The project to bring back the Junkers F13 reached an eagerly awaited pinnacle on September 15th, 2016: the legendary official first flight of the replica took place in Dübendorf, Switzerland, almost 100 years after the launch of the ‘mother of all commercial aircraft’. With the take-off, what was constructed under the project name ‘RIMOWA F13’ became a veritable Junkers F13, thereby extending the legacy of the visionary professor Hugo Junkers.
The aircraft stood elegantly on Dübendorf airfield, formerly Zurich’s primary airport. The onlookers had travelled from all over the world in honour of the ‘Annelise 2’ – the name by which the aircraft goes as a nod to one of the first Junkers F13 planes. The replica of the Junkers F13 is more than merely a reproduction of a popular plane from the past – it was the world’s first all-metal commercial aircraft, serving as a source of inspiration for generations of aircraft manufacturers and blazing a trail in modern-day passenger aviation. The original, achieved an altitude record of 6,750 metres way back on September 13th, 1919, which was an incredible feat at the time.
The Junkers F13 by RIMOWA gently started to taxi, gathered pace and smoothly lifted off after just 200 metres. Its engine delivers 450 hp and a cruising speed of 176 km/h. The screens on the airfield displayed live images from the cockpit. At the sight of the instrument panel, the onlookers felt like they had been whisked back in time and were amazed at the modest technology used in aviation back then. While the replica features significantly more technical equipment than the cockpit of an original Junkers F13, it does not compare with modern jets as they have glass cockpits.
Like the original 100 years ago, the Junkers F13 by RIMOWA conveys the same sense of freedom. The open cockpit was occupied by test pilot Oliver Bachmann, along with RIMOWA President & CEO Dieter Morszeck, who has been a private pilot himself for 34 years. An additional camera was trained on the test pilot’s skilful manual actions as he confidently navigated the aircraft. The landing was then executed with as much applause as the take-off. The Junkers F13 touched down smoothly and was met with sustained applause. A proud and thrilled Dieter Morszeck commented as follows on leaving the cockpit, “This is a dream come true for me. The Junkers F13 is back in the air and I was fortunate enough to experience its official first flight as a member of the crew! What more could I ask for?”
There were seven years of research, planning and approvals between the initial idea and the aircraft’s maiden flight. Three strong partners joined forces in order to manage a project of this scale: JU-AIR, the Association of Friends of Historical Aircraft (VFL) and RIMOWA. The aircraft was commissioned by the German entrepreneur, engineer and visionary Hugo Junkers in 1919. The first cantilever all-metal aircraft made of duralumin was manufactured at the Junkers plants in Dessau until 1933. Cologne-based businessman Dieter Morszeck, whose father developed suitcases using the same material more than 60 years ago, felt a sense of affiliation with Hugo Junkers’ project and therefore sponsored the construction of the first airworthy F13 replica. “Hugo Junkers was the first person to use duralumin in aircraft construction. Around the world, grooved sheet metal became the hallmark of Junkers aircraft and RIMOWA suitcases,” commented Dieter Morszeck. “This is why I followed and supported the construction of an airworthy Junkers F13. I wanted to give back the world an important cultural asset – not in a museum, but where it belongs: in the skies.”
The team comprising the companies Kälin Aero Technologies, MSW Aviation, Naef Flugmotoren AG, AeroFEM GmbH and JU-AIR spent 24 months building the Junkers F13. The F13 team performed research in numerous archives spread across multiple countries in order to develop the construction plans. A Junkers JL6 at the Museum of Air and Space at Le Bourget in Paris proved to be especially valuable. It was measured using lasers and the data was then fed into state-of-the-art 3D construction software.
It took 12,000 hours to construct the Junkers F13 in the Black Forest. The low-wing plane, with an open two-man cockpit, comprises 2,600 parts held together by more than 35,000 rivets. 60 kilograms of paint were used for the finish. The historical replica is powered by a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior R985 9-cylinder radial engine with 450 hp. The interior is luxuriously finished with fine leather.
Approval is anticipated by the end of 2016. For more information on the Junkers F13, go to www.junkersf13.de