one of Germany's great aviation pioneers, entered the aviation world later
in life than many other people did. Born in 1859, he was 56 when he built
his innovative airplane in a form that still flies today.
an industrialist, owning a factory in the city of Dessau, Germany, that
built steam boilers and heating equipment. He benefited from expanding
opportunities and in 1913, founded the Junkers Motor Works in Magdeburg,
which built large diesel engines for the propulsion of ships. He also
cherished his ties to the academic world and was a professor at a
technical institute in the town of Aachen.
much in the news around 1910. Germany's Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin had
built large airships that were flying successfully. French planebuilders
also were succeeding with heavier-than-air machines. In Aachen, Junker's
technical institute built one of the earliest wind tunnels, which sparked
his thoughts in this new field. During that year he took out a patent for
a "flying wing," an airplane that would lack a fuselage but would place
its engines, fuel, crew, and payload within a single thick wing. He was
far ahead of his time; nearly 40 years went by before America's Jack
Northrop built successful aircraft of this type.
at Aachen, Professor Hans Reissner, was also designing airplanes. In 1911
Junkers helped him build one, crafting wings of corrugated sheet iron.
This experience spurred Junkers to decide that aircraft of the future
would be built entirely of metal—and would be monoplanes.
proved to be true; most airplanes built since 1935 have been of this type.
However, in 1911, this too amounted to a leap into the future. The
aircraft of the day were mostly biplanes, with a pair of wings connected
by struts and wires to give a strong but lightweight structure. A few
monoplanes existed but were quite flimsy. The aircraft of 1911 were built
with frameworks of wood that were covered over with fabric.
Junkers built his first all-metal monoplane, the J 1. Germany just then
was fighting World War I, and aluminium, which is very light in weight,
was in short supply. Junkers proceeded by crafting a framework of iron
tubing and covering it with sheet iron. People called it the Tin Donkey,
but it flew. Indeed, it topped 100 miles an hour (161 kilometres per
hour), making it faster than some of that war's fighter aircraft.
tap Junkers's talents, government officials brought him into a partnership
with Anthony Fokker, a highly capable Dutch designer who was building
warplanes for Germany. This government support enabled Junkers to secure a
supply of aluminium, which he promptly used to build a new airplane, the J
3. To demonstrate the strength of its wings, he set one up as if it were a
diving board and showed that it could support the weight of 42 men.
When the war
ended, he turned his attention to commercial aviation. In 1923, following
the first transatlantic flights by airplane and dirigible, he predicted
that "the time will not be far off when as many people will cross the
ocean by plane as they now do by ship." This indeed happened, late in the
early in the 1920s, Junkers was making his own contribution to this goal
with the first important all-metal monoplane: the F 13. Its aluminium skin
was corrugated for strength, a design feature that carried over to the
famous Ford Trimotor airliner of several years later. The F 13 was also an
airliner, carrying four passengers. To stimulate sales, Junkers promoted
the formation of airlines in Germany and other countries, which proceeded
to purchase his planes. His largest airline, Junkers Luftverkehr, merged
with a competitor in 1926 to form
, Germany's great national carrier. The F 13 remained in
production until 1932.
In 1928 Hugo
Junkers built the first airplane to cross the Atlantic from east to west.
Other pilots, including Charles Lindbergh, had flown from west to east but
had been helped by tailwinds. Flight in the opposite direction thus meant
battling headwinds. Overloaded with an extra ton and a half of fuel, the
Junkers plane needed a very long takeoff run and barely cleared a group of
trees. It then had to bank to avoid mountains. Its compass went out, while
thick clouds hid the ground. Finally, after 36 hours aloft, its pilot
brought it down onto an island near Labrador. He and his crew had made it.
The rise to
power of the Nazis in 1933 brought the downfall of Hugo Junkers. He held
patents that the new dictatorship wanted to seize; he also controlled his
factories in Dessau and Magdeburg and hoped to continue building passenger
airliners. By contrast, the Nazis wanted warplanes. By threatening him
with prison, they forced Junkers to give them what they wanted. He died
soon after, in 1935, at age 76.
Dessau works were building one of the most important airplanes of that
era: the three-engine Ju 52, fondly called "Auntie Ju." For a time,
Lufthansa flew almost nothing but 52s. Some 4835 of them eventually were
built, serving not only as airliners but also as bombers, troop carriers,
cargo transports, tugs that pulled troop-carrying gliders, and flying
ambulances. The Ju 52 was built in greater numbers than any other European
transport. The first of them flew in 1932. They flew all through World War
II, with some even continuing in service for a few years after the war.
hands, the Junkers factory also turned out military craft. Ernst Udet, a
senior official of the Nazi Air Force, visited the United States and saw a
demonstration of a Curtiss Hawk dive bomber. He saw that such planes could
drop bombs with high accuracy by diving toward their targets. Returning
home, he insisted that Germany must have a dive bomber as well. This took
shape as the widely feared Ju 87 "Stuka." Its engine howled with a
terrifying noise during a dive, and Udet made it still more frightening by
installing sirens. Fighting alongside tanks on the ground, Stukas helped
bring the rapid defeat of France after the Nazis invaded in it 1940.
constructed nearly 6,000 Stukas. This was a special-purpose craft, and the
company built far more—nearly 15,000—of a general-purpose warplane, the Ju
88. Different versions saw service as bombers, day and night fighters, and
reconnaissance aircraft. The Ju 88 became Junkers's largest wartime
engine division went on to develop the only turbojet engines to fly in
combat during that war. These were Jumo 004s engines, two of which powered
the Messerschmitt Me 262 fighter. The first of these jet planes flew in
mid-1942, when Nazi conquests were at their height. But production of the
004 engine ran into serious delays. The engine had to be redesigned to
avoid using the metals cobalt, nickel, and chromium, all of which were in
very short supply. The revamped 004 then showed a strong tendency to burn
out or fail when in use. Some 5,000 of these engines were eventually
built, but they came too late in the war to affect the outcome.
occupied the Dessau and Magdeburg plants at the end of the war. With this,
the name of Junkers vanished from aviation. Even so, it left a legacy.
Anselm Franz, designer of the Jumo 004, had given the engine a simple
layout that was well-suited to high thrust and high speed. By contract,
early British and U.S. jet engines used more complex mechanical
arrangements. But after the war, both nations changed to the Junkers type
of design. In this fashion, Franz succeeded Hugo Junkers as a visionary
who foresaw the future.