DH Comet 1 prototype

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Dornier DO X

Dornier DO X

The mighty Dornier Do X must have been a breathtaking sight as it took to the air from Lake Constance. Powered by a dozen Curtiss engines, it was the world's largest seaplane, and the world's heaviest aircraft. Such was its size and designed maximum speed, that it contravened the Treaty of Versailles. But Claude Dornier was determined to build his vision, and circumvented the limititations by establishing a production plant on the Swiss shore of the great lake.

Dornier's creation was to set new standards of splendour for air travel. Passengers were carried on three decks and could enjoy cocktails in the bar before dining in a superbly appointed restaurant, served by its own all-electric kitchen. The seating could be converted to comfortable sleeping berths. This was luxury on a par with ocean liners.

In 1929, this gigantic flying boat proved itself capable of carrying 169 people when it celebrated its 70th test flight. Dornier invited the workers themselves, along with their families, to experience this giant of the sky. The flight, which included a number of leading journalists of the day, was a complete success. During the forty-minute flight, the passengers were asked to help with turns by moving to one side or another of the cabin!

The Do X demonstated its range when it flew from Friedrichshafen to San Juan in the USA. An impressive feat, albeit one that involved several stages, including a six week hold-up in Lisbon when an accidental fire broke out while the aircraft was being serviced.

The X was a magificent flight of imagination but, unfortunatley, not a commercially successful one. The Great Depression blighted US sales, and increasing financial problems at Dornier made further investment impossible. Only three were built, the first of which was operated by Deutsche Luft Hansauntil 1933, when a heavy landing on a lake near Passau in Bavaria tore off the tail. It ended its life as a museum exhibit at the new Deutsche Luftfahrt-Sammlung museum, where it was destroyed during an RAF air raid in 1943.

The other two were purchased by Italy. One also broke off its tail in a heavy landing and both were ultimately scrapped in 1937.

DO X by numbers
First Flight:12 July 1929
Capacity:66-100 passengers
Powerplant:12 × Curtiss Conqueror water-cooled V12 engines of 455 kW (610 hp)
Range:1,700km (1,056mi)
Maximum Speed:211km/h (131mph)
Ceiling:3,200m (10,500ft)
Length:40m (131ft 4in)
Wingspan:48m (157ft 5in)
Height:10.25m (33ft 7in)
Weight:28,250kg (123,460lb)


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