Southern Flight: Südflug Seven Seas
Südflug was founded on November 24, 1952 by Rul Arnold Bückle. Bückle already had had quite an adventurous life. Her was recruited into the Luftwaffe and served in Auxerre until 1943 when he retrained as a pilot and flew a Messerschmitt Bf 109 until the wars end. Following the surrender he illegally made it back to Germany using the cover of an ambulance. Back in his hometown he steup a radio production workshop but aviation obviously asserted a greater pull as he sold the business in 1950 and returned to aviation, acquiring a Swiss private pilot license.
Bückle was obviously not content with operating feeder services and rather audaciously acquired a trio of Douglas DC-7Cs from KLM. The aircraft were only 5 years old and no doubt had seen relatively light service. Initially it appears the DC-7Cs wore a variant of the standard scheme worn by the Herons but later several other variants seem to have been worn.
The cheatline arrangement seems to have varied but been mainly dark blue. Superimposed over the tail was a golden version of the earlier bird logo now surrounded by stars. Later D-ABAC had her cheatlines repainted with a thick blue stripe as is displayed on the Aeroclassics model.
Bückle had by 1963 entered into an agreement with the tour operators Scharnow and Touropa who had both purchased 25% shares in the airline. These helped Südflug successfully use the DC-7Cs on IT charter services to the Mediterranean and Canary Islands. In particular Südflug was instrumental in developing the latter, especially Fuerteventura, into tourist destinations. The success of these activities can be seen in the addition to the fleet of extra DC-7Cs.
Three more were added from sources as diverse as Overseas National and Caledonian Airways. They opened up long haul charters to Asia and Africa however the real coup came in early 1965 when Südflug became the only German airline able to operate charters to the USA. The initial permit ran until April 29, 1968 and the first charter services to New York were priced at about half the standard fare.
Even though the last DC-7C didn't join the fleet until 1966 it must have been clear that the type's obsolescence was becoming an issue especially against Condor's new 727s, which had entered service in February 1965. The Frankfurt-New York charter was a major success and expanded to four times weekly and deserved more modern equipment. Towards the end of 1966 a deal was arranged with Swissair for the purchase of a pair of DC-8-32s. Unfortunately this deal would become something of a poisoined chalice for Südflug as the aircraft were not released at the appropriate time (due to delays to Swissair's own new Douglases) and missed the all important 1967 summer season. This proved costly and led to the short-term lease of an Inflight DC-8 and a Standard Airways 707 to cover for their absence.
Nonetheless the DC-8s once in service provided the needed upgrade. From Friday-Monday they worked IT charters to the Med and from Tuesday-Thursday they flew the US services. Perhaps unwisely a pair of new DC-9-32s were also ordered and again bad luck led to costly delays. At the time Douglas was going through something of a production bottleneck and the nine's didn't enter service until mid-1968 either, necessitating the lease of an ONA aircraft.
Outwardly Südflug appeared a successful airline having grown its passengers from a meagre 23,500 in 1963 to over a million in 1967. Indeed it briefly became Germany's largest charter airline. However the new aircraft and delays had cost the carrier heavily and it was struggling. Lufthansa was also less than happy with the competition that Südflug was providing across the Atlantic. With Südflug at its weakest Lufthansa was able to mount a hostile takeover for only DM8 million. This went through on January 2, 1968 so it appears that the DC-8s only saw very brief service with an independent Südflug and the DC-9s none.
Lufthansa kept the airline operating independently until January 2, 1969 when its assets were folded into Condor. By then both the DC-8s had been acquired by the new startup Atlantis Airways which had been formed by a pair of ex-Südflug employees. Atlantis survived for 4 years in the face of intense competition from Lufthansa. Both of Südflug's DC-9s rather ironically joined Swissair.
Rul Bückle himself remained in aviation and went on to form several leasing companies and aviation consultancies with some success. Considering the highly regulated era in which it operated and the rampant protectionism in favour of national airlines it is impressive that Südflug achieved as much as it did. It certainly deserves to be remembered for its many successes especially introducing the West German public to the wonders of the Canary Islands and low cost long haul charters to the USA.
Sudflug. German Wikipedia
Rul Arnold Bückle. German Wikipedia
2001. Vomhof, Klaus. Leisure Airlines of Europe. Scoval Publishing
31/3/2018 11:14:44 pm
Now I know why I didn't recognise the livery worn by the AeroClassics model when it was released. The one I remember is that worn by D-ABAS wearing the original DC-7 scheme as shown in the photo in your blog.
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I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: