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“Varig was created to serve" Otto Meyer

The creation of a Brazilian airline came in Otto Ernet Meyer Labastille’s mind, a German born in 1897, in Neider-Marschhacht, he was an aviator from Royal Prussian Aviation. He emigrated to Brazil in 1921, hired by a German company in Recife. Otto Meyer tried to create an airline in Recife and then in Rio de Janeiro, but only found the necessary support in Porto Alegre.

In 1926 he went to Germany looking for aircraft and expert staff. Otto Meyer made a deal with Condor Syndikat, a German airline: the airline would provide a plane and staff to operate the plane in exchange for 21% of the future Brazilian airline. Condor Syndikat received authorization to fly in Brazil on January 26, 1927 and February 3, launched Brazil's first commercial flight. On May 7, 1927 “Viação Aérea Rio Grandense” was officially established, also known as VARIG. Its first aircraft was a Dornier Wal, named "Atlântico" (Atlantic). VARIG’s first route was known as "Linha da Lagoa” (Lagoon’s Line), linking Porto Alegre, Pelotas and Rio Grande. The flight was made at low altitude, between 20 and 50 meters, over Lagoa dos Patos (Ducks Lagoon), at a cruising speed of 160 km/h. The plane capacity was only 9 passengers. At check-in, the passenger was weighed with their luggage, and if weighed more than 75 kg he or she was charged by overweight. Were also distributed cotton and gum to all passengers. The cotton was to be put in the ears to reduce the engine’s noise and the gum to relieve the discomfort caused by pressure change. The flight lasted about two hours and 20 minutes, much faster than a train and the ticket was not much more expensive. VARIG built a ramp and some workshops on Ilha Grande dos Marinheiros island in Jacuí river, in front of Porto Alegre city, to serve as operations base.

At the end of 1927 VARIG carried a total of 668 passengers and received its second aircraft, the Dornier Merkur, named "Gaúcho". Gaúcho is the name given to those who were born in Rio Grande do Sul Brazilian state. The company also acquired two Klemm L-25, but these aircraft were not used to carry passengers, as there were only two places in the plane: for a passenger and for the pilot. This aircraft were used to transport mailbag and also advertisement of commercial aviation in the inner cities of Rio Grande do Sul State.

Dornier Wal "Atlântico", VARIG’s first aircraft / VARIG’s station in Pelotas, where passengers wait to board, protected from the cold

In 20’s VARIG’s passengers need to board in a boat to get to the aircraft



1xDornier Wal
1x Dornier Merkur
2x Klemm L-25


Porto Alegre, Pelotas and Rio Grande


Otto Ernest Meyer Labastille


                              HOW WAS FLYING IN THE 1920s?

In the 1920s, travel by airplane was completely new. VARIG's challenge was to convince people that traveling by plane was safe, comfortable and faster than other types of transport. At that time everything was still very primitive, starting with boarding. The passengers were taken to the docks, to be transported by boat to Ilha Grande dos Marinheiros, where tickets were checked. On the ticked, the words: "For your safety, smoking is strictly prohibited, as well as throwing objects through the windows." Luggage and the passenger were  weighing together, being surcharged if the sum surpassed 75 kilos.
The commander and the crew were wearing heavy coats, leather helmets, and protective goggles, since they had no protection from the cold winds. The passengers had comfortable climate and seats in the plane. The takeoff took on dramatic air when Oswaldo Muller's services were called. He used a boat to make waves, giving the seaplane, after some unsuccessful attempts, that essential skip that helped him up.
The night landings were difficult, as there was no demarcated area, only darkness. A device was created for the night landing, which consisted in releasing a lead weight attached to a rope, unrolled to be 10 meters below the aircraft. When the lead touched the water, a blue light would come on the panel, and the pilot then knew that it was time to pull the knob to land, praying that there was no fisherman's canoe or a tree trunk in the front.


Dornier Wal "Atlântico" / "Gaúcho": VARIG’s second plane




                              IN FOCUS: Brazil's first commercial flight

Who made the first flight in Brazil, Condor Syndikat or Varig? Condor Syndikat was Brazilian or German?
Actually there were three airlines involved on Brazil's commercial aviation beginning:
1) Condor Syndikat - German airline. 2) Syndicato Condor - Brazilian airline. 3) Varig - Brazilian airline.
Condor Syndikat was founded on May 5, 1924 in Berlin, Germany. The company was intended to promote German aircraft and study possibilities of air traffic in South America and Central America. The company joined SCADTA (after Avianca) to link the United States, Central America and Colombia. In 1926 Lufthansa was created and took control of Condor Syndikat.
Meanwhile, in Brazil, Otto Meyer (founder of VARIG) was looking for an aircraft to begin VARIG's operations. He made an agreement with Lufthansa and Condor Syndikat, which brought Dornier Wal aircraft to Brazil. The hydro-airplane arrived in Rio Grande do Sul on November 19, 1926. The aircraft also flew to Rio de Janeiro and Florianópolis, with ministers, journalists and other important people on board, showing the qualities of the aircraft.
On January 26, 1927 Brazil authorized Condor Syndikat to fly in Brazil for one year. On February 3, 1927 the first commercial flight took place in Brazil, operated by Condor Syndikat for VARIG. The flight took off at 8 am in Porto Alegre, to Rio Grande,with a stopover in Pelotas. Condor Syndikat made it because VARIG wasn't officially established yet. Only on May 7, 1927 VARIG was created. So the route and the aircraft Dornier Wal were transferred from Condor Syndikat to VARIG on June 15, 1927.
However Condor Syndikat wanted to keep present in Brazil and created its Brazilian subsidiary, Syndicato Condor. Syndicato Condor was established on December 1, 1927, in Rio de Janeiro. The company had already received authorization to fly between Rio de Janeiro and Recife on August 20, 1927. Condor Syndikat had also reserved two Dornier Wal and one Junkers G-24 for its Brazilian subsidiary. Soon Syndicato Condor became the second largest airline in Brazil, behind only Panair do Brasil. While VARIG flew only in Rio Grande do Sul state, Syndicato Condor flew to all regions of Brazil and Montevideo, in Uruguay and Buenos Aires, in Argentina.
When Brazil entered in the Second World War, in the 40s, against Germany, Brazilian airlines with German origin (VARIG and Syndicato Condor) had to cut its ties with Germany. VARIG's founder and president Otto Meyer left the company and the German Junkers aircraft were replaced by American Douglas DC-3. Syndicato Condor was nationalized, all Germans were withdraw. The company was rebranded as Serviços Aéreos Cruzeiro do Sul and the company's fleet was replaced by American aircraft.






Dornier Wal "Atlântico"
Dornier Merkur "Gaúcho"
Klemm L-25
Junkers A-50
Junkers F-13
Messerschmitt 108 "Taiffun"
Messerschmitt M20
Junkers JU52
Fiat G2
De Havilland DH89A
Lockheed Electra I
Nordwyn UC641
Douglas DC-3
Curtiss C-46

Convair 240
Lockheed Super G Constellation
Caravelle 1
Boeing 707-441
Douglas DC-6
Lockheed Electra II
Convair 990A
Douglas DC-8-33
Boeing 707-320
HS-748 "Avro"
Boeing 727-100
Boeing 737-200
Douglas DC-10-30
Airbus A300B4
Boeing 747-200
Boeing 747-300
Boeing 767-200ER
Boeing 737-300
Boeing 767-300ER
Boeing 747-400
Boeing 737-700
Boeing 737-800
Boeing 777-200ER
Boeing 757-200






Varig Group
Fundação Ruben Berta
Ícaro Brasil
Rio Sul e Nordeste
Varig Cargo e Varig Log
Varig VEM


70's and 80's
90's e 2000's




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