled the throttle. The pilot would ask the engineer to adjust the power, in a manner similar to that used on maritime vessels[2]. After completing 103 flights in 1930, the Do X was refitted with Template:Convert Curtiss Conqueror water-cooled 12-cylinder inline engines. Only then was it able to reach the altitude of 500 m (1,650 ft) necessary to cross the Atlantic.

The plane was designed to carry 66 passengers long distance or 100 on shorter flights. The luxurious accommodation approached the standards of transatlantic liners. On the main deck was a smoking room with its own wet bar, a dining salon, and seating for the 66 passengers, which could be converted to sleeping berths for night flights. Aft of the passenger spaces was an all-electric galley, lavatories, and cargo hold. The cockpit, navigational office, engine control and radio rooms were on the upper deck. The lower deck held fuel tanks and nine watertight compartments, only seven of which were needed to provide full flotation.


File:Bundesarchiv Bild 102-10658, Flugschiff Dornier "Do X", Maschinenzentrale.jpg
The engineer in the machine centre operated the throttles of the 12 engines

The Flugschiff (flying ship), as it was called, was launched for its first test flight on 12 July, 1929 with 14 crew.[1] In order to satisfy skeptics, on its 70th test flight on 21 October the plane carried 169 people;[1] 150 passengers (mostly production workers and their families, and a few journalists), 10 crew and 9 "stowaways", who did not hold tickets for the already popular plane. The flight broke the world record for the number of people aboard an airplane, not to be beaten for another 15 years. The plane taxied for 50 seconds before slowly ascending to an altitude of only 200 m (650 ft). As a result of the ship's size, passengers were asked to crowd together on one side or the other to help the aircraft make turns. It flew for 40 minutes[1] at a maximum speed of 170 km/h (105 mph), finally landing on Lake Constance.

To introduce the plane to the potential United States market[1] the Do X took off from Friedrichshafen, Germany on 3 November 1930, piloted by Friedrich Christiansen, commencing a transatlantic test flight, with New York as intended final destination.[1] The route took the Do X to the Netherlands, England, France, Spain, and Portugal. The journey was interrupted at Lisbon on 29 November 1930, when a tarpaulin made contact with a hot exhaust pipe and started a fire that consumed most of the portside wing. After sitting in Lisbon harbor for six weeks while new parts were fabricated and the damage repaired, the flying boat continued (with several further mishaps and delays) along the Western African coast, across the Atlantic to South America (where the crew were greeted as heroes by the local German émigré communities).

File:Dornier DO-X Rio - New York First Flight Cover 1931.jpg
Cover carried from Rio de Janeiro to New York on the DO-X, August 5-27, 1931

The aircraft then went north to the United States, finally reaching New York on 27 August 1931.[1] Here the plane and crew spent the next nine months as the Do X's engines were overhauled, and thousands of sightseers made the trip to Glenn Curtiss Airport (now LaGuardia Airport) to tour the leviathan of the air. However, the economic downturn of the Great Depression scuppered Dornier's marketing plans.[1] The return trip began on 21 May 1932 from New York to Newfoundland, on to the Azores, and finally landing on Müggelsee, Berlin on 24 May,[1] where the Do X was met by a cheering crowd of 200,000.

Final fate

Germany's original Do X was turned over to Lufthansa, the national airline, after the financially strapped Dornier Company could no longer operate it. After a successful 1932 tour of German coastal cities, Lufthansa planned a Do X flight to Vienna, Budapest, and Istanbul for 1933. The voyage ended after nine days when the plane's tail section tore off during a botched, over-steep landing on a reservoir lake near the city of Passau.[1] While the fiasco was successfully covered up and the plane repaired, it was then flown to Berlin,Template:Clarify me where it became the centerpiece of Germany's new aviation museum in 1934.[citation needed]

It remained an exhibit until it was destroyed in a RAF air raid during World War II in late November 1943. While never a commercial success, the Dornier Do X was the largest aeroplane of its time, a pioneer in demonstrating the potential of an international passenger air service and one of the most impressive aircraft built. A successor, the Do-XX, was envisioned by Dornier but never advanced beyond the design study stage.

Further models

Three Do Xs were constructed in total: the original operated by Dornier, and two other machines based on orders from Italy - the X2 (named Umberto Maddalena) and X3 (named Alessandro Guidoni). The Italian variants were essentially identical to the original with the exception of the powerplant and engine mounts. Each craft was powered by Fiat A-22R V12 water-cooled engines, with the six motor mounts being covered by a streamlined fairing. The Do X2 entered service in August, 1931, and the X3 followed in May, 1932. Both ships were based at the seaplane station at La Spezia, on the Ligurian Sea.

Italy's Do X3 Alessandro Guidoni, one of the three Do X's built.

Both orders originated with SANA, then the Italian state airline, but the aircraft were requisitioned and used by the Italian Air Force primarily for prestige flights and public spectacles. After plans for a first-class passenger service (Genoa-Gibraltar) were deemed unfeasible, the X2 and X3 may have been used for training and transport flights (one rumor has it that a Do X even ferried troops to Ethiopia in February, 1935[citation needed]). No evidence exists of their fate; presumably, they were quietly broken up for scrap around 1935.[citation needed]


Specifications (Do XIa)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 10-14
  • Capacity: 66-100 passengers
  • Length: 41 m (134 ft 2 in)
  • Wingspan: 48 m (157 ft 5 in)
  • Height: 10 m (33 ft)
  • Wing area: 450 m² (4,844 ft²)
  • Empty weight: 28,250 kg (62,280 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 56,000 kg (123,460 lb)
  • Powerplant: 12× Curtiss Conqueror water-cooled 12-cylinder inline, 455 kW (610 hp) each


Appearances in fiction

See also

Comparable aircraft

Related lists

See also


  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 Template:Citation
  2. Dreamer, doers and daredevils, David Marshall and Bruce Harris,ISBN 1-74124-017-4,2003

Further reading


  • Jörg-Michael Hormann Flugschiff DO-X, die Chronik, Bielefeld 2006, ISBN 3-7688-1841-1
  • Jörg-Michael Hormann and Reinhard Hofrichter: Ein Schiff fliegt in die Welt, Deutsche Post AG, ISBN 300014367X
  • Peter Pletschacher: Grossflugschiff Dornier Do X, Aviatic Verlag GmbH, Oberhaching 1997, ISBN 3-925505-38-5 (has details of the Do X2 and Do X3)

External links

Template:Commons cat

Template:Dornier aircraft

de:Dornier Do X es:Dornier Do X fr:Dornier Do X fy:Dornier Do X it:Dornier Do X nl:Dornier Do-X ja:ドルニエ Do X no:Dornier Do X pl:Dornier Do X pt:Dornier Do X ro:Dornier Do X fi:Dornier Do X sv:Dornier Do X

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dornier Do X".