Little Bits of History

Taking to the Skies

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 7, 2015
KLM poster from 1919

KLM poster from 1919

October 7, 1919: The flag carrier airlines of the Netherlands is founded. Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V. (Royal Dutch Airlines) is known as KLM. Albert Plesman sponsored the ELTA aviation exhibition in Amsterdam in 1919. The success of the exhibition led to several Dutchmen with substantial commercial interests spoke hoping for a Dutch airline. They nominated Plesman to head the new airline and in September, Queen Wilhelmina awarded the new venture it’s “Royal” or “Koninklijke” predicate. Plesman founded the new royal airline at The Hague on this day – one of the world’s first commercial airline companies and the only one still operating under its original name.

Jerry Shaw was the first KLM pilot and he flew from Croydon Airport, London to Amsterdam on May 17, 1920. He flew a leased De Haviland DH-16 with the registration G-EALU. Aboard the plane were two British journalists and a number of newspapers. The line continues to fly both passengers and cargo today. In that first year, KLM carried 440 passengers and 22 tons of freight. They took the winter off and returned to service in April 1921 with their own pilots flying their own planes rather than leased ones. KLM now owned some Fokker F.II and Fokker F.III planes. Biplanes were still in the majority, but the Fokker was a sleek, high-wing monoplane and sold well across Europe and in America.

In 1921, KLM became scheduled services and in October 1924 flew their first intercontinental flight. The final destination was in the Dutch East indies on the island of Java and was flown by a Fokker F. VII with Van Der Hoop piloting the plane. In September 1929, the trip became part of the regular schedule for KLM and remained so until World War II broke out in 1939. At the time, it was the world’s longest distance scheduled plane service. In 1930, KLM carried 15,143 passengers. The first experimental transatlantic KLM flight was between Amsterdam and Curacao in December 1934, again aboard a Fokker. When the Netherlands were invaded in World War II, they were able to fly their planes out of the German’s reach and flew passengers for BOAC during the War.

In September 1959, KLM joined the jet age with they purchased four-engine turboprop Lockheed Electras. Their airport was upgraded many times over the years and flying worldwide meant many agreements with other companies. On September 30, 2003, KLM merged with Air France and today both airlines run independently as subsidiaries of the owning company. KLM’s Amsterdam Airport Schiphol is their key hub. Today, they have 115 planes which fly to 138 destinations. Pieter Elbers is the current President and CEO. Their revenue in 2013 was €9.688 billion. They currently are ranked 5th out of 60 major airlines by the JACDEC Airline Safety Ranking.

I never trust the airlines from those countries where the pilots believe in the afterlife. You are safer when they don’t. – Muriel Spark

Pilots take no special joy in walking: pilots like flying. Pilots generally take pride in a good landing, not in getting out of the vehicle. – Neil Armstrong

There is no great invention, from fire to flying, which has not been hailed as an insult to some god. – J. B. S. Haldane

The stride of passengers off an airplane is always jauntier than the stride on. – Tom Clancy

Also on this day: You Can Say That Again – In 1806, carbon paper was first patented.
Cornell University – In 1868, Cornell held opening day ceremonies.
Achille Lauro – In 1985, the ship was hijacked.
Beginning – In 3761 BC, the Jewish calendar started.
Touchdown – In 1916, the most lopsided game in college football history was played.


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