Wolfgang von Gronau-German aviation pioneer and record breaker

Wolfgang von Gronau (1893-1977) was a German aviation pioneer. He made the first attempt to fly across the North Atlantic from the island of Sylt in 1929, but it ended in failure.

One year later, he completed the feat in a Dornier Do J Wal ("whale").

The Wal was a twin-engine German flying boat of the 1920s designed by Dornier Flugzeugwerke. The Do J was designated the Do 16 by the Reich Air Ministry (RLM) under its aircraft designation system of 1933.

The Treaty of Versailles signed in 1919 ended WW-I. The treaty forbids Germany's involvement in military aviation. German aeronautical engineers and designers concentrated on passenger-carrying aircraft. The Dornier works at Friedrichshafen on Lake Constance were producing a freight/passenger twin engine seaplane called "Wals" (whales).

A Wal at Slite, Gotland en-route to Gdansk-Stockholm in 1925.Photo ©commons.wikimedia.org

Wolfgang von Gronau was convinced that the Dornier Wals could be used to establish a commercial air route between Germany and the United States. The German government was not convinced of von Gronau's ideas even after he had made two successful round trip Atlantic crossings. To prove his case, von Gronau decided to make a third crossing. Once started, he decided to extend his 3rd trip to a round-the world flight. He hoped for world-wide recognition to get the attention of the German government for his air route ideas.

Wolfgang von Gronau over the Templiner Sea……..Ticker Parade upon arrival in New York. Photo © Von Bundesarchives / commons.wikimedia.org

On July 22, 1932 in a Donier seaplane called the "Gronland-Wal" (Greenland Whale) they took off from List, Island of Sylt (northern most part of Germany) for his Atlantic crossing flight which he changed to a round-the-world flight. He was accompanied by his co-pilot, Gerth von Roth and mechanic, Franzl Hack and radio operator, Frtiz Albrecht. They returned to Germany touching down at Lake Constance on November 9, 1932 visiting the Dornier works and then returned to List to make their mark completing a round-the-world flight.


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