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  • Time travel with propeller: detail of the L 20 in the Mercedes-Benz Museum, Legends Room 3: Upheavals – Diesel and Compressor.
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    Flight around the world 1928: With 20 PS around the globe.

    How a 22-year-old pilot made his dream come true 90 years ago.

First leg: from Berlin to Moscow.

The fuselage of the monoplane is coated with paraffin wax, the tank is full, a thermos with hot tea and bananas are packed in a bag: those are all the pre-flight preparations that Friedrich Karl Freiherr Koenig von und zu Warthausen needs. In the early morning hours of 11 August 1928, the pilot, just barely 22 years old, takes off from Berlin-Tempelhof after making the spontaneous decision to fly to Moscow. He intends to break the distance record for light aircraft and win the Hindenburg Trophy.


The baron’s “Kamerad”: The Mercedes-Benz Museum exhibits a Klemm-Daimler L 20 light aircraft, which is a detailed replica of the baron’s record-setting aeroplane.

The baron’s “Kamerad”: The Mercedes-Benz Museum exhibits a Klemm-Daimler L 20 light aircraft, which is a detailed replica of the baron’s record-setting aeroplane.

Reliable lightweight: The 15-kW (20-PS) Mercedes-Benz F 7502 aircraft engine carries the aeroplane of Baron von Koenig-Warthausen once around the earth.

Reliable lightweight: The 15-kW (20-PS) Mercedes-Benz F 7502 aircraft engine carries the aeroplane of Baron von Koenig-Warthausen once around the earth.


The sporting achievement in mind.

The route is long and the sun hot as the day goes by. The pilot later reminisces: “I kept recalling the objective of my flight during these oppressive midday hours time and again. I had to make it to Moscow! If I was able to get there without stopping, it would be a world record. Nobody had ever flown such a distance with a lightweight engine. If I made it to Moscow, there was a good chance I would win the Hindenburg Prize with my flight, which had been established for the best German amateur performance with a small aircraft.”


Light aircraft make dreams of flying come true.

He is travelling in his private Klemm-Daimler L 20 light aircraft, which he has dubbed “Kamerad”, the German term for “Mate”. The plane, powered by a Mercedes-Benz F 7502 aircraft engine rated at 15 kW (20 PS), has been developed as a “people’s aeroplane” and is intended to make many people’s dream of flying come true – desires in an era buoyed by the excitement about the transcontinental flights of Charles Lindbergh and his successors. Light aircraft such as the L 20 from aviation pioneer Hanns Klemm with its robust and reliable Mercedes-Benz engine are considered the key to this.


“The aeroplane for school, travel and sport”: advertisement for the Klemm-Daimler L 20 light aircraft with reference to the in-house flight school.

“The aeroplane for school, travel and sport”: advertisement for the Klemm-Daimler L 20 light aircraft with reference to the in-house flight school.

Flight over Sindelfingen: Klemm-Daimler L 20 light aircraft over the Klemm factory.

Flight over Sindelfingen: Klemm-Daimler L 20 light aircraft over the Klemm factory.


In Moscow after 16 hours.

The record-setting attempt of Baron von Koenig-Warthausen goes to plan at first. However, the weather starts to deteriorate in the afternoon. Twenty minutes before reaching the Russian capital he has to land the L 20 in a field. “I had covered one thousand seven hundred kilometres in sixteen hours”, writes a pleased Koenig-Warthausen in his notes. “My flight had far surpassed the previous distance record for light aircraft.” However, the record is not recognised on formal grounds.


Spontaneous decision: once around the world.

As a result, the baron makes the second spontaneous decision within a few days: after the excellent experiences with his “Kamerad”, he takes off for a flight around the world. This is how one of the greatest adventures in the history of the light aircraft from Hanns Klemm finally begins. From Moscow he heads towards the Orient. The baron flies over old fortified towns and the expanses of the Caucasus, over camel trains and giant oil fields with an entire forest of drilling derricks. The triumph finally comes in Tehran: The pilot has won the 1928 Hindenburg Trophy – he has accomplished his personal goal.

Time travel with propeller: the L 20 in the Mercedes-Benz Museum, Legends Room 3.

Time travel with propeller: Baron von Koenig-Warthausen in front of the L 20 light aircraft.

Soars over the museum visitors: the Klemm-Daimler L 20 light aircraft in the Mercedes-Benz Museum.

Soars over the museum visitors: the Klemm-Daimler L 20 light aircraft (replica) in the Mercedes-Benz Museum.

Arrival in New York after almost 15 months.

The flight continues across Asia. Magical town names start accumulating in the log: among them Isfahan, Karachi, Jodhpur, Agra, Bangkok and Singapore. He travels to Japan by ship and, after a few legs of the flight there, continues from Japan to North America. The L 20 flies across the United States from San Francisco to New York, with a small detour to Canada. The German pilot is repeatedly hailed for his accomplishment. On 3 November 1929, von Koenig-Warthausen arrives in New York – and misses winning the second “Hindenburg Trophy” in a row by a hair, because he is two days late. However, nobody can take the triumph of this exceptional flight around the world with 15 kW (20 PS) away from him. He returns to Germany by ship, where the adventure comes to an end on 22 November.

The record-setting aeroplane in the Mercedes-Benz Museum.

For those who would like to see the Klemm-Daimler L 20 light aircraft “Kamerad”, it is part of the permanent exhibit in the Mercedes-Benz Museum. Because the original aircraft of Baron von Koenig-Warthausen no longer exists, an authentic replica based on an L 20 was built specifically for the museum in the 1980s.

The baron personally made a host of documents from the private archives of the Koenig-Warthausen family available for this purpose. Today, the L 20 is part of the Legends Room 3: upheavals – Diesel and Compressor – and soars over the visitors there.

Image gallery.