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Canadian Airways’ fabulous “Flying Boxcar”

Story by Robert S. Grant – first published fall 1995

Ju 52 CF-ARM in flight

CF-ARM in a typical winter setting over the northland. With three main wing spars and an auxiliary spar, the Junkers 52 was exceptionally strong. All skin surfaces were corrugated duralumin. Chrome-nickel-steel fittings held the wing to the fuselage. (photos courtesy Canada Aviation and Space Museum)

At Hudson, Ontario, the pilot of a Fokker Super Universal gently eased his throttle forward. As the heavily loaded skiplane gathered momentum, several sacks of lime rattled toward the tail. Airborne and covered in fine white dust from head to toe, the pilot turned on track for the Jackson Manion mine site, 78 miles north.

He would be back. The Fokker carried little more than a 1,000-pound payload, and hundreds of lime bags, fuel drums and nail kegs had to be moved. The carrier–Canadian Airways, headquartered in Winnipeg–needed larger airplanes.

Coincidentally, on that November day, pilot Alex Schneider made the first Canadian flight of a gigantic Junkers Ju 52 at Montreal. This “Flying Boxcar”, with a wingspan larger than Douglas DC-3s and later-day four-engined Vickers Viscounts, outhauled the little Fokker many times over.

Although few Northerners had heard of the Ju 52, many recognized the Junkers name. Winnipeg’s Western Canada Airways, which became Canadian Airways Ltd. in November 1930, had already used several smaller versions (W 33s and W 34s) on skis and floats. Well suited to bush country operations, their rugged corrugated duralumin coverings did not puncture easily. As a bonus, when a few hapless pilots broke through the lake ice, the low strutless wing kept cargo high and dry.

The success of the small Junkers line encouraged Canadian Airways president James A. Richardson to search for larger versions of the practical W 33/W 34 series. Fortuitously, Dr. Hugo Junkers announced completion of the Ju 52 in Dessau, Germany. Powered by an 800‑hp Junkers L88 engine, the prototype’s maiden flight took place on October 13, 1930.

“It will be seen that the engine horsepower has been increased by about 2.3 times, the disposable load by 2.5 times and the cargo space by 4.9 times,” reported the British publication Flight when comparing the W 33/34 with the new Ju 52. “Doors are provided both in the side of the fuselage and the top, so that the machine can be loaded direct from the ground or from cranes.”

After Richardson signed a delivery contract on July 31, 1931, the factory produced only five single-engine models before switching to the trimotored Ju 52/3m. With a substituted 12‑cylinder, liquid-cooled, 685-hp Bavarian Motor Works (BMW) engine, his new freighter, formerly registered as D-2137 (msn 4006), arrived on the ship Beaverbrae at Montréal.

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