A Balbo of Flying Dutchmen

Yesterday I promised a mass of posters for today’s post, and here we are. Tracing the variety of Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij N.V. (Royal Dutch Aviation Company – KLM) ‘Flying Dutchman’ themed posters. First is the set with updated aircraft types (all overlaying intentionally similar ‘Flying Dutchman’ ship artwork) as machines and routes improved in the inter-war period.

I’ve included a couple where there are variant overprint texts, and of course surviving copies often show remarkable colour and tonal variation, so also worth looking for different examples. The most modern (silver) aircraft is the 1934 Douglas DC-2 (given as by Arjen Galema on 1St Dibbs here) with a four engine Fokker F.XXII (1933, by Jan Wijga, 1902 – 1978) and the earliest of this set, the twin-engine Fokker F.VIII.

Next is a selection where the theme’s the same, but the designs vary. The brown Lockheed Constellation poster has, again, essentially the same ‘Flying Dutchman’ ship as the earlier inter-war examples, but flipped to sail the other way on the posters, and the much larger airliner has more of a contrast with a more ghost-like ship.

The earliest example from 1920, only a year after this airline started flying, is perhaps the most touching, featuring a KLM pilot (the Fokker in this case being a single engine early F.III) aboard the ship pointing out the new ‘Flying Dutchman’ to the sailor at his tiller. Two versions, one English, the other in Dutch. The last chronologically, also features the Lockheed Constellation, with a forced perspective ship in the foreground, a dutch sailor on the deck. This time the viewer looks from the ship. In most of them, the Dutch tricolour flag is visible, but not prominent – I wonder if that’s a legal issue? The ‘Flying Dutchman’ is also covered, among other interesting aspects of the KLM poster story in a KLM blogpost here.


KLM traded on the Flying Dutchman theme in many other ways for many years (and to this day, according to their publicity) but we’ll finish on an oddity in the topic, the cover for some 1929 sheet music for a march, ‘KLM (The Flying Dutchman) Marsch’. The cover features a Fokker F.VIII.

James Kightly, Vintage Aero Writer.

Images from a variety of sources, including: Aliexpress, Invaluable, and again, WorthPoint, and most importantly, the Don Thomas poster collection held by the San Diego Air & Space Museum, here. My good friend Mike Shreeve saw a display from the Rijksmuseum on display at Schiphol airport in November 2019, a note here.

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