Trivia Testers : The Earliest Airliner

The Earliest Airliner
True or False: The first prototype airliner actually flew in the 19th century.

Answer: TRUE! The world’s first passenger airline was DELAG (a contraction which stood for Deutsche Luftschiffahrts AG, or German Airship Transport Company), and was formed in 1909. As you might guess, these were not airplanes, but airships. There were aerodromes in Berlin, Dresden, Frankfurt, and Hamburg. By 1913 they had made more than 1,600 flights in perfect safety, carrying over 35,000 passengers. They also became the first airline to hire a flight attendant. His name was Heinrich Kubis, hired in March 1912, and he continued as a steward in zeppelins until 1939. He was chief steward on the Hindenberg, in fact (and yes, he did survive). Some of you may remember an earlier Trivia Tester about another ‘first’ cabin attendant, the ‘first stewardess’ Ellen Church, and which wasn’t until 1930.

But the first trial of a prototype airship which would later enter commercial service was in fact technically in the nineteenth century, on July 2, 1900. These were known as zeppelins of course, in honor of Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, who supplied them. The early prototype was about 420 feet long and 38 feet wide, used hydrogen, was powered by two 15 horsepower Daimler engines, each of which drove two propellers, and it carried just five people on that flight. That first flight was only at a modest 1300 feet and covered less than four miles.

The ‘Real’ Earliest Airline (with airplanes, this time)
The first scheduled passenger airline was

  1. Lufthansa
  2. The Zeppelin Company
  3. The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line
  4. Pan Am
  5. KLM

Answer: C. Deutsche Luftreederie (later, Lufthansa) was the first operational airline (using airplanes) providing sustained passenger service. It began service flying from Berlin to Leipzig and Weimar on February 5, 1919 (followed only three days later by the French Farman Company, crossing from Paris to London). However, all that said, on January 1, 1914, the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line became the first airline to provide a scheduled air passenger service. Although it lasted only three months, the company flew over a thousand passengers across an eighteen-mile stretch of water at a cost of five dollars per passenger. KLM also comes close though, and is one of the (if not the) oldest airlines still flying under its original name. Founded on October 7, 1919, KLM (an abbreviation of Koninklijke Luchtvaartmaatschappij NV, which in Dutch means Royal Air Transportation Company), it flew its first scheduled service, between Amsterdam and London, on May 17, 1920.

Lots Of Room To Slow Down
The world’s longest runway is located at

  1. Edwards Air Force Base
  2. KSC, Florida
  3. Groom Lake, Nevada
  4. JFK, in New York
  5. E.Chicago O’Hare

Answer: Runway 13R-31L at JFK is listed as 14,572 x 150, and runway 14R-32L at ORD in Chicago is 13,000 x 200. Denver International Airport’s new runway 16R/34L is 16,000 feet long. (It’s the longest commercial runway in North America.) The Shuttle landing facility at the Kennedy Space Center is longer, being about three miles in length and quite wide, at 300 feet. The main runway 04-22 at Edwards Air Force Base in southern California, an occasional landing site for the space shuttle, is also one of the world’s longest runways, at about 15,000 feet (see image). As for choice C, the mysterious ‘Area 51’ in Nevada, counting the ‘over run’ areas, it might be considered one of the longest at about 6 miles, but not all of that is believed to be paved. (Whether that’s for the Aurora, the X-33, or what, is unknown.) Also at Edwards however are the Rosamond and Rogers Dry Lake beds, and its runway 17-35, the main Rogers Lake runway, is even longer, at about 7 miles.) The answer is choice A.

Note: I haven’t counted ‘landing lanes’ at some sea plane bases; a few are several miles long. The Peekskill SPB in New York lists its ‘runway’ at 28,000 feet.