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Was Caracciola afraid of flying?


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#1 James L. Kalie

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Posted 01 November 2004 - 20:30

Maybe somebody can quickly answer this. I was reading on page 32 of Christopher Hilton's book "Hitler's Grands Prix in England": "Neubauer and three drivers - von Brauchitsch, Lang and Seaman - prepared to board a plane in Vienna for London airport in Croydon. Caracciola refused to fly and set off on the long train journey instead. Lang's wife Lydia had never flown before and was frightened." It goes on from there. Question: Was Rudi afraid to fly and generally didn't or was this a one time occurance? Thanks!

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#2 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 02 November 2004 - 16:33

Originally posted by James L. Kalie
...Question: Was Rudi afraid to fly...

I never read anything to that effect.
Before WW II, most drivers travelled by car or sometimes took the train to get to the races, only on few occasions by plane. As far as I know, flying was then more expensive than travel on the ground.

#3 Rob29

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Posted 03 November 2004 - 08:31

I have also read this story in another book. Flying by airline was cetainly a lot more expensive than rail travel at that time,but I imagine Mercedes would have provided the tickets. Most drivers would have driven themselves around Europe,but as there was apparently an air service to Croydon from Germany it made sense to use it.

#4 paulhooft

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Posted 07 November 2004 - 17:25

Back in the mid 30's. Commercial flying was only 15 years old,
and still a very new thing.
Remember Lindberg only flew over the Atlantic in 1929!!
Deutschland flew Junkers, Holland Fokkers, and the now Famous Douglas DC3 was only coming in the mid 30's.
This was the age of the Luxery Passenger ships, and the great Steam trains!
and flying only replace them on a large scale in the later 50's....
Paul

#5 Ray Bell

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Posted 07 November 2004 - 20:24

Couldn't he catch a Zeppelin?

#6 Lotus23

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Posted 07 November 2004 - 23:27

I know this is nit-picking, paulhooft, but Lindy did his feat in '27.

(And, no, I have no personal memory of the event!)

#7 Henk

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Posted 07 November 2004 - 23:42

According to Neubauer/Rowe, in 1946 Caracciola and his wife traveled by plane to the US.

#8 D-Type

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Posted 07 November 2004 - 23:43

Picking up from what paulhooft said, flying in a DC3, JU52, DH89 or whatever was also damned uncomfortable compared to nowadays. Planes were noisy, unpressurised, vibrated like anything. Caracciola wasn't necessarily scared of flying - he probably simply didn't like it.

#9 Vitesse2

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Posted 07 November 2004 - 23:54

Originally posted by Ray Bell
Couldn't he catch a Zeppelin?


The Zeppelins were used on trans-Atlantic flights, but not really for short hops. And certainly not to London: there were still many people who remembered the Zeppelin bombing raids during the Great War.

Originally posted by Henk
According to Neubauer/Rowe, in 1946 Caracciola and his wife traveled by plane to the US.


Wasn't that at least partly due to delays in obtaining visas and the problems over transporting the cars (which never raced anyway)?

#10 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 00:03

...and 1946 is light years after the late thirties in aircraft terms!

WW2 brought an incredible advance to the flying machines, gave them speed, range and reliability almost undreamt of in the thirties.

Additionally, the time to be saved flying the Atlantic would be much more than going to London.

I should have used a smilie with that Zeppelin line, shouldn't I?

#11 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 04:59

Talking about Airships and Caracciola...

...that reminds me of the Belgian Grand Prix on July 11, 1937, which took place just one week after the Vanderbilt Cup race in the USA. To render participation possible in both races, it was necessary to split the teams of the Scuderia Ferrari, Auto Union and Daimler-Benz. In 1937 the only existing transatlantic passenger air service was by airship. Originally it was planned for Caracciola and Rosemeyer to return with the luxerious dirigible "Hindenburg" in time for practice at Spa. Their tight schedule, with the Hindenburg departing New York on July 7, never materialized. Two months earlier this gigantic airship, within seconds, got completely destroyed. The 804-foot "Hindenburg" went up in flames upon landing at Lakehurst, N.J.

At the time of the Spa event, the two European champions were at high seas on the "S.S. Europa" on their return from America and were expected to arrive on July 13. With Nuvolari, Farina, Rosemeyer, von Delius, Caracciola and Seaman still at sea, the entry for the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa was reduced to only nine cars.

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Of the 97 passengers, 36 were dead within minutes, suffocated, burned or jumped to their death. Miracoulously many survived.
This disaster involving the largest Zeppelin ever built, after already ten prior successful transatlantic round-trips, set off the
beginning of the end for airship travel.

#12 Eric McLoughlin

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 08:15

The mid 1930s was actually a very important period in the development of airliners. Many airlines were still using bi-planes (e.g. Handley Page HP42 Heracles, Curtiss Condor) or fixed undercarriage, metal aircraft (e.g. Ford Trimotor, Junkers Ju52/3m). Flying in these types of aeroplanes was not that comfortable, they were slow, flew at relatively low speed, at low altitudes and through the weather rather than over it.

At the same time, however, a new breed of machines was emerging, mainly from the US. Stressed skin, all metal aircraft, with variable pitch props and retractable undercarriages began to appear from 1934 - the Boeing 247, the Douglas DC-1 and 2 and the Lockheed 10/14 family. These planes were almost 100 mph faster than their competitors and it was'nt long before airlines were beating a path to the American manufacturers to get in line to place their orders. Even some European airlines joined in the race to modernise. Ironically, it was the national airlines of countries who had indigenous airline manufacturers who were reluctan to buy these new advanced American designs. As a result, Imperial Airways, Lufthansa, Air France and LIAT (Italy) did not "go American" but instead had to wait for their own country's manuafacturers to produce state of the art designs.

Swissair and KLM were not so reluctant and both ordered Douglas DC-2s. Holland did have Fokker as a native manufacturer but Fokker got around the "not built here" sydrome by signing an agreement to assemble Douglas DC-3s under licence at their Schiphol factory. Aer Lingus also ordered Dutch assembled DC-3s for deliver in 1940. The war put paid to a lot of these schemes (although Aer Lingus managed to get three of their DC-3s out of Amsterdam literally weeks before the Germans arrived).

Had the war not intervened, new pressurised airliners would have started entering service. In fact, the first was already in use, the Boeing 307 Stratoliner was being flown by United and TWA in the US. The pressurised Lockheed Constellation was being readied for its first flight. The first Douglas DC-4 also flew in the early 1940s and it was pressurised. However, due to war commitments, Douglas concentrated on a non-pressurised version (the C-54). In the end, no production DC-4s were ever built as pressurised planes although the Canadian licence built version (the Canadair C-4M North Star/Argonaut) was. All Douglas airliners after the DC-4 (DC-6/7 and of course the jet DC-8) were pressurised.

#13 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 08:22

Eric, I am certain you would love to read the book Southern Cloud...

Maybe I should have said 'the war years'? Though you imply that the developments were already in full swing. I was thinking earlier that the Stratocruiser was quick off the mark after the war...

#14 Eric McLoughlin

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 09:27

Hi Ray

Yes, the American aircraft industry was producing some very advanced designs by the mid 1930s, particularly in the field of air transport. Some of their airliners were faster than contemporary bombers and fighters.

The push for high altitude flight was in full swing in the 1930s, mainly to obtain the benefits of being able to fly above the relatively rough air conditions found at altitudes below 20,000 ft. Boeing's B-17, which first flew in 1935, was already capable of flying at 30,000 ft. It wasn't pressurised but it was fitted with turbo charged/supercharged compund engines to enable it to fly at such heights. The 307 Stratroliner used the wings, engines and tail units of the B-17 mated to a bulbous pressurised fuselage. If the war had not intervened there is no doubt that Boeing would have had a big success with the 307. In fact, the prototype crashed whilst on a demonstration flight for the benefit of Dutch KLM airline officials so European airlines were already expressing an interest in the type..

When the war ended, it was the Americans who were in best position to leap into action with airliner production, namely because they had already built up a certain level of expertise in advance of other country's manufacturers.

Britain's first pressurised airliners were the De Havilland Comet jet and the Vickers Viscount turboprop - both post war designs.

#15 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 09:37

Of course, the Southern Cloud incident was in March 1931...

And there's something not yet mentioned... that Avro built Fokkers under licence. Made them more saleable to Commonwealth countries.

#16 Eric McLoughlin

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 10:02

The Fokkers were good airliners for their day, but their days were numbered. They were largely of wood construction and were banned from carrying passengers in the US after a famous footballer, Knute Rockne, was killed when one broke up in mid-air. The American government only allowed metal airliners after that date. The initial beneficiary of that ruling was Ford with their corrugated aluminium Trimotor and. of course, Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed with their even more advanced designs.

One company which sometimes gets neglected in the discussion on advanced airliner construction in the 1930s is Northrop. They built some really fast all metal planes even before the Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-1/2 and even managed to flog a few to Swissair. However, the main reason why Northrop get left out is because Jack Northrop was actually working for Douglas at the time the DC-1/2 and 3 aircraft were being designed - and he was their chief designer!

So really, Jack Northrop is the main man when it comes to the great advances made in airliner construction in the 30s.

OK - you'ld better explain the "Silver Cloud Incident".

#17 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 10:49

For some reason radios didn't work in the five identical planes Kingsford-Smith had bought from Avro...

In March 1931, the Southern Cloud took off for Melbourne with five passengers and a crew of two (IIRC), leaving Sydney just before a weather report came in stating that they'd encounter fierce headwinds and heavy cloud most of the way.

About eight hours later, believing he would be safely over flat country just north of Melbourne, the captain circled down in the cloud and found he wasn't over flat country at all.

No sign was found of the aircraft until the late fifties. In fact, I remember the day we heard the news report that it had been found. It was in the Snowy Mountains in southern NSW.

Yet people all over Victoria reported hearing it fly over that afternoon. Nobody saw it, there was cloud, but plenty of people heard it.

It pointed out the total lack of ground to air contact that existed at the time. Some planes naturally had radio, as did these, but they simply would not transmit or receive within the Avro 10s.

The net result was that Kingsford-Smith's well-funded and well respected airline fell into disrepute and financial ruin. It never got the essential mail contracts that were to be forthcoming in the thirties and couldn't grow on the back of them, Kingsford-Smith was to take risks that would ultimately kill him because of the company's failure.

And Qantas grew out of the ruins of ANA... the landscape of Australian commercial aviation was set in concrete on the unknown graves of the people who perished in Southern Cloud.

Though you won't find it written anywhere, ordinary people were affected by all of this.

Recall that I said many reports came in, most of them erroneous? My grandfather from that time until his death would never let a plane go overhead without going out and observing what he could about it.

Like I said, you'd love to read the book...

#18 Eric McLoughlin

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 11:11

Was any expanantion ever received as to why there appeared to be a problem with the radio gear in these Avros. I know Kingsford-Smith had previously used a pukka Fokker (the Southern Cross) so he obviously trusted the design. Also,in those days I would assume that radio meant "Wireless Telegraphy" (W/T) and therefore communication would have been by Morse Code rather than voice.

#19 Vitesse2

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 11:31

With respect, Hans, I'd say the "beginning of the end" for rigid airships was the crash of the British R101 at Beauvais in 1930, which essentially turned British engineers against airships, reinforced by the loss of the USS Akron off New Jersey in 1933. Both involved huge loss of life, but of course neither crash was captured on film or live radio .... :

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#20 Eric McLoughlin

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 11:40

The problems of the R101 were almost as much to do with politics as to do with inherent problems with the nature of ridgid airships. The design was fundamentally flawed in so many areas that it should never have been given a Certificate of Airworhiness in the first place and was actually flying under a temporary one the night it crashed. The Under Secretary for Air, Lord Thompson, had put undue pressure on the design team all the way through the build process and insisted that the craft be ready for the Empire conference in India coming up in 1930. As a result, the R101 embarked on a long distance flight for which it was patently not ready.

Ironically, the rival airship, the R100 performed pretty flawlessly on all its flights but was ordered to be broken up by the Government when they cancelled the airship programme.

In the US, airships were never envisaged as commercial airliners. The main supporters of the concept was the US Navy who had grand notions of airborne aircraft carriers being used to defend the Eastern and Western seaboards of the USA.

#21 Rob29

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 11:46

Wonderful,someone asks a simple question and we have a history of civil aviation! One area not yet mentioned was Flying Boats.These were popular in the 1930s for long distance travel. Only the availablility of surpus runways built for bombers lead to large airliners after WW2.

#22 Hans Etzrodt

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 11:59

I see, somebody hijacked this thread. :rolleyes:

Does James L. Kalie know about it? :confused:

#23 Eric McLoughlin

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 12:24

Hijacking and aviation matters go together :D

#24 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 12:47

Did anyone ever hijack a flying boat?

#25 Eric McLoughlin

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 12:49

The first ever recognised hijacking of an airliner was just after World War 2 where a Consolidated PBY Catalina flying boat was commandeered by criminals. I think the plane was operating out of Hong Kong or Formosa (as it was back then).

#26 Catalina Park

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 13:00

To get sort of in the direction of motor racing, here is a pic of the PBY in the lake that gave Catalina Park racing circuit its name.

Posted Image

#27 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 13:08

Originally posted by Rob29
.....One area not yet mentioned was Flying Boats.These were popular in the 1930s for long distance travel. Only the availablility of surpus runways built for bombers lead to large airliners after WW2.


Qantas used flying boats extensively into the 1950s...

The 'Connie' was the aircraft that converted their fleet to wheeled machines... and an oil cooler from one of these is fitted to my Jolus as a radiator.

#28 Eric McLoughlin

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 13:45

In fact, I think Ansett used two Sandringhams (converted Sunderlands) right up to the mid 1970s. They operated a service to Lord Howe island, if I remember correctly. Both of these Sandringhams survive. One is in The Southampton Hall of Aviation (know renamed Solent Sky or something equally ephemeral) and the other is at Kermit Weeks' museum in Florida. Neither, sadly, are airworthy now.

The two planes were bought by Charles Blair and operated in the US Virgin Islands until he died in the crash of a Grumman Goose in 1978. One of the Sandringhams (VP-LVE) visted the UK and Ireland (he was married to the Irish actress Maureen O'Hara) in 1976 and 1977 and I had the great pleasure to see "Victor Echo" do a beat up of Dublin's Runway 24 in the summer of 1977. It's a sight I'll always remember.

His airline (Antilles Air Boats) retained a basic Ansett colour scheme with just the titles changed).

#29 Carlo

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 15:19

Was Caracciola afraid of flying?



Not sure about Caracciola, but I know someone who wasn't afraid of flying.....

Must have been the ultimate symbol of status - in 1936! :eek:

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Ciao Carlo :smoking:

#30 Ray Bell

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Posted 08 November 2004 - 21:44

Originally posted by Eric McLoughlin
In fact, I think Ansett used two Sandringhams (converted Sunderlands) right up to the mid 1970s. They operated a service to Lord Howe island, if I remember correctly.....


To the delight of Garry O'Callaghan...

I saw these take off from Rose Bay Flying Boat base a few times, a great sight!

They would have been ANA aircraft prior to the Ansett takeover in the late fifties. But that's not the same ANA that Kingsford-Smith had begun... it had sunk long ago.

Must have been the nicest way to arrive at Lord Howe Island.