Junkers F13 Makes a Triumphant Return to the Skies

Replica built by German luxury suitcase maker Rimowa will undergo certification flight testing and go on sale soon.

Rimowa, a maker of high-end suitcases in Germany that has been in business since the late 1800s, threw a lavish, Golden Age of Aviation-themed party at the Dubendorf Airfield outside Zurich, Switzerland, last Thursday to celebrate the official first flight of its replica Junkers F13 – famed for being the first all-metal commercial airplane.

Flying was there to witness the landmark public flight, which was actually the third trip aloft for the F13 re-creation after two earlier test flights. Amelia Rose Earhart offered commentary over loud speakers as test pilot Oliver Bachmann and Rimowa President and CEO Dieter Morszek took off in the open-cockpit airplane from Dubendorf’s grass runway, circled the airport twice and returned for a picture-perfect landing against the backdrop of the setting sun.

After the flight, about 200 invited guests toasted the public unveiling before heading to Dubendorf’s famed Hangar 9, where Hugo Junkers built the first F13 in 1919, for a party featuring a lavish re-creation of the history of manned flight by dozens of actors hired by Rimowa for the occasion.

Junkers F13 Replica
Rimowa’s party was held in Dubendorf’s famed Hangar 9, where Hugo Junkers built the first F13 in 1919. Rimowa

Unlike the original F13, which flew with a BMW inline six-cylinder engine, the replica is powered by a 450 hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior nine-cylinder radial. Of the 300 or so F13s produced, four flew with Pratt radials, so there is a basis for the engine choice.

No surviving flyable F13s exist, which is why Morszek says he decided seven years ago to build the replica. The Rimowa team laser-scanned parts from an original F13 in the air museum at Le Bourget Airport outside Paris to build the re-creation, which is a near exact copy but includes some modern touches, such as brakes.

The company expected to receive Swiss certification for its creation soon, after which it hopes to build another replica F13, which will be used as the basis for FAA certification. Morszek told Flying he has three U.S. buyers who are interested in purchasing F13s of their own. The airplanes are expected to be priced at around $2.5 million apiece.

“This is why I followed and supported the construction of an airworthy Junkers F13,” he said. “I wanted to give back the world an important cultural asset – not in a museum, but where it belongs: in the skies.”

As for this F13, Morszek, an avid pilot who has owned many airplanes and currently pilots an Embraer Phenom 300, said he will keep it for himself. He hopes to bring it to Oshkosh, perhaps as soon as next year.

Check out more photos from the F13’s flight. Photo Gallery


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