At a time when aviation in Brazil was dominated by Germans, Pernambuco’s Severiano Lins became a pioneer pilot in the country.
Brazilian commercial aviation emerged from the initiative of German investors and entrepreneurs, notably Otto Ernst Meyer, founder of Varig, as well as Chancellor Hans Luther, who encouraged the expansion of German aviation in South America.
During the first years, Brazilian aviation was piloted by the Germans, partly due to the origin of the aircraft used by the pioneers Varig and Syndicato Condor (later Cruzeiro do Sul), and another due to the preference in hiring personnel with some experience, something until then nonexistent in Brazil in the 1930s.
The first Brazilian commander, however, did not have German descent, but Portuguese. Born in Palmares, Pernambuco native Severiano Lins left work at the family’s mills to venture into the Military Aviation School of Campo dos Afonsos, in Rio de Janeiro.
He was 13th in the list of candidates, but he obtained the first place among the civilian pilots and the fifth place in the general classification. When “briefing” in 1929, he spent only one year in military aviation, having received an invitation to fly in the Syndicato Condor in 1931. Due to his experience and skills, he was soon chosen as commander, thus becoming the first Brazilian to occupy such position in commercial aviation.
The Junker Ju-52 was considered one of the most modern aircraft of its time and was commanded for several years by the first Brazilian commander.
In 1936, he won the aerial tests of the 1st Wing Week, receiving the award from the then president Getúlio Vargas. The following year, he was invited to take the night flight course (at a time when there were practically no instrument flights) in Germany. He boarded the iconic LZ 127 Graf Zepplin airship, heading for Europe. The trip was considered not only an adventure, but one of the most luxurious experiences of the time. Interestingly, he made the last trip on a rigid airship, as the LZ 129 Hindemburg had been lost in an accident in New York a few days earlier.
With an impeccable flight history, he became Commander of Junker Ju-52 of Condor. Unfortunately, on January 13, 1939, less than eight years after joining the company, the first Brazilian commander died in a tragic accident in Serra do Sambê, in Rio Bonito (RJ). The Ju-52 (PP-CAY) was flying in poor visibility when it flew into the mountain due to an error in the navigation chart, which incorrectly identified the altitude of the entire mountain range in that region.