Ramón Franco y Bahamonde Salgado Pardo de Andrade (born 2 February 1896 in the naval station of Ferrol in North-western Spain – October 1938), was a Galician pioneer of aviation, a political figure and brother of later dictator Francisco Franco. Well before the Spanish Civil War, during the reign of Alfonso XIII, both brothers were acclaimed as national heroes in Spain; however, the two had strongly differing political views. They had a less known brother Nicolás.
Ramón started his career as an ordinary successful military officer in the infantry, assigned to Morocco in 1914. In 1920 he joined the Spanish Air Force, participating in activities that earned him international attention. In 1926 he became a national hero when he piloted the Plus Ultra flying boat on a Trans-Atlantic flight. His co-pilot was Julio Ruiz de Alda Miqueleiz; the other crew members were Teniente de Navio (Navy Lieutenant) Juan Manuel Duran and the mechanic Pablo Rada. The Plus Ultra departed from Palos de la Frontera, in Huelva, Spain on January 22 and arrived in Buenos Aires, Argentina on January 26. It stopped over at Gran Canaria, Cape Verde, Pernambuco, Rio de Janeiro and Montevideo. The 10,270 km journey was completed in 59 hours and 39 minutes.
The event appeared in most of the major newspapers world wide, though some of them underlining the fact that the airplane itself plus the technical expertise were foreign. Throughout the Spanish-speaking world the Spanish aviators were glamorously acclaimed, particularly in Argentina and Spain where thousands gathered at Christopher Columbus square in Madrid. In 1929 he attempted another trans-Atlantic flight, this time crashing the airplane to the sea. The crew was rescued days later by an aircraft carrier of the British Royal Navy.
During the dictatorship of Miguel Primo de Rivera he declared himself on several occasions against the regime. He conspired against the Monarchy, inflicted losses on the army and was sent to prison, from which he was able to escape. In December 1930, along with other Republican aviators, he seized some aircraft at the aerodrome of Cuatro Vientos and flew over Madrid dropping leaflets which falsely stated a republican revolution had broken out all over Spain, calling on citizens and soldiers to aid the movement and stating that troops' quarters would be bombed shortly if they did not help in the revolution. He fled to Portugal and returned to Spain when the Second Spanish Republic was proclaimed.
Reentering the Army, he was named chief of a main directorate of Aeronautics, a position from which he was dismissed shortly afterwards for his participation in an anarchist revolt in Andalusia. He was elected as a deputy in the Cortes for Republican Left of Catalonia in Barcelona, retiring from the army and focused on politics.
Upon his return to Spain, in spite of his leftist political past, he joined the Nationalist side, of which his brother Francisco was a main leader. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was named head of the airbase at Majorca. His receipt of the command in Majorca was "received very badly" by his fellow aviators, who resented that Ramón, a Freemason who had been dismissed, had been promoted over officers with war merits.
Ramón Franco was killed in an air accident on October 28, 1938 when his hydroplane crashed off Pollença, near the coast of Majorca, while attempting to bomb Republican-controlled Valencia. His body was found floating in the water and his death lead to rumors of conspiracies and sabotage. Following the crash his brother Francisco, who would rule Spain for the next three decades, severed most relations with his brother's widow and daughter.
- Payne, S.G. The Franco Regime, 1936-1975. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1987. p 195 note 91.
- Payne, S.G. The Franco Regime: 1936-1975. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1987. p 195 & note 91.
- Payne, S.G. The Franco Regime, 1936-1975. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1987. p 195-96.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Plus Ultra.|
- El vuelo del Plus Ultra, in Spanish.
- A picture of Franco at the "Plus Ultra" celebrations in Ferrol and Madrid (1926)
- Traveller's Guide of Europe: Ferrol c.1919
- Dornier Wal, in Spanish.
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