German airline Lufthansa has announced it is ending passenger flights on its vintage Junkers Ju-52 aircraft with immediate effect in order to save on high operating costs of the 83-year old aircraft. The airline had been supporting regular flights with the tri-engine Ju-52 through its historic aircraft foundation, Deutsche Lufthansa Berlin Stiftung, at the tune of several million euros per year.
The aircraft, however, which last flew in August 2018 and has since been undergoing repairs, may never take to the skies again.
According to FlightGlobal, Lufthansa stated that it does not see any potential for the aircraft to become profitable again and is, therefore, exploring other options for its use. The crash of a Ju Air Ju-52 last year that lead to the death of all 20 people aboard, was also cited as a reason for the permanent grounding of Lufthansa’s Juncker.
This has many Lufthansa and aviation fans, who accuse Lufthansa CEO Carsten Spohr and his board of not appreciating the history and traditions of the airline, upset about the loss of a historic aircraft. Lufthansa traditionalists and aviation fans are upset not only at the decision on the Ju-52 but also on the recent announcement to stop the restoration of a Lockheed Super Star.
German’s aviation history is closely tied to the Junkers Ju-52 and was Lufthansa’s workhorse – comparable to today’s Airbus A320 – between the 1930s and the 1960s. Lufthansa even used the Junker’s corrugated sheet metal hull to inspire the design of its lounges across the world.
The Ju-52, nicknamed “Aunt Ju” because of its likable design and reliability, had been brought back to Lufthansa in 1984 from the United States for 600,000 Deutschmarks. The aircraft, registration, D-AQUI, was built in 1934 and restored in the Lufthansa design of the 1930s and put back into operation for scenic flights and special events.
When Lufthansa ran into financial trouble in the early 1990s, the board insisted on making the Ju-52 more profitable. As a result, the aircraft started flying more frequently, which however led to greater maintenance issues due to its old age during a time when spare parts are sparse. Ironically, it is these high maintenance costs, brought upon by the airline’s management, which may now have grounded the aircraft for good.
Fans of the Junkers Ju-52 have however not lost hope entirely. They are hoping that the Deutsch Lufthansa Berlin Foundation keeps “Aunt Ju” airworthy so that it continues to at least make the occasional appearance at air shows across Europe.
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