Friedrichshafen on shore of the Bodensee (Lake Constance) is best-known in industrial history as the manufacturing and operating base for the airships built by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin (1838-1917), but it was also the home of another of Germany’s principal aircraft manufacturing companies, Dornier GmbH. Claude Dornier (1884-1969), a native of the Allgäu region of Bavaria, studied in Munich and Karlsruhe before moving to Friedrichshafen in 1910 to work for Zeppelin.
He founded his own company in 1914 and constructed many military aircraft during the First World War. Under the terms of the Treaty of Versailles of 1919 aircraft manufacturing in Germany was severely restricted and for some years Dornier assembled his products in other countries. Notable aircraft produced by the company included the Wal flying boat of 1924, the Merkur airliner of 1925, and the D15 ‘flying pencil’ of 1935, one of the Luftwaffe’s principal bombers during the Second World War. Production in Germany was again restricted in the years after the Second World War, but the company carried on some of its activities in Spain and Switzerland and diversified into other areas of engineering, particularly the manufacture of hardware for space exploration.
The Dornier Museum occupies a striking modern building and its 400 exhibits include twelve original aircraft and two full-size replicas. Visitors can see some historic films of Dornier aircraft in operation, and take a round tour of the Bodensee in a flight simulator. There are joint ticketing arrangements with the Zeppelin museum and with the operators of the catamaran service from Konstanz to Friedrichshafen.