The 40s (II): Commercial Aviation in Andalusia
With the majority of the LAPE fleet in Republican hands, Franco had to reinvent commercial aviation in the Nationalist zone to cover the most urgent needs, starting with the link between the main decision-making centres and with Italy and Germany. After the war the commercial fleet was reunited with more direct state intervention, although the start of World War II further aggravated the already difficult situation faced by these airlines.
In Andalusia, civil and private aviation disappeared practically right from the outset of the war, with the aircraft and many of the pilots assuming military roles. As we have seen, commercial aviation also suffered a similar fate. However, as soon as the situation was stabilised it became evident that minimum commercial aviation services were needed in the Nationalist zone to ensure communications and civil transport between the cities of Seville and Salamanca, which Franco had established as his political and economic decision-making centres.
Lufthansa and Ala Littoria provided flights to South America via Marseille, where passengers connected to a flight by Air France. These airlines were responsible for the international links. The German airline continued to operate its Berlin-Madrid line with stopovers in Stuttgart and Barcelona in collaboration with LAPE until August of 1936. It also continued its regular transatlantic service from Berlin to Buenos Aires, which had been functioning since 1933 with stopovers in Seville and Las Palmas. Air France, meanwhile, which inherited the old Latécoère line to Algeria and its continuation to South America, continued to offer the lines Toulouse-Barcelona-AlicanteOrán and Toulouse-BarcelonaAlicante-Madrid, with alterations to the route due to the conflict.
Only the Aero Portuguesa line (LisbonTangier-Casablanca) flew over the Gulf of Cádiz from Portugal.
Seville, Salamanca and Tetouan
The military uprising signified the end of LAPE operations in Andalusia. One of its DC-2s ended up in the hands of the rebels when it was about to bomb the uprising in Morocco from Tablada after it was requisitioned by the government. This aircraft joined Franco’s air force and carried out military transport, communications, reconnaissance and bombing missions. The option of creating a military postal service was rejected as it would have depleted the available units of the nationalist aviation in terms of both aircraft and crew. It was clear, however, that external assistance was required.
Daniel de Araoz, one of the directors of the company Iberia LAE (which, despite assigning its fleet to CLASSA in 1929 was never dissolved despite its lack of business activity) went into exile in England from his residence in Madrid. He later moved to Salamanca where he offered his services to General Kindelán, Franco’s head of military aviation, due to the fact that he maintained contacts with Lufthansa, Iberia’s former associate. General Kindelán assigned Araoz the task of re-establishing civil and commercial aviation. In early June 1937 Araoz travelled to Berlin, where he contacted the directors of his former associate and the heads of the RLM (the German Ministry of Aviation or Reichsluftfahrtministerium). He even met the Minister, Hermann Goering, and his petitions reached Hitler himself, who in the end agreed to the terms proposed. As a result, when Araoz returned on 9 June he had achieved commitment to a collaboration agreement which was followed up some days later with a visit to Salamanca by the managing director of the German company, Martin Wronsky. Kindelán accordingly received Germany’s offer through Wronsky, who agreed to supply not only the necessary aircraft but also flight crew and auxiliary staff and ground and communications crew and materials. In exchange, Lufthansa only sought to recover its costs, with no intention of making a profit of any kind.
Meanwhile, Italy took advantage of its role as a participant in the Spanish conflict to inaugurate the Rome-Palma line as early as 2 November 1936, although it actually used the base at Pollensa for the Cant Z-506 floatplanes which offered this service. On 7 December Ala Littoria extended this route to Melilla and Cádiz, offering a regular service every Monday and Thursday from Rome with return flights to the Italian capital on Tuesday and Friday. This line was soon to become practically essential for the Nationalist forces, as it provided regular and safe connections with the rest of Europe. Soon these flights were increased to three times a week and in the summer of 1937 (from 4 April to 2 October), Ala Littoria offered the 333 line (Rome – Cagliari) and the 364 line (Rome Palma (Pollensa) Melilla – Cádiz), although the stopover in Cagliari was only included on the first flights, when the link was actually Rome Pollensa. The flights to Cádiz departed on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, returning to Rome on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The next summer, the route was reorganised, with the 364 line becoming the 405, although without changing the frequency or the stopovers. The new 405 line now provided the link to another two routes, Melilla Tetouan, dubbed 480, and the 481 which linked Malaga and Seville. The lines to and from Italy were provided by Cant Z 506 floatplanes, while the Spanish lines used Savoia-Marcheti S-73s. The Italian company created commercial offices for these routes, using the tourism offices which were in disuse due to the war after reaching an agreement with General Queipo de Llano.
Auxiliary ground units were also posted in all these cities, and in autumn of 1938 there were daily flights between the Andalusian capitals and African cities. Ala Littoria, however, had higher ambitions and in spring of that year it inaugurated an extended line between Seville and Lisbon. Ala Littoria used Tablada Aerodrome in Seville, while in Malaga it called on the city council to build facilities at El Rompedizo managed by the municipal authorities on behalf of the Aviation Department, which was responsible for drafting the project. Practically at the same time as Iberia’s dealings with Lufthansa, Ala Littoria offered to collaborate with the Spanish airline now based in Salamanca, although Araoz rejected this offer as he had already secured the assistance of the Germans.
A German Iberia
The proposal was made to sign the agreement directly with the State, but this option was rejected to avoid “complications” with the Non-Intervention Committee, which supposedly sought to maintain the neutral status of the European powers and their non-involvement in the “internal” conflict in Spain. Accordingly, the agreement was signed between Iberia and Lufthansa. The German company agreed to “provide aerial transport services on behalf of Iberia" while the State agreed in a separate contract to pay Lufthansa for all the associated expenses. Previously, the Franco regime granted Iberia a monopoly over the airlines in Spanish territory, establishing the routes and committing the Aviation Department to supply fuel and facilitate its operations with free storage of aircraft and auxiliary ground vehicles at all Spanish airports. A network was organised based in Salamanca with daily lines to Seville and Tetouan: on Monday, Wednesday and Friday the aircraft stopped in Cáceres, while on other days the flight was direct and only between Salamanca and Seville. Other subsequent lines saw Iberia aircraft —always provided by Lufthansa together with German crews— travel from Salamanca to Vitoria and Santiago de Compostela, with stopovers in Burgos and Valladolid respectively. In mid-August the first Ju-52 /53m aircraft arrived in Salamanca from Berlin with German registration and liveryD-AUKE "Willie Rabe" and D-AUJA “Otto Fink” – along with their crew, technical and administrative staff and an initial shipment of spare parts. They were repainted with their new livery, adopting the old Spanish registration, M for Madrid, although obviously the capital was still faithful to the Republican Government. This was done to avoid confusion with the EC registration internationally recognised for Spanish civil aircraft. Now these tri-engines became the M-CABA "Sanjurjo" and the M-CABE "La Cierva", with unusual markings on the rudders similar to the St Andrew’s Cross of Nationalist military aircraft in monarchist colours and with a similarly bicolour flag. On 16 August 1937 the first flight of the "new" Iberia line departed (Vitoria-Burgos-SalamancaCáceres-Seville-Tetouan), with the Santiago-Valladolid-Salamanca line starting five days later. The international routes SalamancaLisbon and Salamanca-Berlin with stopovers in Marseilles, Geneva and Stuttgart were operated by the German airline, which eventually had up to 40 staff stationed in Spain (including five pilots, five radio operators and five mechanics) in addition to another five who were assigned to the Berlin-Lisbon line and also provided services to Iberia. Following delivery of the third aircraft on 23 April 1938 the Sevilla-Larache-Sidi Ifni-Cape Juby-Las Palmas line was inaugurated, which linked the Canary Islands with the peninsula by air. The arrival of more aircraft led to the extension of the network.
The fifth Ju-52 enabled the startup of the 1201 (Vitoria-Tetouan), 1202 (SevillePalma) and 1200 (Seville-Las Palmas), according to the IATA code. These flew a total of 1,136,432 km and transported 20,925 passengers in 1938 with a seat occupation of 63.25 %, although the Seville-Las Palmas line reached 100 % occupation. The fleet also transported 419,716 kg of luggage, 93,387 kg of excess luggage, 82,425 kg of mail and 191,393 kg of various other freight articles. As the Nationalist forces occupied Republican zones the network was increased with services to the cities recently conquered, reaching a total of nine aircraft in the fleet.
Air traffic in the post-war era
Following the end of the conflict the lines operated by Iberia were Palma-Barcelona-Zaragoza-Vitoria; Barcelona-Madrid-Seville-Tetouan; Madrid-Valencia-Barcelona and Seville-Larache-Ifni-Cape Juby-Las Palmas.
Ala Littoria provided the lines Rome-PollensaMelilla-Cádiz; Seville-Malaga-TetouanMelilla and Seville-Lisbon. On 1 July 1939, three months after the end of the war, Iberia purchased the seven Ju 52/3m aircraft operated by Lufthansa, along with an additional 33 spare engines, for a price of 702,000 marks to be paid in instalments. The following month the company changed its headquarters to Madrid. The total number of passengers increased that year to 43,963, of which 7,009 were from Seville.
The seat occupation on the SevilleLas Palmas route was 86.15 % and the only accident suffered by the fleet occurred in March 1939 in Cabezabellosa, in the Sierra de Gredos; the M-CABO "Mola" (the former D-AXUT) was flying from Salamanca to Seville when it was practically destroyed, although there were no fatalities. The victory over the Republic led to the incorporation of the LAPE resources and the headquarters of Iberia was transferred from Salamanca to the LAPE offices in Madrid in lorries belonging to the Nationalist Aviation. The additional aircraft consisted of four Douglas DC-2s —which were reregistered and renamed ECAAA "Morato", EC-AAB "Ramón Franco", EC-AAC "Vara del Rey" and EC-AAD "Haya"—, a Ford 4-AT (EC-BAB) and four De Havilland Dragon biplanes.
JUNKERS JU-52 / 3M
Undoubtedly the most famous tri-engine transport aircraft of its era and probably the most well-known German civil and military cargo aircraft, the Ju-52 was initially designed as a single-engine aircraft which had its first flight on 13 October 1930. Designed by the engineer Dr. Ernst Zindel, it was a large monoplane with a classic fixed undercarriage built with the typical Junkers corrugated metal structure.
The low cantilever wing was fitted with the so-called “double wing”, a solution consisting of a narrow flap which ran along the whole trailing edge and acted as an aileron. Mainly intended for air transport, it had a rectangular cargo hold with a usable area of 16.7 m3, along with a small space behind the flight deck and other similar spaces under the cabin floor. The main cargo hold had a door on the left measuring 1.81 m x 0.90 m which opened horizontally to form a platform. Another two doors on the righthand side under the fuselage enabled ease of access to the cargo.
The prototype, D-1974, had an 800 hp Junker L88 engine which powered a twin-blade propeller, although this was soon changed for the 600 or 755 hp BMW VIIau with a four blade propeller. Around two years later in April 1932 a larger version was designed known as the Ju 52/3m. It was intended as a multi-purpose aircraft for transport of passengers, cargo and troops, bombing missions and medical evacuation, as a towplane and a floatplane and even for maritime minesweeping operations. Some models were also fitted with skis. Although there were more than 30 variants, it was normally powered by three nine-cylinder BMW radial 525/600kW (830 hp) engines, with the most commonly used civil version being the Ju 52/3mg4e, equipped with 750 hp BMW 132A engines.
Lufthansa used some 230 units of the Ju 52/3m until 1945, introducing it on its international routes in summer of 1932 for the Berlin-MunichVenice-Rome line. Other aircraft which used this model included AB Aerotransport, Aero O/Y, Aeroposta Argentina, AGO, Ala Littoria, British Airways, CAUSA, DDL, DETA, DNL, Eurasia Aviation Corporation, LAB, LOT, Iberia LAE, Malert, Österreichische Luftverkehrs, Sabena, Sedta, Serviços Aereos Portugueses, Sindicato Cóndor, SHCA, South African Airways, Varig and VASP. The governments of Colombia and Peru also used civil versions and in the post-war period Air France, Aéro-Cargo, Air Atlas, Aigle Azur, Air Nolis, Air Ocean, Cie Gle Transsaharianne, TAI and others such as the French Air Force used French-built AAC.1 variants.
Wingspan, 29.95 m;
length, 18.9 m;
height, 2.60 m;
wing area, 119.5 m2;
empty weight, 5,346 kg;
loaded weight, 9,200 kg.
PERFORMANCE (version with BMW 132A engines)
Maximum speed, 290 km/h;
maximum cruising speed, 255 km/h;
minimum speed, 92-98 km/h;
take-off distance, 340 m;
climb to 1,000 m in 4.8 min;
service ceiling, 5,500 m;
range, 915 km.