Unheralded, unawaited, after a secret start from Berlin, the Bremen dropped from the sky above Dublin on March 26. Three head-erect Germans stepped from her cabin: Baron Ehrenfried Gunther von Huenefeld, monocled Prussian nobleman, owner of the plane; Capt. Hermann Koehl, stolid flyer from Berlin, proud possessor of a heroic war record; Arthur Spindler, co-pilot and mechanic, who had been Capt. Koehl's sergeant during the War. They announced themselves on the way to the U. S., determined to be the first to make the hazardous wind-bucking passage East to West.
Day followed day. Impatient, fretful, the three Germans waited for clearing weather. There was nothing to do but pace the turf of Baldonnel Airdrome, inspecting and reinspecting their Junkers plane and its powerful Junkers engine. Talk in idleness led to argument. Baron von Huenefeld spoke a fiery word. Mechanic Spindler packed his bag, left, and then there were only two. No one dared ask the tight-lipped Prussian exactly why.
A short test flight was hastily arranged and an Irishman climbed into the seat beside Pilot Koehl and the controls. Commandant James Fitzmaurice it was, and, as befitted an adventurous Irish lad of 30 with a flair for the romantic and a record for the daring, he was head of the Air Force of the Irish Free State. He too wanted to fly across the Atlantic; had, indeed, made a start last September with Capt. Robert H. Mclntosh in the Fokker monoplane Princess Xenia, only to turn back after three hours' weary bicker with the winds.
At 9 o'clock on the evening of April 11, the two Germans and the Irishman were bending over maps and weather reports. Twice before that day the weather news had disappointed them. Also, word had come from Paris that Frenchmen were tuning up rival planes. The Germans decided, Fitzmaurice rushed from the room, burst into the Officers' Mess at Baldonnel. "Crack goes the whip, off go the horses, and round go the wheels at 5 o'clock!" he shouted. The report just received from the British Air Ministry said that almost ideal conditions might be expected as far as mid-Atlantic, though beyond lay possible danger.
The Irishman drank farewell toasts with his brothers of the Saorstat Corps. Said he: "Ten-thirty is my bedtime and I refuse to crawl in earlier just because there's a little job of flying over the Atlantic to be done tomorrow." It was midnight when he finally retired, in the room next to that of his eight-year-old daughter Pat, who, he said, "doesn't give a hump about all this flying." The Germans, strange figures in Ireland, plodded back to their quarters, the Baron to play a final game of solitaire, the phlegmatic Captain to make a final study of weather charts before turning in.
Long before 4 o'clock on the morning of the 12th, the roads to Baldonnel were burdened with men, women, children, donkeys, cycles, motorcars. The Bremen was trundled from her hangar and poised for flight, away from a perfect dawn. Koehl and Fitzmaurice, devout Catholics, made their confessions and Father O'Riordan blessed the plane. Baron von Huenefeld, doffing his yachting cap, hung a silken flag of the old German Empire beside that of the Irish Free State. President and Mrs. William T. Cosgrave, the German Consul-General, the Chief of Staff of the Army and other officials, watched.