What Was German-Soviet Airline Deruluft?

Interestingly, Germany had a major role in helping Soviet civil operations get going. Deruluft was a joint German-Soviet carrier that was founded on November 24th, 1921 and commenced operations on May 22nd the following year. Here’s a look at the story of the operator.

Deruluft was an influential force in the 1920s. Photo: Theod. Müller via Wikimedia Commons

Off the mark

The airline launched its first permanent route in 1922. This was an operation from Moscow to Königsberg, via Kaunas and Smolensk. With operations underway, the carrier went on to inaugurate several other useful routes during the rest of the decade.

Cargo and mail was initially the priority for the firm. However, there was some sort of demand for passenger operations since the beginning. This interest grew each year, and by the 1930s, the company was serving over 3,000 per annum, ten times the number in 1922. A route from Berlin to Leningrad via Tallinn began on June 6th, 1928 adding to the popularity.

Despite the progress with Soviet air links, foreign aircraft handled the bulk of services. Fokker F.III, Fokker F.Vs, DH.34s, LVG C VI, Dornier Bal Komet II, Dornier B Merkur, Albatros L-76a, and Junkers F13 were some of the models that Deruluft took to the skies.

Early European civil aircraft could be spotted across the world with different carriers. Photo: Tom Wigley via Flickr

Localizing equipment

With growing demand and greater connectivity, new planes were needed. So, it didn’t come as a surprise that the Soviet Union looked internally for a solution.

The Tupolev ANT-9 entered service in 1931, allowing Deruluft to hit the skies with a homegrown model. The nine-passenger piston plane could be seen on the Berlin-Moscow route from 1933, paving the way for a series of further influential Tupolev civil aircraft.

Deruluft Emblem
The emblem of Deruluft. Photo: Germash19 via Wikimedia Commons

As civil aviation grew across the continents, serious accidents started to occur while the field was still in its infancy. Deruluft had to deal with such conditions. For instance, on December 6th, 1936, a Deruluft Tupolev Ant-9 crashed on the way to Moscow from Berlin.

“On approach to Moscow, the three engine aircraft crashed few kilometers short of runway in unknown circumstances. Nine occupants were killed while all five other occupants were injured,” the Bureau of Aircraft Accidents Archives shares.

“For unknown reason, the aircraft christened ‘Yastreb’ (Falcon) was carrying eleven passengers despite the fact it was certified for nine passengers only.”

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A short run

Despite the tragic incidents, Deruluft was still an impactful company. It could have gone on to achieve far more than it did. However, situations out of its control would seal the fate of the firm. Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union would form tensions heading into World War II. Therefore, this operation couldn’t continue.

As a result, Deruluft ceased operations on March 31st, 1937, nearly 15 years after it first began services. Aeroflot would rise to the challenge when it came to growing civil operations from the 1930s. However, Deruluft’s initial spark to get the scene going shouldn’t be understated.

What are your thoughts about Deruluft and its operations? What do you make of the early days of Soviet civil aviation activity? Is there any other segment in this field that you’d like us to cover? Let us know what you think of this part of history in the comment section.