DALLAS – Today in Aviation, East Germany’s Deutsche Lufthansa made its first flight in 1955. Operated by an Ilyushin Il-14, the flight carried the country’s then Prime Minister, Otto Grotewohl, from Berlin Schönefeld Airport (SXF) to Moscow.
Following the end of World War II, Germany was split into East and West. Initially, the two countries were unable to establish their own airlines. Britain, France, and America controlled air services in the West, while Russia’s Aeroflot controlled the East.
A 1956 East German stamp commemorating the inauguration of civilian domestic flights. Photo: Public Domain
A Tale of Two Airlines
Finally, permission was granted for the two to establish their own airlines. Both demanded the pre-war flag carrier Lufthansa’s name. The West established Lufthansa (LH) while the East set up Deutsche Lufthansa.
Scheduled services commenced on February 4, 1956, between SFX and Warsaw. Expansion to the east continued with Moscow, Sofia, Prague, Budapest, Bucharest, and Bulgaria quickly added to the route network.
To facilitate this expansion the larger Ilyushin Il-18 joined the fleet on March 28, 1960.
In 1958 East Germany established the charter carrier Interflug (IF). The “back-up” airline was created as tensions over the Lufthansa name began to mount. Subsequently, Deutsche Lufthansa was sued by LH, preventing the former from becoming a member of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
Financially the East German carrier could not compete with its Western rival. Therefore on September 1, 1963, the airline was liquidated. IF was then promoted to the national airline until German reunification in October 1990. Its final commercial flight arrived at SXF from Vienna on April 30, 1991…