|Fred Harl and Carmelo Turdo
Junkers F13 was the first all-metal commercial aircraft, making its first flight on June 25, 1919. Hugo Junkers envisioned a post-World War I commercial aircraft effort to produce metal aircraft that were economical, reliable, comfortable and durable. Metal planes, he reasoned, could fly in all weather and be left outside of hangar if necessary. Junkers Chief Designer Otto Reuter’s solution was a 6-passenger aircraft made of duralumin (aluminum alloy) with tubular spars, tubular metal framework without longerons, and corrugated metal wing skins all providing light weight and strength. Two crew sat behind the engine in an open cockpit while four passengers at in two seats and a bench seat in an enclosed cabin. Floats and skis could be also be fitted for cargo/postal and exploration flights. Over 300 were produced and served around the world.
The budding aviation industry inspired RIMOWA of Cologne, Germany, to produce aluminum (duralumin) suitcases to protect belongings from tropical conditions while also being light and strong. The connection to Junkers lies in the use of duralumin for manufacturing. Fast forward from the 1930s to the present, and there is a second confluence of the two different industries using aluminum for aircraft and luggage again to revive the legacy of the Junkers F13. EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 was chosen as rollout site because of the exposure the project would receive from the massive captive audience attending the week-long event.
The current F13 reproduction was initiated in 2009 by Friends of Historical Aircraft Association, Swiss airline JU-AIR, RIMOWA and other manufacturing and engineering firms. The engine on the current model is the Pratt &Whitney R-985, a 450hp radial from Aero Recip of Winnipeg, Canada. Although not the original engine, USA export models of F13 were fitted with R-985 engines in the 1930s. The cockpit replicates 1920s configuration, with additions necessary for current government approval regulations, and the cabin interior models the high-end standard of leather and interior paneling. Flight performance is close to the original F13 – slightly faster but with slightly less range. The first flight is expected in March 2016, with certification in May 2016.