This Saturday, your air mail is brought to you by a flying boat called "Wal" (Whale) and designed by no other than Claudius Dornier.
The Do J was a fairly modern (compared to World War I types) flying boat with a high-mounted strut-braced monoplane wing. Two piston engines were mounted in tandem in a nacelle above the wing and in line with the hull; one engine drove a tractor propeller and the other drove a pusher propeller. The Do J made its maiden flight on 6 November 1922. The flight, as well as most of the production until 1932, took place in Italy because military aviation in Germany was prohibited after World War I under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. Dornier started producing Whales in Germany in 1931, with the production lasting to 1936.
In the military version (Militärwal in German, shown above with Soviet naval markings), a crew of two to four rode in an open cockpit near the nose of the hull. There were one MG-position in the bow in front of the cockpit and one to two amidships. Beginning with Spain, military versions were delivered to Argentina, Chile, the Netherlands for use in their colonies, Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union and to the end of the production Italy and Germany. The main military users, Spain and the Netherlands, manufactured their own versions under licence. Several countries, notably Italy, Norway, Portugal, Uruguay, Great Britain and Germany, used the Wal for military raids.
The civil version (Kabinenwal or Verkehrswal) had a cabin in the nose, offering space for up to 12 passengers, while the open cockpit was moved further aft. Main users of this version were Germany, Italy, Brazil, Colombia.
The Do J was first powered by two 265 kW (355 hp) Rolls-Royce Eagle IX engines. Later versions used nearly every available engine on the market from makers like Hispano-Suiza, Napier & Son, Lorraine-Dietrich, BMW, and even the Liberty Engine. The 10 to-Whales used by Deutsche Luft Hansa for their mail service across the South Atlantic fom 1934 to 1938 had a range of 3,600 km (2,200 mi), and a ceiling of 3,500 m (11,480 ft).
Numerous airlines operated Dornier Wals on scheduled passenger and mail services with great success. The source Gandt,1991 (pages 47–48) lists the following carriers: SANA and Aero Espresso of Italy; Aero Lloyd and Deutsche Luft Hansa of Germany; SCADTA of Columbia; Syndicato Condor of Brazil; Nihon Koku Yuso Kaisha of Japan. According to Nicolaou,1996 the Dornier Wal was "easily the greatest commercial success in the history of marine aviation".
The Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen accompanied by Lincoln Ellsworth, pilot Hjalmar Riiser-Larsen, and three other team members used two Dornier seaplanes in his unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole in 1925. His two aircraft, N-24 and N-25, landed at 87° 44' north. It was the northernmost latitude reached by any aircraft up to that time.
The planes landed a few miles apart without radio contact, yet the crews managed to reunite. One of the aircraft, the N-24 was damaged. Amundsen and his crew worked for over three weeks to prepare an airstrip to take off from ice. They shoveled 600 tons of ice while consuming only one pound (454 g) of daily food rations. In the end, six crew members were packed into the N-25. Riiser-Larsen took off, and they barely became airborne over the cracking ice. They returned triumphant when everyone thought they had been lost forever.
On 18 August 1930, Wolfgang von Gronau started on a transatlantic flight in the same Dornier Wal (D-1422) Amundsen had flown, establishing the northern air route over the Atlantic flying Sylt (Germany)-Iceland-Greenland-Labrador-New York (4670 miles) in 47 flight hours. In 1932 Wolfgang von Gronau flew a Dornier Wal (D-2053) called the "Grönland Wal" (Greenland Whale) on a round-the-world flight.
In 1926 Ramón Franco became a national Spanish hero when he piloted the Dornier Plus Ultra on a trans-Atlantic flight. His co-pilot was Julio Ruiz de Alda Miqueleiz; the other crew members were Teniente de Navio (Navy Lieutenant) Juan Manuel Duran and the mechanic Pablo Rada. The Plus Ultra departed from Palos de la Frontera, in Huelva, Spain on 22 January and arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina on 26 January. It stopped over at Gran Canaria, Cape Verde, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and Montevideo. The 10,270 km journey was completed in 59 hours and 39 minutes.
The biggest and last versions of the Wal, the 8-tonne Wal and 10-tonne Wal (both versions also known as Katapultwal), were operated by Deutsche Luft Hansa on their South Atlantic airmail service from Stuttgart, Germany to Natal, Brazil.On route proving flights in 1933, and scheduled service beginning in February 1934, Wals flew the trans-ocean sector of the route, between Bathurst, The Gambia in West Africa and Fernando de Noronha an island group off South America, launched by catapult from converted merchant ships.
The Wals had to be catapulted due to the sea states in the mid-Atlantic and because they could not take off from the water under their own power with enough fuel to fly the distance. The first merchant converted as a mid-Atlantic refueling stop was the Westfalen a passenger liner which became outdated shortly after World War I to carry mail and passengers due to her small size and cruising speed.
The Do R was a larger development of the Do J, with a larger high-mounted strut-braced monoplane wing and longer fuselage. All but the first three built also had four engines in place of the Do J's two. The Do R could carry 19 passengers in two cabins; 11 in the forward cabin and eight in the rear.
The first R 2 Superwal D-1115 made its maiden flight on 30. September 1926 Two 650-HP-Rolls-Royce Condor-III-engines were mounted in tandem in a nacelle above the wing and in line with the hull; one engine drove a tractor propeller and the other drove a pusher propeller. D-1115 was the big flying boat that could be built in the Dornier factory in Manzell after the war. The Superwal went into service with Severa and later DVS in List, both organisations of the German government to develop military seaplanes ignoring restrictions of the Versailles treaty. 1927 built two more R 2 Superwale for Severa. D-1255 was sometimes used by Deutsche Luft Hansa and named Narwal and D-1385 with 800-HP-Packard-engines, which served until November 1936.
Between 20 January and 5 February the Dornier Chief Pilot Richard Wagner established twelve world records for seaplanes with a new R4 Superwal.
This aircraft and eleven more with Gnome et Rhône Bristol-Jupiter-engines(R4 Gas) or 525-HP-Siemens-Bristol-Jupiter-engines (R4 Sas) came 1928/29 to Società Anonima Navigazione Aerea (SANA) and Luft Hansa.
Apart from their use by Luft Hansa, six Superwals saw regular service with Italian airline SANA into the early 1930s along the Italian west-coast and to Spain. Three aircraft were lost. The Superwal I-RUDO went into the service of the Italian Airministry in 1934 and became the last Superwal in Italian service. It had Isotta-Fraschini-Asso-500-engines. At least one machine actually was assembled in Spain by CASA.