Junkers Ju 52 – Aboard a Flying Legend
The physical act of traveling, sadly, is no longer the classy event it used to be. Nostalgic traveling is always something very special, at very least for the inherent romance, but mostly for the nearly-extinct ability to travel stylishly. Grand tours aboard the Orient Express or a voyage on a famous cruise liner come immediately to mind. However, there are other possibilities which may offer an equally distinctive experience for the style-conscious mind. For instance, an air passage across Germany aboard the Junkers Ju 52 – an aircraft constructed in 1936.
Junkers Ju 52 flights, operated by Lufthansa
The informed aviation enthusiast of course knows that the Junkers Ju 52 is a living legend. For those inclined to other interests, during the early 30’s, the aircraft was considered the most important civil aircraft in the world. As such, it was nicknamed Tante Ju, which translates Auntie Ju. Deutsche Lufthansa operated many routes with this plane, even in Asia and South America. The very airplane shown here is 76 years of age and has a remarkable past. It served in Germany, Norway and later in Ecuador. In the 70’s it was seen as “Iron Annie” – another affectionate nickname – at air shows across the US. In 1984, Lufthansa brought it back home and restored it thoroughly.
From March until October each year, Lufthansa offers a schedule of local sightseeing flights aboard this aircraft from destinations all over Germany. However, to fly around and return to the starting point is a bit like a carousel ride, in the sense that it lacks the real intent of traveling from point A to B. For the whole experience, as an alternative, we decided to embark on an actual passage between Leipzig and Eisenach– and took this most welcome opportunity to do something the old-fashioned way.
Just in case you wondered, Eisenach is a modest-size town in West-Thuringia, home to the church reformer Martin Luther and the birth place of Johann Sebastian Bach. While some may know that it is also a production site for GM / Opel AG, hardly anyone knows about its airport.
For those seeking the authentic flair of air travel of the early days, a somewhat sleepy country airfield is likely to offer more value than one of the overcrowded and thoroughly modern metropolitan airports anyway.
A passage aboard this aircraft presents an unique experience in which technical fascination, lavish countryside viewing and a genuine aviation spirit collide. Such a merger of impressions is rare nowadays. Reasons enough for embracing the offering of the Lufthansa Berlin Trust to get on board, view Germany from above and enjoy the spirit of stylish traveling of the 30’s.
Junkers 52: Exclusive Air Travel
The Ju 52 courses are operated under regular Lufthansa flight schedule numbers; “Eisenach” appeared on the display as in any other flight. However, this was the end of the similarities to modern travel; I can’t say that I’ve ever perceived a similar feeling of exclusivity at any other airport, as I did in that moment.
I also happened to spot the aircraft in advance on the apron (the area where the aircraft is loaded and unloaded), increasing my anticipation. After a shockingly relaxed boarding procedure, we were transferred to the aircraft by bus and were warmly welcomed by the crew. An atmosphere felt remarkably personal, and the shared excitement for the exceptional journey ahead was palpable.
All members of the crew are regular Lufthansa employees. Those who are operating the Junkers flights were devoting their spare time as enthusiastic, yet unpaid volunteers. I have never encountered a more charming stewardess than on that day. “This is Lufthansa’s best maintained aircraft,” she told us while we were rolling to our take-off position. The Junkers 52 “Berlin-Tempelhof” is looked after extensively during the winter each year by technicians in the hangar.
Enjoying the Countryside
Most would have expected noisy roaring of the engines and tedious vibrations – but nothing of the kind occurred. The airplane moved to its starting position on the southern runway of the Leipzig airport. It whizzed like an old sewing machine and was airborne after a little more than 1000 feet.
Our passage to Eisenach airport took us about 45 minutes. The itinerary went along the route included Naumburg, Weimar, and Erfurt, cruising over a portion of the heartland of German cultural history. From a height of approximately 1500 feet, one could easily spot every single building, which is particularly enjoyable if you happen to know the area…
A Breath of Aviation As It Used to Be
On board the aircraft the conversation was inspired, of course, by the journey. We had a smooth and elegant landing on the Eisenach runway. The Junkers 52 rolled towards her parking position. I spotted my family, waving from the airport terrace. After disembarkation, there was plenty of time to linger on the airfield’s apron, chatting with fellow passengers as well as the crew, taking photographs – simply to experience aviation as it used to be. Where else on earth is this possible nowadays?
Finally, a local enthusiast provided the icing on the cake when he suddenly drove out of the hangar with an authentic period Dixi car, seen here in yellow. With our stewardess on the pillion he conducted a lap of honor around the Junkers. This was anything but a nostalgic whim. For that particular type of Dixi car, a licensed Austin 7, was manufactured in Eisenach by the very company that produced aircraft engines for the Ju 52 in those days.
The actual flight schedule of the Ju 52 can be checked on the website of the Lufthansa Berlin Trust. You can also book your passage directly online. Depending on flight duration and destination, current fares range from € 92 – 372 (about $ 110 – 450 / £ 70 – 290). Since the aircraft accommodates just 16 passengers, it is recommended to make reservations early. For those of you who cherish a vintage lifestyle, one-of-kind experiences or simply elegant exclusivity, this is definitely something you do not want to miss.
Do you know of any interesting travel opportunities like this? Please share in the comments below. For more information about the plane, click here.
This travel report was written by our fellow reader Andreas Stoetzner. If you want to contribute to the Gentleman’s Gazette as well, please contact us.