Interflug Gesellschaft für internationalen Flugverkehr m.b.H. (part III - Agricultural Aviation)
Equally - if not more - important to passenger-carrying services part of the East German airlines was its branch (branches, actually) dedicated to direct support of national economy, most importantly crop-dusting and general services to the agriculture. It should be noted, that in the German Democratic Republic farming was fully collectivised into Landwirtschaftliche Produktionsgenosseschafte
(LPG - Agricultural Production Communities
) nominal co-operatives where the land remained property of the farmers, but practically a state-owned enterprises. Large effort was put into achieving highest productive outputs in the East German agriculture through use of modern technologies, including widespread mechanization. Part of that effort was creation of extremely strong crop-dusting aviation, together with associated support establishments, including dedicated training centres and research institutes.
Agricultural aviation service within Deutsche Lufthansa der DDR
was created in 1957 as the Wirtschaftsflugabteilung der Deutsche Lufthansa
(roughly Branch of Flights for/in service of Economy of DLH
). After the incorporation of the DLH (DDR)
it became Betriebsabteilung Agrarflug der Interflug
(Operational Branch for Agro-flight of IF
). Ultimately it has grown to an organisation controlling ca. 300 aircraft and thousands of personnel.
At its organizational heigth, besides the service Direction (in Berlin) and own Academy (Betriebsakademie Agrarflug
) in Leipzig, it was composed of 5 Betriebsteile
- "Wings") further subdivided into 10 staffeln
(squadrons). They were:
-Betriebsteil I (Nord)
- "North" - HQ in Anklam, divided into: Staffel Neubrandenburg
(based in Anklam) and Staffel Rostock
-Betriebsteil II (Mitte)
- "Centre" - HQ in Kyritz, divided into: Staffel Schwerin
(Schwerin), Staffel Potsdam
(Kyritz) and Staffel Frankfurt an der Oder
-Betriebsteil III (West)
- "West" - HQ in Magdeburg, divided into: Staffel Magdeburg
(Magdeburg) and Staffel Halle
-Betriebsteil IV (Süd)
- "South" - HQ in Leipzig-Mockau, divided into: Staffel Leipzig
(Leipzig-Mockau), Staffel Dresden
(Kesseldorf) and Staffel Erfurt
-Betriebsteil V (Waldflug)
- "Forrest Flight" - HQ in Erfurt, was not divided into staffeln
and war responsible for the aerial services to the forrrest complexes in the south-western part of GDR.
Planes of Agrarflug
were based on 17 permament ("base") airfield, and forward stationed on 30 other.
First planes of East German agricultural aviation were Czechoslovak Aero L-60 Brigadyr (Brigadier, but in sense of "foreman") light multi-role aircraft (used also as liasons by the East German Air Force). Total of 65 were in use by Wirtschaftsflugabteilung
from 1957 to 1974 (although from 1970 were generally just stored).
Next type, introduced around the same time as L-60, was ubiquitous An-2 biplanes, 16 of which (out of 23 total in service of the DLH/IF
) were used as for agricultural services from 1957 to 1975.
Increasing wear and attrition of Brigadyrs meant that at certain point their succesor was needed. For that role the deliveries of Czechoslovak Let Z-37 Čmelak (Hummel) dedicated crop-duster begun in 1967, followed by its modified version Z-37A from 1972. Total deliveries amounted to 95 Z-37, 6 Z-37-2 two-seat trainers, 133 Z-37A and 9 Z-37A-2 trainers. While already in the late 1970s their planned successors begun entering service, due to various reasons Čmelaks remained in service until the end of GDR.
In the 1970 Agrarflug
introduced its first helicopters - co-axial Kamov 26's, some 20 (?) of which were purchased. It should be noted, that airflow from co-axial rotors leads to very efficient spread of distributed substances, greatly increasing effectiveness of such crop-dusting. Kamovs remained in service until 1990.
After two decades of mostly Czechoslovak equipment, in the late 1970s Agrarflug
switched to Poland as it's main supplier of aircraft. In 1978 it bought PZL-106 Kruk (Raven), with total 104 of which were delivered (58 in A version and 46 in BR version). After the reunification of Germany majority of these were sold to various South American countries where they remain in good use to this day.
Final type used in large numbers by Agrarflug
was Polish PZL M-18 Dromader (Dromedary), 57 of which were delivered from 1984. After reunification they were mostly sold to other users, many of them in South America.
Besides the mentioned aircraft, Agrarflug
leased more planes from Soviet Union, Poland, Hungary and Bulgaria. Additional types were undergoing comprehensive test programs evaluation their usefulness for potential use by that service.
General note: various (internet) sources differed significantly regarding the quantity of airplanes operated by the East German airlines, therefore I decided to follow the source that was giving most details - if it was wrong - then I'm sorry.
Note on registration markings: initially German Democratic Republic was using DDR- registrations, in 1956 they were changed to DM- and in 1981 again to DDR-.
To be continued...