Junkers Ju52


Display Status:

This object is on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Junkers Ju52

Collection Item Summary:

Affectionately known in Germany as Tante Ju, or "Auntie Ju," the Junkers Ju 52/3m was one of the most successful European airliners ever made. Designed for Deutsche Luft Hansa in 1932, the Ju 52/3m was a tri-motor version of the single-engine Ju-52. It could carry 17 passengers or 3 tons of freight and had excellent short-field performance. By the mid-1930s, airlines throughout Europe and Latin America were flying them. In World War II, they were the Luftwaffe's primary transports, and some served as bombers.

A total of 4,835 Ju 52/3ms were built, including 170 under license by Construcciones Aeronauticas (CASA) in Spain and more than 400 by Ateliers Aeronautiques de Colombes in France. This airplane is a Spanish-built CASA 352-L. Lufthansa German Airlines acquired it for promotional flights, then donated it to the Smithsonian in 1987.

Collection Item Long Description:

The German Junkers company, based at Dessau, Saxony, had pioneered the use of metal, specifically aluminum alloy, when it introduced the Junkers-F 13 in 1919. Marketing this monoplane aircraft was difficult, even though it was clearly superior to the wood-and-fabric, or metal frame-and-wood competition because of the severe restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles and the Peace Treaties that had settled the conditions of reparations forced on Germany after the Great War of 1914-18. By the end of the 1920s decade, however, the situation had eased. German aircraft manufacturers had evaded the restrictions by building in foreign countries, and normal industrial conditions returned to Germany so that the innovative aircraft manufacturers regained momentum.

At Dessau, Junkers had already built several tri-motored transport aircraft and an enormous four-engined one, the G 38. Then, to begin the new decade, still using the same corrugated-skin structural technology, designer Ernst Zindel produced the Junkers-Ju 52 which made its first flight on 11 September 1930. This was a single-engined aircraft, intended for hauling freight, and equipped with several large doors and a hatch in the roof. Its performance was impressive. In the winter of 1931, in Montreal, Canada, one took off, carrying almost four tons, in 17-1/2 seconds. But the world's depressed economy handicapped sales, and only seven Ju 52s were built.

In 1932, the German national airline, Deutsche Luft Hansa, had to transfer two Rohrbach Rolands to Deruluft, jointly-owned by Germany and the Soviet Union, to maintain an important air link between Berlin and Moscow. By this time, Andrei Tupolev's design team in Moscow had introduced the ANT-9, which, compared to the Fokker-Grulich and Dornier aircraft in the Deruluft fleet, appeared elegant and aerodynamically efficient. Furthermore the performance matched its looks, and with a demonstration flight through Europe in 1929, Mikhail Gromov had, in effect, put out a challenge to the German manufacturers.

Zindel responded by converting the Ju 52 to a tri-motor, with three 525 hp BMW (Pratt & Whitney-licensed) Hornet engines. It made its debut in 1932 and was destined to become one of the best-known European transport aircraft in history, and certainly the one produced in the greatest numbers. The Junkers-Ju 52/3m - to use the correct designation of the tri-motored version - carried up to 17 passengers, or about three tons of freight, and cruised at about 150 mph. Its best feature was its ability to take off from or land on almost any reasonably-sized field, even a football field.

As an airliner, it was used all over Europe, with several national airlines. The German flag carrieer, Deutsche Luft Hansa (D.L.H.), had more than 200 of them, and such was its popularity among pilots that it was affectionately known as "Tante Ju," or "Auntie Ju" - rather as Americans referred to the Douglas DC-3 or C-47 as the "Gooney Bird." It was exported all over the world, seeing good service in many countries of South America, in China, and in South Africa.

As a military transport, it was a great work-horse. Of the estimated 4,835 built, 2,804 were for the Luftwaffe, for which it performed valiantly during the Second World War, as a troop carrier, bomber, and ambulance. Most spectacularly, an armada of Ju 52/3m's parachuted troops into Allied-held Crete, and 170 of the fleet of 493 were shot down. Soviet sources claim that 676 were shot down or destroyed in the unsuccessful attampt to relieve von Paulus's army trapped in Stalingrad. Many of these flew to the battle zone, loaded to the full with supplies, at the expense of the fuel needed to make the return flight.

Additional numbers of the "Tante Ju's" were produced in France under the Vichy Government, as the A.A.C.1, by the Ateliers Aéronautiques de Colombes, where construction continued after the war ended. The same occurred in Generalissimo Franco's Spain, as the CASA 352/3m, and these were produced until 1952, and used extensively by the Spanish Air Force. They were even used by the British, and when the war ended, were flown by British European Airways on Scotland Irish Sea services. The last flight by the pre-war D.L.H. Is believed to have been one from Oslo, Norway, to Aarhus, Denmark, on l5 May 1945. The floatplane version of the Ju 52/3m had maintained the essential communications service along the coast of Norway throughout the Second World War; and is believed to have continued for a few days after the termination of hostilities because no order came through telling that dismembered unit of D.L.H. to stop.

Rather like the indefatigable DC-3, quite a few Tante Ju's continued to keep flying after the end of the Second World War. But their fatality rate during the conflict had been harsh, and not many were left, except in foreign countries. The last one is believed to have been retired from commercial airline service in New Guinea during the late 1960s. A few are still to be seen flying today, notably one owned by the present-day Lufthansa, which proudly maintains it in perfect flying condition for sight-seeing flights and air show demonstrations. The Swiss Air Force owns three at the Dubendorf airfield, near Zurich, and conducts sight-seeing flights to the Swiss Alps.

In 1987, arrangements were made with Lufthansa for a generous donation of a Junkers-Ju 52/3m to the National Air and Space Museum. The aircraft is a CASA-built one that was built in 1951/2, and sold in the mid-1970s to Fairoaks Aviation in England., where it was given limited exemption to fly, often for movie film work. It was sold to Lufthansa in 1987, and completely restored, overhauled, and refurbished at Hamburg, with the engines completely overhauled by B.M.W. in Munich. It was disassembled, shipped to Baltimore, and then road-hauled to Washington Dulles Inteernational Airport, where it was re-assembled by Page Aviation.

Data Source

National Air and Space Museum


Do not reproduce without permission from the Smithsonian Institution, National Air and Space Museum

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. Frank Beckmann


Overall: Aluminum


  • Wingspan: 29 m (95 ft 2 in)
  • Length: 18.5 m (60 ft 8 in)
  • Height: 4.5 m (14 ft 9 in)
  • Weight, empty: 5,346 kg (11,785 lb)
  • Weight, gross: 9,200 kg (20,282 lb)
  • Top speed: 290 km/h (180 mph)

Country of Origin




Physical Description

Junkers (CASA) Ju52; low wing tri-motor aircraft; natural corrugated aluminum finish with matte black painted on the nose and engine cowlings; Lufthansa livery with black letter text registration code "D-ADLH" painted on the aft fuselage.



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