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The largest aircraft of its day, the Dornier DO-X was a flying boat powered by no less than 12 engines arranged in tandem atop its huge wings. Designed by Dr. Claude Dornier, the massive flying boat was equipped to carry passengers in the utmost comfort and luxury. Within its spacious hull were three decks containing sleeping quarters, a bar, writing rooms, bathrooms, a kitchen and a dining room salon nearly 60 feet long. Built in Germany in 1929, the DO-X made history that year by carrying 169 passengers into the air, then a record number, for a one-hour flight.
Two years later world attention was focused on the giant aircraft when it took off from Lake Constance, Germany bound for New York City via Amsterdam, Holland; Lisbon, Portugal; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil and Miami, Florida. This ambitious flight soon revealed some of the plane's shortcomings, among them its excessive fuel consumption. Fully fueled for the flight, the plane lumbered into the air with a takeoff weight of 55 tons. In fact, the plane was so heavy that, even though it was designed to cruise at an altitude of 10,000 feet, it completed much of the crossing service, just above the ocean's surface. The flight was billed as a prelude to regular transatlantic passenger service, but it proved to be trouble-plagued and slow. Almost ten months elapsed before the DO-X landed in New York harbor, and although it completed three other crossings, it was clear that the huge craft could not provide efficient passenger service between Europe and the United States.
Interestingly, the builders of the colossal aircraft had chosen the letter X as its designation to indicate that the plane was an unknown quantity. In fact, it was actually ahead of its time, for the technology of the 1920s was not sufficiently advanced for a flying boat as large as the DO-X. For example, the plane's air-cooled engines tended to overheat and had to be replaced by water-cooled American-built engines. This substitution did nothing to remedy the planes prodigious appetite for fuel, however, and in flight its engines consumed 400 gallons of gas each hour.
While the Dornier DO-X was deficient in many respects, it was an ambitious effort and a milestone in the development of large scale passenger aircraft.
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Updated: March 12, 2004