On 25 September 2005, The Royal Dutch Airlines KLM will celebrate the 75th Anniversary of one of the biggest achievements in flighthistory: the start of the longest postal/passenger airlineservice then from Amsterdam to Batavia in the former Dutch Colony East Indies (now Indonesia).


The flight was mostly flown by dead reckoning, and VFR. For navigation during flight the crew mostly used colored topographical maps. For each section of the route a map was on board the plane. These maps could be rolled up on drums, and placed in a special lightmetal case with a window.

As the trip progressed, the map would be rolled up a bit, to show the part they were flying over. On the map courselines and distances were given.

Most of the route was over land, or along a coastline. During flight under low visability, the radio operator could help navigate by requesting radiobearings (a kind of ADF). Also during landing the flightcrew could get help from radiobearings. The captain and radio operator would work very closely together during this.

Ground organisation

In the beginning, the groundorganisation was fairly primitive.All activities had to be organized, and carried out by the crew. Fuel and oil usually were poured from cans into the tanks, standing on a ladder. Custom formalities caused hours of delay.
There was no nightlighting on the airfields, and very few radiostaions along the route.

But, more and more fascilities for airtravel were introduced. The number of radiostations was increased, many with directional bearings.

Weatherforecasts were becoming more relyable. And thanks to bigger experiance and coöperation between aircrew and groundcrew, delay on the ground was becomming shorter. Also, nightlighting improved. Nightflying was possible, but was only used for emergencies in the beginning. All in all, everything progressed. In 1932, it took 10,5 days to fly to Batavia, in 1935 5,5 days!

The KLM Technical Service, put spareparts on every of the 22 airfields along the route. They were stored in special steel lockers, along with the special needed tools. The planes mechanic had acces to these lockers, and knew exactly what was in them. Shell started to build underground tanks, to store fuel and oil, and using tanktrucks and powerfull pumps to service the planes. It now took 15 minutes to fill the planes tanks.

In 1935, the groundcrew on all airfields could easily handle 4 flights, 2 outgoing to Batavia, and 2 homebound for Amsterdam.


During the winter, the line would fly the Marseille route, because weatherconditions can be very harsh in Eastern Europe. After Athens, the route is identical. The DC2 would do the flight in 5 days, with nightstops on the outbound voyage in Athens, Bagdad, Jodphur, Rangoon, Singapore.

On the inbound voyage, back to Holland they would stay in Medan, Rangoon, Jodphur, Bagdad and Athens.

Adventure flight to Batavia

KLM Fokker F.XII refuelling at Schiphol, 1930

Fokker F12 at Schiphol, loading post for his journey to the Dutch East Indies

Fokker F.XII starting engines

Fokker F.XII early in the morning at Schiphol, just before leaving for a service to the Dutch East Indies

Schiphol tower

Startsignal from the controller at Schiphol tower

The last farewell before leaving to the East

Comfortseats of the Fokker F.XII


In 1935 the Indië route was flown once a week. On june 12, 1935, the ‘twice-a-week” schedule was introduced. First plane was the DC2 PN-AKN “Nachtegaal”, on flight 241.

The new flag of the Republic of Indonesia

In 1935 only 5 passengers could travel in the Douglas on this route. Critical distances over the sea and the desert didn’t allow the weight. Later this number was increased to 7.

They had comfortable chairs at their disposal, which could be placed in a resting position, so they could sleep. KLM took good care of their passengers. Transit visa and passports were all made in good order.


This was not easy, because the journey encompassed 18 countries. The company also provided travel ensurance.

Nightstay and all meals were included in the ticketprice, as well as all transfers from and to the airports.
On top of that, each passenger received two suitcases, to carry 20 kg of luggage.
Flighttime was approximately 10 hours a day: so passengers spent 14 hours on the ground, for sightseeing, dining, night stay in mostly very comfortable hotels, and breakfast.

During the flight crew and passengers didn’t have to complain about a lack of variation. Flight always took place during daytime, and for 5 days, an everchanging panorama could be seen from the Douglas. And at the different stops, there was always something of interest to see.

The Indië line was flown along the same route throughout the year, exept in Europe. In summer from Amsterdam over Leipzig and Budapest to Athens, in winter over Marseille and Rome to Athens.

From Amsterdam, as well as from Batavia, every wednesday and saturday a DC2 would start in the Holland-Indië line.

Day 1

Athens was the first nightstop on the outbound voyage.


Passengers and crew would stay in Hotel “La Grande Bretagne”.

Day 2

On the second day, over the Mediterranian sea, the crew would change their dark-blue KLM uniform in a Khaki tropical uniform. In the cockpit they carried 4 pistols and ammunition. This was a precautionary measure, in case of an emergency landing in an inhospitable area. From Alexandrië, to Gaza in Palestina for refueling.

From Gaza over the Syrian desert, mostly following the oil pipeline, to Baghdad, place of the second nightstop. There was no airco in those days, and temperatures of over 50°C during the day were not much lower at night. In hotel “Tigris Palace”, people would sleep on the rooftops, plagued by mosquitos.

Day 3

The third day was flown from Bagdad, via Bushire, Jask, Karachi to Jodphur. Baghdad-Karachi was to far for a DC2 to fly in one go. A refueling stop was made in Jask, a deserted strip of land between the Gulf of Oman and the rugged mountains.

Overthere, it was really hot. The arrival in Jodphur was something different. The Maharadja was a modern man, who liked to fly, and there was a fully equiped airfield. They would stay in the “State Hotel”. Jodphur was a beautifull city for siteseeing.

Day 4

Would bring them from Jodphur to Rangoon, via Allahabad and Calcutta.
During this day the deserts landscapes would more and more be replaced by lush rainforrests. From Calcutta, they would cross the Bengale Gulf,

notorious for it’s fierce monsoons during summer. Rangoon was a beautifull city, with splendid golden temples, which were often visited by passengers and crew. They would stay at the “Minto Mansion”.


Flight from Rangoon to Singapore over the Mallakkan peninsula. Refuelingstops in Bangkok, Alor Star and Medan. The Dutch Indies were reached. Circumstances permitted, they would sometimes

fly verry low, to take a look at herds of elephants. In Singapore, an important seaport, they stayed in te “Sea-view Hotel”. Here also the Captains diner was held to celebrate the last night.

Day 6

A relative short distance was flown from Singapore to Batavia. At Palembang a short refueling stop, and then after another hour flight, Batavia, the final destination Tjililitan airport was reached. The passengers would leave the plane for an onward voyage, and swift hands would unload the plane

of mail and goods.
The DC2 would fly empty from Batavia to Bandoeng, where on Andir Airport, the technical service of the KLM was stationed.

Here it would recieve maintanance before being flown back to the Netherlands.

The crew would stay in Lembang or Bandoeng for a 6 day restingperiod.