7: KLM planning record flight to Batavia
In 1933 KLM had a lot of competitors that wanted to challenge the Far East route. Fokker designers answered the challenge with their Silver Gull FXX, equipped with three American Curtiss Wright engines each of 650 HP and planned for a cruising speed of 250 km/h. They produced a real streamlined job with retractable undercarriage to lessen wind resistance. With this aircraft it became realistic to calculate with a 5 day schedule for the 14.500 kilometres route.
So instead of saying "Post Early for Christmas", the Netherlands Post Office gambled on how late a plane could leave the homeland and still reach the East Indies in time to deliver mail on Christmas morning. More, that the plane would get back to Amsterdam with New Year mail from the Dutch East Indies as well. Backed by Ivan, Plesman made a big gesture. He announced that the Silver Gull would leave on 18 December, meaning a 5 day schedule for the Christmas flight. Gigantic efforts had been made to provide permanent servicing sheds and fuel-dumps along the way.
In the meantime Ivan was taken off the Far East route to test the wonder machine on shorter, European runs. And this was the finest machine that he had ever flown. Why was it then that he was not happy? Well, there was a good deal of engine trouble, but that was natural, the motors designed by the Curtiss Wright engine factories in America were still in the experimental stages. Messages were flashing backwards and forwards over the Atlantic daily. On 2 December Ivan took Silver Gull on a final proving flight to England. He was forced down at Lympne with engine trouble. British efficiency got him patched up with spares rushed from Amsterdam, and on the homeward flight he logged, easily, 258 km/h. But he was still unhappy. What use to fly faster than anybody else if unexpected snags developed in places where neither spares nor services were available?