KLM’s First Transatlantic Flight

On 15 December 1934, exactly 80 years ago, a very special flight departed from Schiphol. At ten minutes past midnight, the triple-engine Fokker F-XVIII “Snip”, registration PH-AIS, took off with a four-man crew on board: J.J. Hondong, captain; J.J. van Balkom, first officer/navigator; S. van der Molen, deputy navigator and radiotelegraph operator; L.D. Stolk, flight engineer. Their final destination was the Antillean island of Aruba. To get there they would have to cross the Atlantic Ocean. They would be the first KLM crew to do so, opening transatlantic service to the Dutch colonies in “the West”. Their journey was a true adventure, not least because the last and longest leg of the voyage went over sea. A thrilling endeavour, which had taken several years to prepare.

Bemanning Snip

(The crew from left to right: van der Molen, Hondong, van Balkom and Stolk, december 1934 at Schiphol)

Increasing the maximum range

Others had crossed the Atlantic by then, of course, but KLM would be the first to fly from Porto Praia on the Cape Verdes Islands to Paramaribo in Suriname. The aircraft was fully equipped for the long-haul crossing. The entire interior had been completely stripped and even the windows had been replaced with linen sheets. This made the plane lighter, allowing eight extra fuel tanks to be installed, providing 3,500 litres of fuel, increasing the Fokker’s maximum range to 4,600 kilometres.

KLM 523210

Completed without a hitch

The plane had also been equipped with a radio, but KLM wanted to be absolutely sure that the long flight would be completed without a hitch. KLM therefore contacted the Royal Netherlands Steamboat Company (KNSM), which had several ships that regularly sailed close to the route the Snip would be taking. It was agreed that these ships would be on site when the crossing took place. In addition, a Royal Netherlands Navy submarine, the K-18, which was operating in the area for research purposes, was instructed to move to specific coordinates and hold its position there. Further assistance was provided by the weather services of the Portuguese government and various French and Portuguese radio stations, as well as the radio services of Suriname and Curacao.

Season’s Greetings

The Dutch press had every faith in the endeavour: “Whenever KLM takes on a challenge of this kind, it is practically sure to succeed.” KLM President Albert Plesman was more down-to-earth: “Even if we do manage to complete the Christmas mail flight Amsterdam-Paramaribo-Curacao, it would be too early to conclude that we have mastered trans-ocean operations.” Plesman’s reference to Christmas mail was part of a broader publicity campaign surrounding the flight, which was advertised as a great opportunity to send season’s greetings to Venezuela, Suriname and Curacao. The response exceeded expectations, with the Snip carrying no fewer than 26,521 packages and letters.


The departure of the flight was plagued by foul weather, with sleet, high winds and low cloud, which meant visibility was poor. Nevertheless, a large crowd gathered at Schiphol to wave off the aircraft and its crew. Because of the weather, the plane didn’t fly directly to Casablanca in Morocco, flying instead to Alicante in Spain, via the French port of Marseille. The first leg was completed at 13.00 hrs that same day.

KLM 523156 1934

The following morning, 16 December, the Snip set off to Casablanca, where it landed six hours later. At the end of the day, the crew flew on to their last stop before the Atlantic crossing: Porto Praia on the Cape Verdes Islands, where the Snip landed at 12.00 on 17 December.

After a couple of days of well-earned rest, during which the engines were checked, the Snip took off again at 19.00 on 19 December for the thrilling, 3,612-kilometre Atlantic crossing.

Join me next week for a full report of the crossing, with entries from Captain Hondong’s logbook. A real treat for aviation aficionados!

Posted by:   Frido Ogier  | 
Join the conversation Show comments

Paul deMeurichy

Geweldig verslag van een onderneming die ik gevoelsmatig associeer met de 1e maanlanding. Als ik toen geleefd had zou ik er zeker bij zijn geweest om deze pioniers uit te zwaaien en de tocht via de media (krant, radio,toen met enige vertraging) te volgen.

Alastair Treep

heb in mijn bezit een lepeltje dat toen is uitgegeven van de snip
Amsterdam Curaçao kerstvlucht 1934

Frido Ogier

Dat zijn leuke parafernalia! Koester het maar :-)

Vriendelijke groet,


Cedric Bronswinkel

I have set up a small museum in Curacao dedicated to the aviation history of Curacao. One of my proud possessions is the envelope of an airmail that flew on this first KLM flight from Amsterdam to Curacao.

Frido Ogier

Dear Cedric,

Nice to know! And I’m sure that the envelope is a true treasure in your collection!

Best regards,


jean pierre aragnetti (ex Air France ..!)

I have also an enveloppe How could I send you a scan of it

Peter Moys

Dear Frido,

I am a ret. ATCO and member of the Hungarian Aviation Historical Society. I wish to know whether you have any information about Hungarian crew members of KLM in the early 30-ies on the AMS -BUD – Batavia long service. They flew Fokker F-VIII and probably also Douglas DC-2.

Sincerely Yours: Peter

Frido Ogier

Dear Peter,

I’m afraid that we don’t have any information about crew in that era. I’m sorry, but I can’t help you with this question.

Kind regards,



Engnihteling the world, one helpful article at a time.

Lolita M. Balboa

It’s really nice to no more about KLM – it’s history, people behind it and how they contributed a lot to what is KLM today – really it is a rewarding form of education. Looking forward for more information about KLM – I really love KLM!

Frido Ogier

Thanks Lolita!

best regards,



Wat mooi! Ik woon in Paramaribo.

Voor wat betreft de landing in Suriname: weet jij of dat Zanderij was? Ik heb altijd begrepen dat die luchthaven pas in WO2 is aangelegd door de Amerikanen.
Ik ga de verhalen volgen.
Erg leuk.
Hartelijke groet,


Frido Ogier

Beste Harmen,

Inderdaad was dat Zanderij, of De Zanderij. In die tijd was dat inderdaad nog nauwelijks een vliegveld te noemen en er is eerst onderzocht of een vliegtuig er wel kon landen. Maar het was mogelijk en later werd dat inderdaad beter. Leuk dat je mijn blogs leest. Je hebt er nog een stuk of 17 te doen tot nu toe :-)



Theya Peekel Schilt

Prachtig blog over de eerste transatlantische vlucht.
Zelf ben ik speciaal geïnteresseerd in de vlucht
ad 1949 vanRegerings Functionaris Voormalig Minister Beel,
Van Batavia naar Schiphol van enkele dagen.
Bij aankomst op Schiphol speelde een orkestje ter verwelkoming.
Mijn expat nederlandse familie met twee baby’s van ± 1 jaar waren ook passagier op deze vlucht op
uitnodiging van de Minister. Er is materiaal van weet ik. Ik zou het graag zien.

Frido Ogier

Beste Theya, dank voor je compliment. Hoogstwaarschijnlijk beschikt het Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en geluid over dit fragment, want ik vermoed dat het Polygoonjournaal de opnames gemaakt heeft. Het archief ervan wordt door hen beheerd. Ik maak daar zelf ook gebruik van. Op hun site vind je alle informatie.

Prettige feestdagen en vriendelijke groet,


Ralph Jones

Fascinating story. I wish this route still exisited – even for geeks like myself! Good blog.

Frido Ogier

Thanks Ralph! Kind regards, Frido

Hans Walrecht

Hi Frido,

You placed a link to “the Snip”. Do you know that the cockpit section op the Snip still exists?
It’s in a museum in Willemstad, Curaçao. I can send a few pictures, if you’re interested.

Hans Walrecht

Frido Ogier

Dear Hans,

Thanks for your kind comment. Yes I know that the cockpit section is still there. This blog has a ‘part two’ in which I used one photo of that cockpit. I received it from my colleague at the KLM office at Curacao.

best regards,


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