Category 1783-1913 Pioneers

Danish Balloons before the Great War

A small hot-air balloon was seen over the roof-tops of Copenhagen on the 27th of December 1783. It was only one year after the brothers Montgolfier had sent up their first balloon in France.

The first Danish balloon flight taking a human being aloft took place on the 1st of October 1806 when  Professor Robertsen from Moscow ascended in his balloon from Rosenborg castle.

The first Dane to fly in a balloon was Studiosus Johan Peter Colding, who on the 23rd of April 1811 asceded in his home-made 40 ft (diameter) balloon. The trip from Blegdam 2, to Brønshøj Bakke took an hour. Colding was well know for his experiments in aeronautics, and he later succeded in sending mail by air across Øresund to Sweden.

The next balloon captain to try his luck was the Italian Joseph Tardini who had been hired by Tivoli.  The balloon crashed into the sea and Mr. Tardini drowned. His passengers, a woman and a child made it to shore.

Tardini’s balloon was later sold for 1085 Rigsdaler, and it was in this balloon that the Swede Granberg was immortalized. Granberg attempted to go aloft in the balloon, on Sunday the 26th of July 1857 from the square in front of the Danish parliament, Christiansborg. The balloon got caught on the roof of the Hofteatret building. To this day, the phrase “Den gik ikke Granberg” (That didn’t work, Granberg), is used in Denmark – Our ridicule of everything Swedish is obviously not new.

Tivoli continued to sponsor balloon flights, and many successful flights took place with paying passengers. The air captain, Lauritz Johansen, had a recordbreaking 117 ballon trips under his belt when he retired.

Jacob Christian Annasti Nees

Mr. Jacob Christian Annasti Nees publishes a book in 1860 called “Om Luftsejlads baseret paa Fugleflugt” (loosely translated as “Flying based on the study of Birds”). In the publication, Mr. Nees explains the “mechanics of flight”. He mentions the forces on a bird in flight, including lift, thrust and drag. He explains the propulsion of a birds wing when it flaps up and down, as well as as prepares and solves equations for the forces acting on the wing.

He argues that a flying machine with moving wings (ornithopter) must be the correct solution to heavier-than-air flight. His machine has a steam-engine in the center of the body. The wings are to move up and down for propulsion, and the tail is for directional control. Nees also discusses the difficulty of take-off, and imagines his airship be placed on a railway car and accelerated until take-off speed.

He estimated that an airship with a wingspan of about 36 feet would be able to carry 9 persons (130 pounds each) and with a 20 “Horses Power” engine. He had though out a steam-engine that would weigh around 25 pounds per horse power, and would cost 32 skilling per HP-hr. The daily wages for a worker was about 25 skilling per day. (1 rigsdaler = 6 mark, 1 = mark 16 skilling , 1 rigsdaler = 96 skilling). The price of an aircraft in 1860’s prices was estimated to 30,000 rigsdaler.

He assumed that regular flights between Copenhagen and Paris would take place with 5 flights a day, and started calculating operating costs and profits. Talking about selling the skin before the bear was shot!

Mr. Nees apparently worked in Sweden from 1849 to 1850, according to this website:

visat namn: Nees, Jacob Christian Annasti
efternamn: Nees
förnamn: Jacob Christian Annasti
tidspunkt – födelse: 1812-03-07
tidspunkt – död: 1901-10-17
yrke: fotograf
land: sverige
adress: Dahlanders hus [1849-1850]

Mr. Nees apparently tried to find investors for his project, but failed.

J.C.A. Nees was born March 7rd, 1812 in Hjørring. Was educated as “Polyteknik Kandidat” (Engineer). Worked at Mønten (Royal Mint). Was working as Daguerrotypist (Photographer) and as a telegraphist. Died Oct. 10, 1901

The ornithopter is a machine with flapping wings that  is designed to fly like a bird. The German brothers Gustav and Otto Lilienthal came to the result that a man with two pairs of wings is able to “lose” half his body weight. In other words, humans are too heavy and deliver too few “horse” power to the wings to sustain powered flight – It was necessary to find another means of lift. I have included this page here, as I find the aparatus used for testing so ingenius.

Klampenborg & Danmark

Ritmester Clausen-Kaas had just completed Klampenborg in 1908 and wanted to promote this new horse-race race-track as the ‘happening’ place. He bought a Percal balloon named “Danmark’ and a Voisin Aircraft – both from France. He built a hangar for the aircraft and had a gas-pipe installed from the near-by gas storage facility. He then made an agreement with the newly opened Dansk Aeronautisk Selskab (Danish Aeronautical Society).

This small balloon broke a record on its maiden voyage, by flying for 8 hours and 20 minutes and landed near Posen in Prussia (Now Poznan, Poland), some 430 km away. Danmark’s second voyage took it all the way to the Russian border, 545 km away.  The third balloon voyage was from Aarhus to Upsala, Sweden. The balloon sport gained incredible popularity.

Danmark was involved in many eventful voyages, mainly to Sweden, Norway and Germany, and took part in several ballooning competitions – mostly in Germany.

On the night of 18th of May 1910, earth passed through the trail of Halley’s Comet. Denmark was sent up. Its gondola was filled with scientific equipment and vacuum flasks. It was the Meteorological Institute trying to collect traces of space-dust in earth’s atmosphere.

A new balloon christened “Danmark II” was procured in 1910 when Danmark finally gave in. The photo shows Danmark, during the Skandinavisk Ballonkonkurence (Scandinavian Balloon Contest). A competition that Norway won!

Danmark II flew regularly during the following years, from Tivoli Gardens. It it worth noting that the longest voyage was 740 km, and the fastest was 75.6 km/hr (47 m.p.h).

Skandinavisk Aerodrom A/S

Scandinavia’s first proper Aerodrome was Kløvermarken to the south-east of Copenhagen. This triangular plot of land was rented by Skandinavisk Aerodrom A/S, a company established with the sole purpose of arranging airshows similar to those in Paris. The company raised a tall canvas-covered fence all around the aerodrome, giving an idea of the altitudes achieved during that period.

On this grass-field, flyers practiced and prepared for what had to be the ultimate feat, crossing the small straits to Sweden.

The flyers built their own aircraft, based on french designes. The kids in the neighbourhood soon gave these strange creations nicknames.

Nervø, AlfredWampa?
Svendsen, RobertBadeanstalten (The Public Bath)Voisin 1910
Severinsen, SørenKolonihavelysthuset (The Allotment House)Own Construction
Nielsen, PeterOwn Construction
Ellehammer, J.C.H.Græsslåmaskinen (The Lawnmover)Ellehammer Standard
Folmer HansenSandgraveren (The Sand Digger)Farman-Voisin 1909


It’s quite obvious from the nicknames, that most of these aircraft spent more time on (or in) the ground than in the air.

Visitors from abroad also used the Kløvermarken Aerodrome, including famous flyers like Pergoud, Chanteloup, and Chevillard.

Early Scale Modelling

The first scale model event in Denmark was on the 1st of January 1910. Students at “Det Danske Selskabs Skole” (Danish Society’s School) had been making models since the 20th of December, the year before – a total of 10 days. There were models of all the known aircraft of the time, incuding Wright, Bleriot, Latham, Antoinette and Santos Dumont. And the models DID fly. The first prize was won by Bent Rom, one of the volunteers at the Kløvermarken Aerodrome.

Jacob Christian Hansen Ellehammer

Jacob Christian Hansen Ellehammer was educated as a watch-maker, but soon got interested in various mechanical and electrical disciplines. He was a great inventor, and many of his inventions were literally way ahead of his time.

He made his money on a revolutionary water pump, and the got interested in light combustion engines. He soon married the combustion engine to a bicycle frame, and his “Elleham” motorcycle became a huge success.

Around 1903-1904, he started the development of a light aircraft engine. The idea of more than one cylinder was not new, but to save weight, he came up with the idea of mounting all the cylinders in a circle around a common crank case, thereby reducing the weight substantially. This, the worlds first radial engine, had 3 cylinders and produced 9 horse power. By 1906, he had managed to increase the power output by a factor of 2.5, and his model 1906, 3-cylinder engine produced slightly over 20 horse power.

Ellehammer and his brother had played with kites as children, and he knew they could produced enough lift to carry himself, on a windy day. So, he based his first aircraft on a triangular kite design. This was his second stroke of genius. By basing the design on a kite, the weight of the aircraft was drastically reduced, as he did not need heavy wooden wing spars and wing ribs, but could make do with a few metal tubes. The first Ellehammer aircraft were probably what we, today, would call hang-gliders, rather than fixed-wing aircraft. During his experiments, he added a second wing, tied to the first one with ropes. The top wing did not have any metal frames, and was, in fact, acting much like a ships sail. This was his 3rd stroke of genius. In effect, he got twice the lift, but added only 3.5 kg (7 lbs) of weight.

He then turned his attention to stability and control. Again, he came up with a brilliant idea. Longitudinal stability was controlled automatically by a pendulum that always pointed downwards, linked to the elevators. When the nose of the aircraft dipped, the pendulum would swing forward, pulling on the elevators, until the aircraft’s nose went up again. The opposite would obviously happen when the nose went up. Lateral stability was done by shifting the weight from side to side, bending the wings.

So, by 1906, he had all the elements required for powered, controlled, flight; 1) a light but powerful engine, 2) an extremely light aircraft and 3) a system of control.

For his first experiments, he controlled the aircraft from the ground using wires, very much like controlling a kite. When he had all the kinks ironed out, he started the first man-made flights. He performed these with one wing-tip tethered to a pole, making it go around in circles. For this purpose, he had constructed a hangar and a circular cement runway on the island of Lindholm, in the South-East of Denmark. This was another innovation, as this was the world’s first runway.

On the 12th of September 1906, Ellehammer took off in his second aircraft constructed, the Ellehammer II. He flew 42 m (140 ft) at a hight of 50 cm (20 inch). This flight took place a few days before the famous flight by Santos Dumont in Paris.

The next aircraft made by Ellehammer, the Ellehammer III, was able to take off and land on grass. He made more than 200 free andcontrolled flights in this aircraft, without even a single mishap or crash.

It is very interesting to note that Ellehammer had no knowledge of what the Wright Brothers had achieved in the USA, and that he came to the same conclusions as the Wright Brothers, roughly at the same time in history. Also, both the Wright Brothers and Ellehammer shared roughly the same backgrounds, in the bicycle/motorcycle business.

The Ellehammer IV, was the first Ellehammer aircraft with fixed wings, spars, ribs and a “proper” curved wing profile. On the 14th of January 1908, he entered the record books as the first person in Germany to fly, winning an astounding 5000 Mark for his feat. He few 190 meter in 3 meter’s height. The flight took 11 seconds!

The next aircraft, the Ellehammer V, was a flying boat.

By 1909, he built his “Standard Monoplan”. This aircraft was used by Count Moltke, who tried to cross the Øresund, the straits between Denmark and Sweden. The Count did NOT win the prize. The Standard Monoplan still exists to this day. A replica of it was made by Kramme & Zeuthen, and used by Viggo Sylvest Jensens Flying Circus.

By 1909 Ellehammer had obviously heard of the developments in France, and he lost interest in aircraft. Instead, he turned his attention to the helicopter, and by 1912 he succeeded in taking off in a helicopter of own design. The machine featured a counter-rotating propeller.


Berg & Storm I, II and III

Engineer Olaf Berg became manager of Burmeister & Wain’s Paris office in 1908. The office was in charge of marketing and sales of B&W’s centrifuges for homogenizing and pasteurizing milk. A technology invented 50 years earlier. Sales was not going well.

During his stay in Paris, Berg had the opportunity to visit the aerodrome at Issy-les-Moulineaux, where he witnessed the flights of  Henry Farman, Louis Bleriot and Leon Levasseur.

What made Berg think about aeroplane production in Denmark was the slow sales of centrifuges, and the impressive results of the Wright brothers, which he saw, during their visit to France during 1908.

Wilbur’s flights created quite a stir in the aeronautics community, because of the ease of banking their arcraft. Instead of making large turns, the Wright flyer could turn on a dime. Wilbur’s flights in Hunaudieres in August 1908, introduced the “Gauchissement” (Wing warping) control system to the French flyers.

During a short visit back in Denmark, Berg discussed what he had seen with engineer Louis Storm, and they both agreed to start an aircraft production. The main purpose was to demonstrate that aeroplane production was feasible in Denmark, and first and foremost to build a workable aeroplane.

B&W’s director Dessau was not entirely convinced, but he allowed the two gentlemen to use the facilities at B&W for their aeroplane venture. The news leaked, and the press soon brought articles about the aeroplane.

Berg & Storm I

Berg & Storm chose the Bleriot XI as a model for their aeroplane, but used the landing gear of the Antoinette monoplane constructed by Leon Levasseur. Bleriot had just crossed the english channel in a Bleriot XI, and Hubert Latham had performed incredible stunts at the airshow at Blackpool.

The fuselage was constructed during October 1909 from Oregon-Pine, Ash and plywood. The model-makers at B&W did the carpentry.

The wings, as well as elevators and rudders were covered with balloon-fabric (silk covered in rubber). The silk was attached to the wing by clamping it to the wings using wooden stringers on the outside of the wing. The wings were using standard ailerons.

The metal work was constructed by the centrifuge department at B&W.

The engine was a 3-cylinder Anzani, identical to the engine used by Bleriot during his channel crossing. It was able to deliver 30 BHP at 1600 r.p.m. The speed of the engine was very difficult to control. It was either full speed or nothing.

The machine was rigged by Niels Petersen, the machine-shop foreman. He had a keen interest in motor-cars, and his experience with fast engines, made him ideal for the Berg & Storm project.

The aircraft was ready by February 1910, and it was transported to Kløvermarken aerodrome, outside of Copenhagen. The first flight was performed by Knud Thorup, a vine-merchant from Aarhus that had taken flying lessons in France the year before.

The controls were arranged as follows: Rudder by foot pedals, elevator by pulling the joystick backwards and forwards, and wing-warping by twisting a wheel mounted vertically on the stick. This control methods, “DEP-control”, named after its inventor Deperdusin is still in use today.

The initial use of ailerons, as was popular with French aviators, proved hard to control on the Berg & Storm I, and the wing hit the ground during the first take-off attempts. The “Gauchissement” system was quickly adopted.

The Berg & Storm I flew for the firs time on the 4. Juli 1910 at 20:30. The wing incidence was 6 degrees, but it should probably have been 12, resulting in the aircraft flying nose-down, with the propeller having 6 degrees of down-thrust. Engineer Berg was extremely excited, and a young lady handed Thorup a rose as a toke of her appreciation. Flights followed almost daily, including many with a new engine designed by Niels Petersen, until Septembed 1910, where the plane crashed with the unexperienced Berg at the controls.

Specification B&S I

Wingspan: 8 m
Wing area: 15 sq. m
Length: –
Speed: 70 km/h
Weight: 190 kg
Engine: Anzani 30 hp.
Petrol Tank: 30 l
Propeller efficiency: 0.65.

Berg & Storm II

The Berg & Storm II aeroplane was a new construction. The fuselage was triangular in cross-section, something copied from the Antoinette aeroplane. The wing-profile was identical to that used on the Berg & Storm I. The fuselage was much slimmer than the B&S I fuselage, and constructed entirely out of wood and covered in plywood.

The triangular shape made control difficult. All controls were arranged on the stearing column, with the exception of the control for the engine oil, that was controlled by a foot-pedal.

The Berg & Storm II was constructed at a new hangar at Kløvermarken, bought by Berg & Storm during 1910. The hangar had the letters “B&S” written in large black lettering over the hangar doors.

Storm got a job in Norway during 1911 and it was Berg and Niels Petersen that finished the B&S II. The new machine was ready by April 1911.

The first flight was by Niels Petersen, that “just” had to learn how to fly first. He got his certificate on the B&S II, after about two months of training. The aeroplane proved a good flyer and Niels Petersen made several figure-8 flights and several landings.

Berg was now confident that they had a solid product, and he planned a large tour during 1911 – the so called “Danmarksflyvning” (Denmark-Flight). The trip would start at Skagen, and they would then perform all the way down throught Jylland, across Fyn ending back in Copenhagen.

Many records were broken on this trip, including height-records (500 meter) and duration (27 minutes), both from Sohngaardsholm Castle  in Aalborg. The 27 minute record flight would also be the last Berg & Storm II flight, as Peter Nielsen ran out of fuel and had to crash-land outside the airstrip at Sohngaardsholm parklands.

B&S II Specification

Wing span: 9,5 m
Wing area: 17 sq. m
Length: –
Weight: 270 kg
Engine: Niels Petersen 3-cylinder 50 HP

Berg & Storm III

A new aircraft, the Berg & Storm III was soon ready. It was similar to the Berg & Storm II, but it was designed as a trainer, and had two seats in tandem. The new aeroplane had the same wing-span as the Berg & Storm II, but it had a different airfoil – the “Eiffel 14”. The wing area had been reduced to 14.5 sq. m. resulting in a much faster landing speed, and a more difficult take-off.

The student was supposed to sit behind the pilot and watch his movements during flight, but the engine was still a Peter Nielsen 50 HP engine, and take-off proved difficult when a passenger was onboard.

The Berg & Storm III took flight during December 1911. The aeroplane was immediately sold to General Grut, who established a flying school for army personel from December 1911, with Peter Nielsen as instructor, until 1912, where General Grut donated the aeroplane to the Army.

This was to be the beginning of the Army Flying School, which was located on Kløvermarken, just outside Copenhagen. The Berg & Storm III was decomissioned two years later, in 1914. The aircraft today resided in Danmarks Flymuseum in Stauning, Danmark.
Berg & Storm III Specifications

Construction: Wood and Canvas
Engine: 3-cylinder, Nielsen
Controls: wing-warping
Wing-span: 8.8 m
Length: 8.34m
Height: 2.10 m
Weigth: –
Speed: 95 km/h
Range: –
Duration: 27 mins


  • Brandon Datt  says:

    By far the most concise and up to date information I found on this topic.

  • Burunduk  says:

    Thank you a lot for very interesting and informative story!

  • Allen Griffiths  says:

    This story needs the name Peter Nielsen changed to Niels Petersen where it appears.

    Does anyone know of Niels Petersens’ other activities and who he was? His full name? D.o.b.

    I know he raced a Jurgensen motorcycle in the French Coupe Internationale in 1904.

    Produced his own pacing Motorcycle and V twin engine in 1907 called DANICA (Latin for Denmark).

    Manufactured the W Triple Fan Engine with overhead valves for the B&S II & III

    What projects did he partake after 1912?

Leave a reply