On July 12, 1929, the dream creation of German aircraft designer Claudius Dornier, the Do X, took off from Lake Constance, just outside of the Swiss town of Altenrhein. Powered by 12 roaring, 610-horsepower V-12 piston engines, the Do X was the largest, heaviest, and most powerful hydroplane ever to take to the sky. It was one of only a small number of flying machines in history to be powered by ten or more engines. By most accounts, the Do X aircraft hosts the largest number of piston engines ever created.
Called a flugschiff (flying ship), Claudius Dornier first conceived of the Do X in 1924, a period in the history of flight when aviation technology was accelerating at a blistering pace and designers strove to create ever larger, faster, and higher-endurance craft. Engineering began on the Do X in September of 1924 with the first set of aircraft drawings. Just under five years later the world’s largest aircraft debuted, a pinnacle of German innovation and engineering. Dornier manufactured three of these during a production run from 1927 to 1932. The airframe operated from 1929 to 1937 in Germany and Italy.
The design consists of a hull with three internal decks and an overall length of 131 feet, 5 inches (40.05 meters), a high main wing with a span of 156 feet, 10 inches (47.8 meters), and sponsons mounted on the lower hull that stabilize the Do X in water and act as complementary wings once aloft.
The lower deck of the aircraft’s hull stored thousands of gallons of fuel. The middle deck had seating for up to 100 people (although when operational, it typically accommodated up to 70). The middle deck also had a lounge with a bar, a dining room, bathrooms, and storage. The upper deck held the crew of up to 14 and all control systems for operating the aircraft, including the cockpit, engine control room, and radio facilities. During one particular flight, a Do X carried 169 people, including passengers and crew, a world record that stood for more than two decades. During its operational tenure, the Dornier Do X drew crowds wherever it went, most notably during a journey from Europe to the United States via Africa and South America.