|It was actually a Swede, Baron Carl Cederstrom, who was the first to fly in Norway. After several unsuccessful Norwegian attempts, he made the first exhibition flight in 1910, over Etterstadsletta in Kristiania. However, it was another Swede, naval lieutenant Olle Dahlbeck who gave a kick start to Norwegian aviation history.
In April 1912 it was rumoured that he was planning to fly from Moss over the Oslo Fjord to Horten. The Navy leaders realized that it could be embarrassing if a Swede, only seven years after 1905, was to be the first person to look down on Karljohansvern, Norway’s main naval base, from the air. Action was taken! Naval officer Hans Fleischer Dons was dispatched in all haste to an aircraft factory in Germany, while in Norway money was collected at record speed for the purchase of a plane.
On 31 May 1912, a Rumpler Taube aircraft stood ready at Gannestadjordet near Horten. The plane was named “Start”. Gannestad was no ideal air field, but at 09:30 hours the next day Dons climbed into the rear cockpit wearing a leather jacket, leather helmet and goggles. The ground crew started the propeller and, with a firm grip on the wings, eight seamen held the plane back.
One man lay on the ground holding the tail assembly firmly down. At a signal from the air traffic controller, they all let go simultaneously. “Start” bumped along the ground, spitting up and soil, before leaving the ground. The plane rose slowly, just clearing the trees at the end of the field, and swung elegantly towards Horten and Karljohansvern.
Dons then set course for Moss, but flew into some low cloud and lost visibility. By reducing altitude, he was able to see Jeloya. He set course for the church spire in Moss, followed the railway line past Rygge to Fredrikstad. He now navigated towards the church on the east side, across the Glomma river. He then made a controlled descent towards Brakkesletta on Ora. The plane landed smoothly. The trip had lasted 35 minutes and covered a distance of 48 kilometres. Dons was given a hero’s welcome and carried shoulder-high amid great jubilation. Telegrams were sent to King Haakon and Prime Minister Bratlie. About 12 noon, a reply came from the King congratulating Dons on this first prolonged flight.