Das große Flugboot Rohrbach „Romar“ D-1734 stürzte am 10. September 1929 in der Nähe von Grömitz in die Ostsee. Es befand sich auf einem Probeflug in niedriger Höhe über dem Meer (zwecks Untersuchung des sog. Luftkissen-Effekts), als unvermittelt das rechte der drei Triebwerke aussetzte. Die beim Aufschlag auf das Wasser entstandenen Lecks waren so erheblich, daß die Maschine nach relativ kurzer Zeit sank. Das Wrack wurde zwar wieder gehoben, aber dann verschrottet. Die offizielle Ausbuchung der D-1734 in den amtlichen NfL (Nachrichten für Luftfahrer) erfolgte erst mit 2 ½ jähriger Verspätung. (Slg. Frost/ADL)
On September 10, 1929, the giant flying boat Rohrbach „Romar“ D-1734 crashed in the Ost Sea, in the neighborhood of Grömitz. It was on a test-flight at low altitude investigating the so-called aerodynamic ‘ground effect’ (i.e. the influence of the closeness of the ground on lift and speed), when suddenly the rightmost engine stalled. The impact on the water surface created so much leakage that the aircraft sank after a relatively short time. Although the wreckage was salvaged, it was declared total loss. The actual deletion from the official register NfL (Nachrichten für Luftfahrer) did not take place until 21/2 years later. (transl.rs)
The magazine AERONAUTICS reports on Sep. 23, 1929 under ‘Flights & Flyers’:
“Furious was Dr. Adolf K. Rohrbach, head of the Rohrbach Metall-Flugzeugbau, who was in Manhattan last week.
One of the three huge tri-motored Rohrbach-Romar seaplanes his company has built for Luft Hansa’s trans-Atlantic service crashed at Travemünde, Germany, floated for 90 minutes, then sank.
Thirteen passengers and crew were saved. The crash was due to test flying at low speed. The sinking was because hull portholes and bulkhead doors had not been closed as Dr. Rohrbach had ordered.”
In fact, this fatal crash would herald the end of the Rohrbach story.
ELEMENTARY NAVIGATION FOR AIRCRAFT PILOTS By A. W. BROWN
” A KNOWLEDGE of at least the elements of navigation is necessary to the pilots of modem aircraft undertaking long journeys. whether over land or ocean. On recognised air-routes over the land, his task will be made easier by the provision of land marks and lighthouses, but over the ocean, his only guides will be the wireless telegraph, or the SUN and stars. Wireless telgraphy provides an efficient and rapid means of locating the positions of an aircraft during a moderately long journey, but its reliability has yet to be proved over greater distances, such as will obtain in the Atlantic flight. On the other hand, observation of the sun or stars provides a reliable and never-failing means of position-finding, for it will be seldom indeed that aircraft will be unable to rise above any clouds obscuring the sky. It is not necessary for the pilot to know every detail of the methods of navigation in use on shipboard ; aircraft are in no danger from rocks or shoals, and have a large radius of vision, so that a high degree of accuracy is not essential. At the same time, the great speed of aircraft, and the extent to which they are affected by the wind, render necessary a system of navigation by which the position may be found at frequent intervals with rapidity and a minimum of calculation. “
From the same splendid Archives: FLIGHT magazine, June 19, 1919: THE FIRST NON-STOP FLIGHT ACROSS THE ATLANTIC WITH a British-designed and British-built aeroplane and engine, piloted by British officers, rests the honour of having made the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. In an .Vickers-Vimy-Rolls-Royce biplane. [This] has won for them the Daily Mail prize of 10,000 pounds, the 2,000 guineas from the Ardath Tobacco Co., and 1.000 pounds from Mr. Lawrence R. Phillips for the first British subject to fly the Atlantic.….”
MESSAGE from Capt. Alcock and Lieut. Brown to the Royal Aero Club, sent off from the wireless station at Clifden :—
” Landed at Clifden, Ireland.at 8.40 a.m., Greenwich mean-time, June 15; Vickers-Vimy Atlantic machine, leaving Newfoundland Coast 4.28 p.m. (G.M.T.), June 14. Total time 16 hours 12 minutes. Instructions awaited.” AS SOON AS the formalities were completed Capt. Alcock and Lieut. Brown dismantled the instruments from their machine and prepared to make for London as quickly as possible.…
[after many celebrations in Ireland they finally arrived at the Royal Aero Club in London:]…
They were welcomed by Gen. Holden, who said: “…It was one of the most remarkable feats of this century, and one which would be remembered as long as the world lasted. It was nine years since Bleriot crossed the Channel, a distance of 20 miles. Everybody thought that a magnificent exploit at the time ; but here they were welcoming men who had crossed nearly 2,000 miles.”
Three cheers having been given for the airmen, there were repeated calls upon them to speak.
Captain John William Alcock (1892-1919)
CAPT. ALCOCK, standing on a chair, said :— ” I should like to thank Gen. Holden for the kind words he has said about Lieut. Brown and myself. I must say the flight has been quite straightforward. Although we had a little difficulty in keeping our course, Lieut. Brown did very well and steered a wonderful course. With regard to the flight itself all the credit is due to the machine, and particularly the engine—that is everything. If the engine went well there was nothing to prevent us getting across so long as Lieut. Brown was able to get his sights, and here we are.”
Lieut. Brown, who also was loudly cheered, [spoke in similar vein]
AFTERWARDS Capt. Alcock and Lieut. Brown stepped out on to the balcony, where they were greeted with loud cheers by the crowds still waiting outside, Lieut. Brown ultimately driving off to Ealing where a further reception by the local authorities was gone through.
Meanwhile Capt.Alcock, after dinner at the Club, went to Olympia to witness the great boxing match.
THE FOLLOWING is the story of the crossing as given to the Daily Mail by Capt. Alcock :
—” WE have had a terrible journey.The wonder is we are here at all. We scarcely saw the sun or the moon or the stars. For hours we saw none of them. The fog was very dense, and at times we had to descend to within 300 ft. of the sea.For four hours the machine was covered in a sheet of ice carried by frozen sleet; at another time the fog was so dense that my speed indicator did not work, and for a few seconds it was very alarming. We looped the loop, I do believe, and did a very steep spiral. We did some very comic “stunts,” for I have had no sense of horizon. The winds were favourable all the way : north-west and at times south-west. We said in Newfoundland we would do the trip in 6 hours, but we never thought we should. An hour and a half before we saw land we had no certain idea where we were, but we believed we were at Galway or thereabouts. Our delight in seeing Eashal Island and Turbot Island (5 miles west of Clifden) was great. People did not know who we were when we landed, and thought we were scouts on the look-out for the ‘ Vimy.’
“We encountered no unforeseen conditions. We did not suffer from cold or exhaustion except when looking over the side ; then the sleet chewed bits out of our faces. We drank coffee and ale and ate sandwiches and chocolate. The only thing that upset me was to see the machine at the end get damaged. From above, the bog looked like a lovely field, but the machine sank into it up to the axle and fell over on to her nose.”
It certainly was unfortunate that what looked like a good meadow from above should have turned out to be a bog. Not only did the ” Vimy ” bury her nose in it but a R.A.F.machine which flew over from Oranmore to render assistance also came to grief. Later advices indicate that the Vickers machine is not so seriously injured as was at first supposed.
DURING the greater part of the flight of 1,950 miles the machine was at an average altitude of 4,000 ft. but at one
time—about 6 a.m.—in an endeavour to get above the clouds and fog, it went up to 11,000 ft. Lieut. Brown was only
able to take three readings for position, one from the sun, one from the moon and one from the Pole Star and Vega.
On passing Signal Hill, Lieut. Brown set out a course for the ocean on 124 deg. compass course and at 3 a.m. from an observation on Polaris and Vega he found he was about 2 deg. south. He then set a course of 110 deg.
Between 4 and 5 a.m. the machine ran into a very thick fog bank, and the air speed indicator jammed, through sleet freezing on it, at 90 m.p.h. It was then that Capt. Alcock thinks the machine looped, at any rate it went into a steep spiral which only ended with the machine practically on its back about 50 ft. from the water. The machine was covered with ice, and it continually became necessary to chip ice off the instruments, etc. Capt. Alcock says that he nursed the engines all the way, and had one-third of his petrol supply left when he landed. One of the exhaust pipes blew off, but otherwise there was no trouble from the engine installation.
APPARENTLY the start from St. John’s provided an anxious time for the onlookers. The machine had a hard job to get away with her heavy load. The aerodrome level was only 500 yards long, but the machine took off at 300 yards, and just managed to clear the trees and houses. However she climbed steadily if very slowly, and when she passed over the harbour a t St. John’s had reached a height of 1,000 ft.
THE FLIGHT has shown that the Atlantic flight is practicable, but I think it should be done not with an aeroplane or seaplane, but with a flying-boat. We had plenty of reserve fuel left, using only two-thirds of our supply.”
From FLIGHT Magazine, Deceember 25, 1919: THE DEATH OF SIR JOHN ALCOCK IT is with most profound regret that we have to record the fatal accident to Sir John Alcock, which occurred on the afternoon of December 18,’ while he was engaged in taking a new Vickers machine to Paris in connection with the Salon. It appears that the machine when nearing Rouen had great difficulty in negotiating a strong wind. A farmer at Cote d’Evrard, about 25 miles north of Rouen, saw the machine come out of the fog, commence to fly unsteadily, and—it was then about 1 o’clock—it suddenly crashed to the ground.
SIR JOHN ALCOCK was taken from the wreck, but unfortunately there was considerable delay in getting medical assistance as the farmhouse near where the crash occurred is out of the way. As soon as the accident was reported, doctors rushed from No. 6 British General Hospital, Rouen, but they were too late. It is probable that an enquiry will be held by the French authorities, at which the Air Ministry and Messrs. Vickers will be represented. Arrangements are being made for the conveyance of the body of Sir John Alcock to England for burial in Manchester, his native city. The death of Sir John Alcock is an irreparable loss to aviation. His great flight across the Atlantic is too fresh in the mind of readers of FLIGHT for further reference to be made to it here, while his previous work is recorded in the pages of past volumes of this paper.
NOTE: After his record Atlantic flight, Sir Arthur Whitten Brown pursued a career in industry. He rejoined the RAF for a short period during the Second World War, but had to resign because of ill health. He died in his sleep in 1948.
Every country has its own Aviation History, with gods and goddesses, who were as famous ninety years ago as the baseball players and pop stars of today. America of course had Lindbergh and Byrd, Holland had renowned pilots like Geyssendorffer, Parmentier and van Dijk, while in the U.K. Alan Cobham was one of the most famous pioneers, who explored new traffic routes through the British Empire with aircraft that were exceedingly primitive according to our present standards.
Cobham was born in 1894. After a simple education he seemed predestined for office life in the City of London. However, during WWI he found himself with the Royal Flying Corps and after demob, he dived into civil aviation, a sector of endeavor that had not yet really begun to function. Cobham tried every alley that was presented to him. In his first season he gave 5000 people their ‘air baptism’. He took part in air shows, demonstrations, aerial photography and record setting flights. His name became well known because of exploratory flights to such faraway places as Rangoon and Cape Town.
In 1922 he married Gladys Lloyd and in the same year he flew in one day from London to Bucharest. In 1926 he set off a wave of national pride and excitement by a flight to Australia, after which he was knighted to “Commander of the British Empire”. From then on, he was entitled to call himself Sir Alan and his wife Lady Gladys.
Always looking for new challenges, he meets in 1927Sir Oswald Short, builder of a revolutionary type flying boat, the “Singapore”. It is a beauty of a biplane with a wing span of over thirty meters. Between the wings, two powerful Rolls Royce Condor engines are mounted, braced by sturdy crosswise struts. The machine is particularly special because of its whale-like boat fuselage that easily accommodates six persons and is built of seawater resistant aluminium.
Sir Oswald asks Sir Alan to submit the machine to an ultimate trial by making a flight around the African continent. Of course our young lord cannot say no to this tempting invitation and so, on a windy day in November 1927, Lord and Lady Cobham, co-pilot Worrall, Rolls Royce engineers Green and Conway and camera operator Bonnett take off from a choppy river at Medway. Bonnett will record the journey on celluloid for Gaumont Pictures.
Cobham (with goggles) and Worrall
Three days later, while cruising along the west coast of Corsica, the weather suddenly turns bad very quickly. The wind, which is first a tail wind, now blows from the direction in which their destination lies. Daylight is diminishing and there is no inn in sight to pass the night…
“On the long journey that we had begun, we had taken it as a rule not to open the throttles of our engines fully, but now an occasion presented itself to call upon our spare power, because we had to make up for time. So full-throttle it went, lowering at the same time the nose of our machine to present less frontal area to the head wind. In this way we gave our giant flying boat a speed of no less than 115 sea miles per hour. Our altitude was no more than 10 meters over sea level to avoid the maximum counter force of the wind, because the higher one flies, the stronger the wind.”
From Bonifacio, Cobham sets out a southeast course to Sicily, to cross from there on a short run to Malta, where they hope to spend the night in the comfortable harbor of St. Paul’s Bay. With a headwind of thirty miles an hour, however, it is a mighty struggle to reach Sicily and pass the island to the south, a distance of more than 450 miles. The day is drawing to a close. Heavy clouds in the western sky make for an early evening and the crew begin to feel uncomfortable. The waves look ever more ominous as the daylight fails and the storm increases. The giant airplane is a mere toy in this deserted world of waves and clouds, splashed by water and tossed about by gusts of wind. If no sheltered landing site is found before dark sets in completely, the sea will overwhelm them and they all will be pulled down in the deep and drown…
Lady Gladys shivers at her little typewriter table in the dark hull with the two open deck hatches through which showers of rain and wind sweep inside. To her immense relief her husband suddenly calls through the speaking-tube that he has seen the lights of a man-of-war at anchor near the west coast of Malta. Oh, miracle, it is the flagship of the British Mediterranean Fleet, the “Queen Elizabeth”. The Singapore circles low, touches the water on the lea side and plows through the high waves to the ship. Cobham makes himself known by means of his megaphone and the Commodore on the big ship orders his First Mate to shout back that he would be honored to receive the famous air travelers for diner and a bunk for the night.
Securing the flying boat to the giant ship and preparing her for the night takes some time and Lady Gladys takes the opportunity to inspect her wardrobe for a suitable outfit for this unforeseen dinner invitation. It is of necessity rather limited, although she does possess two evening dresses for official occasions. She finally selects her long black suede skirt with white silken blouse and chain of pearls. Because of the beastly weather she’ll be leant a long, grey woolen uniform coat by one of the crew members in the sloop carrying them to the battleship. It is obvious that all the ship’s men are eying her as she carefully steps from the sloop onto the ship’s ladder in her grey pumps. A whistle is blown and even a hurrah is heard.
The introductions are very formal yet cordial. Loyal subjects of the same King meet in the middle of the sea and behave as if they are at a cocktail party. At dinner, CommodoreJames first proposes a toast to His Majesty George the Fifth and then one to the success of Cobham’s mission. As the meal progresses, Gladys, seated of course to the right of the Commodore, feels more and more at ease and happily secure in the middle of all these handsome, immaculately dressed men smelling nicely of tobacco. She is so glad to be delivered from that horrible sea. She is truly grateful to God, Alan and the Royal Navy.
After dinner she would have preferred to go straight to bed, but the Commodore insists on a guided tour of the ship, so she obediently follows him upstairs, downstairs, along decks and back again below, from bow to stern and back to bow, all the time stepping in her tight skirt with her pumps through odd doors with high thresholds in watertight bulkheads, meanwhile smiling to one thousand grinning sailors.
The following day they were towed to a sheltered part of St. Paul’s Bay. From then on the whole flight became a huge success, even if they nearly drowned near Malta, suffered a hurricane in Benghazi, underwent quarantine because of the pest in Alexandria, weathered a sand storm near Khartoum and overheating in Malakai. In the marshes of Bor they scattered a herd of one thousand elephants, which made Worrall loose his index finger in the air screw; they nearly lost control in the rapids on the Nile near Mongalla and enjoyed liqueur and cigars at the crossing of the equator. They almost sank because of a collision near Mwanza, made an emergency landing at Tresco and were delayed for one full month at Bassam.
But these were exactly the things why they had started out in the first place and Gladys loved it.
Today I am updating the ROHRBACH ARCHIVES with some remarkable photographic material sent to me by good friends. Also available is now a link to the PDF copy of a Publicity Brochure (in French) of the ROHRBACH METALL-FLUGZEUGBAU from 1928, promoting its flying boats with Trans Atlantic capacity. Click here or in the relevant column on this screen:
I am posting today on my site a page that describes the history of the design effort of ISAAC MACHLIN LADDON to create that remarkable flying boat, the PBY CATALINA.
Press the tab at the top of the screen or you can download the story directly from here: LADDON CATALINA
Since The Rohrbach Chronicles appeared on my site in May 2014, several hundred people have viewed them and I have received several very complimentary reactions. Among them from Europe and also a great many from the United States. Some respondents were so friendly as to send me additional material about the subjects that I covered.
I am very grateful for this show of cordiality.
From time to time I intend to use the material I received to complement my archive-on-site.
Today a new, short addition with a well-known but very special photograph.