Luft-Verkehrs Gesellschaft GmbH (LVG)

LVG B.I Unit: Bayerische Feldflieger-Abteilung 2 End of 1914.

LVG C.II Unit: Kasta 4, KAGOHL 1 Serial: IV.1 Pilot – Lt.Hans Ulrich von Trotha, observer Lt.Baron von Lernsner.

LVG C.V Unit: Flieger-Abteilung (A)212 Pilot – Flugzeugfuhrer UO Schroder, observer – Lt.August Auer. Early 1918.

LVG C.VI Unit: Flieger-Abteilung? Serial: 4 (C.1510/18) France, circa 1918.

The company was started in 1909 by Arthur Mueller as a small aircraft manufacturer; in 1911, he purchased three Albatros aircraft for 100,000 marks, and by doing so prevented the Albatros Company from collapsing. When LVG approached the Inspectorate of Military Aviation with regard to building aircraft for the military, they discovered that a Colonel Messing from the inspectorate had been persuaded by Otto Weiner, a director of the Albatros Company that Mueller had saved, not to deal with LVG, claiming that the company was merely an agent for Albatros. The head of LVG’s research section, Kapitän de la Roi, formerly of the Research Unit, complained to Colonel Schmiedecke of the War Ministry who upheld his appeal, saying that LVG had shown itself to have considerable financial resources and a potential for expanding its aircraft manufacturing business at a time when there was a dire need for aircraft.

Things came to a head in July 1911 when a pilot from LVG, flying one of the Albatros aircraft purchased by LVG, won the Circuit of German Flight. The prize for the contest was an order from the Army for one of the aircraft. Albatros refused to sell one of its airframes, but Schmeidecke maintained that the aircraft had to come from the winning company and if the Ministry could not get an Albatros type of aircraft from LVG, then the contract would be void. A compromise was reached between the Ministry and LVG when Colonel Schmeidecke stated that the Ministry would accept any aircraft that LVG offered, as long as it met the standard required by the Army. The precedent had been set and the LVG Company was established with the military.

Located at Johannisthal, Berlin, Luft-Verkehrs Gesellschaft was one of the largest German aircraft manufacturers of the First World War. The use of the old Parseval airship hangar at the base gave the company all the room they needed to produce some of Germany’s finest two-seater aircraft. The first aircraft produced in 1912 were of the standard Farman type. Then in 1912 a Swiss aeronautical engineer by the name of Franz Schneider joined LVG from the French Nieuport company and started building aircraft that had been designed by LVG’s own designers. The first of these aircraft, the LVG B.I, an unarmed, two-seat reconnaissance/trainer, was built in 1913. It was a conventional two-bay aircraft, the fuselage being of a simple box-girder construction with wire bracing, made of spruce longerons and plywood cross members covered in doped fabric.

Franz Schneider came up with an invention for firing a machine gun through the blades of the propeller. This was not his first idea; he originally came up with a system whereby the propellers were driven by a gearbox outside the crankcase so that a machine gun could fire through a hollow propeller shaft. On 11 January 1913, the idea was patented by Daimler Motoren-Gesellschaft and given patent No. 290120. Daimler built a four-cylinder engine with an external gearbox. From the onset it became obvious that it wasn’t going to work; the lubrication problems alone were enough to convince the engineers that it wasn’t going to be practical to put the engine into production, and so it was shelved.

It was then that Schneider’s second invention came to the fore. The patent description described the design simply:

The basis of the invention is a mechanism which permits a gun to fire between the propeller blades without damaging them. To this end the gun is mounted immediately in front of the pilot and behind the propeller. In order to avoid damage to the propeller, a blocking mechanism is fitted to the trigger. This mechanism is rotated constantly by the propeller shaft and blocks the gun’s trigger at the moment when the propeller blade is located in front of the muzzle of the machine gun. In consequence the weapon can only be fired between the propeller blades.

When, two years later, Anthony Fokker patented his invention for an interruptor gear mechanism, Schneider was quick to claim that Fokker had stolen his idea, but Fokker stated that his idea was nowhere near the design of Schneider’s and the patent office agreed.

In June 1914, six B.Is took part in the Ostmarkenflug, taking the first four places. With the onset of war the existing B.Is were immediately pressed into service and production lines started. To meet the immediate demand, the Otto-Werke, Münich were licensed to build the B.I. As with all the early aircraft, the pilot sat in the rear cockpit. Powered by a 100-hp Mercedes D.I engine, the B.I had a top speed of 63 mph. It had a wingspan of 47 ft 8½ in, a fuselage length of 25 ft 7½ in and a height of 10 ft 6 in.

The arrival of the improved version of the B.I, the B.II, some months later, showed only minor improvements. A semi-circular cutout in the upper wing intended to improve the pilot’s upward visibility and a small reduction in the wingspan were the only noticeable differences. An improved engine, the 120-hp six-cylinder, in-line, water-cooled Mercedes D.II, gave the aircraft a top speed of 67 mph. The B.II was the main production model and a considerable number were built at the beginning of 1915. They were used mainly for scouting/reconnaissance and training purposes.

As the war intensified the casualty rate of the unarmed reconnaissance and scouting aircraft rose alarmingly, so it was decided to introduce a purpose-built armed reconnaissance aircraft. With the additional weight of guns and ammunition, it became necessary to install more powerful engines. With this in mind Franz Schneider produced a C series of aircraft, the first being the LVG C.I.

In reality, the C.I was no more than a strengthened B.I airframe fitted with a 150-hp Benz Bz.III engine and a ring-mounted manually operated Parabellum machine gun in the observer’s cockpit. Later models were fitted with twin forward-firing fixed Spandau machine guns. A small number of the aircraft were built and shipped to the Front, where they were employed on bombing duties with the Kampfgeschwadern, and scouting and photo-reconnaissance duties with a number of Flieger Abteilung units. In appearance the C.I was almost identical to the B.II, except for a number of minor physical changes and was easily mistaken for that model.

A single-seat derivative of the C.I was built for the German Navy as a torpedo bomber. Experiments were carried out with a mock torpedo mounted beneath the fuselage and in the middle of the undercarriage. No further details are available and no official designation was given to the aircraft.

Early in 1915, Franz Schneider came up with a quite revolutionary two-seat, monoplane fighter. Given the designation of LVG E.I, the aircraft was fitted with both a fixed, forward-firing Spandau machine gun and a manually operated Parabellum machine gun mounted on a ring. Powered by a 120-hp Mercedes D.II engine, the prototype was being flown to the front for operational evaluation by a Leutnant Wentsch when, during the flight, the wings collapsed. The pilot was killed and it was discovered later that the lower wing struts had not been fixed properly. Only one aircraft of that type was built.

There was also an attempt to produce a bomber during 1915: the LVG G.I. Placed in the G series of aircraft, it was powered by two 150-hp Benz Bz.III engines. Greatly underpowered for a bomber, the G.I was not a success and was scrapped.

The C.II, which appeared a few months later, was again almost identical to the C. I, the main difference being the engine, a 160-hp six-cylinder, in-line, water-cooled Mercedes D.III.

The ongoing problem of having the pilot flying the aircraft from the rear cockpit was resolved with an experimental model, the LVG C.III. The aircraft was in effect a C.II with the cockpits changed around and only the one model was built.

Derived from this was the LVG C.IV, which was a slightly enlarged model, powered by a straight eight 220-hp Mercedes D.IV engine. The reduction gearing in the engine turned one of the largest propellers fitted to a single-engine aircraft. It was one of these aircraft that made the first daylight raid on London in November 1916. With a wingspan of 44 ft 7 in, a fuselage length of 27 ft 10½ in and a height of 10 ft 2 in, the C.IV was one of the best two-seat aircraft in the German Army.

One experimental single-seat aircraft, the LVG D.10 was also one of the most unusual. Given the name Walfisch (Whale), it had a wrapped plywood strip fuselage, which was not much longer than the aircraft’s wingspan. This bulbous looking aircraft was powered by a 120-hp Mercedes D.II. Details of its performance are not known and only the one was built.

Probably one of the most successful, and one of the biggest, of the German two-seat reconnaissance/scout aircraft of the First World War, was the LVG C.V. Although overshadowed by the Rumpler C.IV, the LVG C.V came a very close second. The C.V was not as fast as the Rumpler, but what it lacked in speed and power it more than made up for by being a total ‘all-round’ aircraft, sturdy, stable and capable of absorbing punishment. It had a wingspan of 44 ft 8 in, a fuselage length of 26 ft 5½ in, and a height of 10 ft 6 in. Powered by a six-cylinder in-line, water-cooled 200-hp Benz Bz.IV engine, the C.IV had a top speed of 103 mph and an endurance of 3½ hours. It was armed with one fixed, forward-firing Spandau machine gun, and One manually operated Parabellum machine gun in the rear observer’s cockpit.

A second single-seat fighter was built at the end of 1916, the LVG D.II (D 12). It had a monocoque-type fuselage with a headrest behind the pilot and was the second in a series of experimental D types. The D.II was powered by a 160-hp six-cylinder, in-line, water-cooled Mercedes D.III engine. The wings were braced by means of ‘V’ interplane struts.

At the beginning of 1917 an experimental single-seat fighter, the LVG D.III, was produced with semi-rigid bracing in the form of struts. Although the landing wires were removed, the flying wires remained. It retained the monocoque-type fuselage covered in plywood, but the wings were more suited to that of a two-seater reconnaissance than a fighter. The wingspan was 32 ft 10 in, the fuselage 24 ft 8½ in and the height 9 ft 7 in. Powered by a 190-hp NAG III engine, the D.III had a top speed of 109 mph and an endurance of two hours. Only one type was built.

Another fighter appeared out of the LVG stable at the end of 1917, the LVG D.IV. A much smaller model than the D.III, the D.IV had a single-spar lower wing braced with ‘V’ interplane struts. It had a wingspan of 27 ft 11 in, a fuselage length of 20 ft 7½ in, and a height of 8 ft 10½ in. The nose of the aircraft was considerably blunter than previous models and housed the V-8, direct drive, 195-hp Benz Bz.IIIb engine which gave the aircraft a top speed of 110 mph.

After participating in the second of the D-type competitions at Aldershof in June 1918, a small number were built and supplied to the Army. The Armistice arrived before any more could be manufactured.

One of the finest two-seater aircraft to come out of the LVG factory was the LVG C.VI. Over 1,000 examples of this aircraft were built and although physically there was hardly any difference between the C.V and the C.VI, the latter was much lighter and far more compact. The aesthetic look was put aside in favour of serviceability and practicability. The need for this type of aircraft at this stage of the war was desperate and the C.VI fulfilled this role.

Powered by a 200-hp six-cylinder, in-line, water-cooled Benz Bz.IV engine, the aircraft had a top speed of 106 mph, an operating ceiling of 21,350 feet and an endurance of 3½ hours. It was armed with a single fixed, forward-firing Spandau machine gun and a single manually operated Parabellum machine gun mounted in the rear observer’s cockpit.

Among the observers that flew in the LVG C.VI was Hauptmann Paul Freiherr von Pechmann, who flew somewhere between 400 and 500 observation flights as an observer (the exact figure is not known, but some historians have placed it as high as 700). For these exploits he was awarded, among numerous other awards and medals, the Pour le Mérite, one of only two observers to be awarded the highest of all Prussia’s aviation awards.

Toward the end of 1917, the Idflieg had been watching the load-carrying capacity of the Caproni bombers with great interest. With this in mind they instigated a programme of building similar aircraft. The only completed model at this time was the twin-engine LVG G.III triplane designed by Dipl.Ing. Wilhelm Hillmann. Constructed of wood and covered in plywood, it was the largest aircraft ever built by the LVG Company and had a wingspan of 80 ft 4½ in, a fuselage length of 33 ft 7½ in, and a height of 12 ft 9½ in. Powered by two 245-hp Maybach Mb IV engines, it gave the aircraft a top speed of 81 mph and a flight endurance of 5½ hours. Its armament consisted of manually operated Parabellum machine guns mounted in the nose and dorsal positions. It also carried a limited bomb load. The aircraft was given the designation G.III by the factory, but official records list the aircraft as the G.I. Only one was completed.

The final fighter to come from the LVG factory was the LVG D.VI. This was a short fuselage stubby-looking aircraft with a swept lower wing and a chin-type radiator air intake. It was powered by a 195-hp Benz Bz.IIIb engine and had a top speed of 121 mph (195 km/h).

The Luft-Verkehrs Gesellschaft Company made more than a passing contribution to Germany’s war machine and was a major contributor to the world of aviation.