WORKHORSE OF THE NORTH
The Junkers JU-52/1M was first flown on October 13, 1930. It was a single-engine, cargo-carrying, corrugated metal commercial transport. It played a significant role in the aviation history of Canada’s north. Only five were built; none have survived.
One of those five (CF-ARM) was a member of the Canadian Airways Ltd. fleet, the firm founded by James A. Richardson of Winnipeg. For 12 years, between 1931 and 1943, it became known as the “Flying Boxcar”, roaring over Canada’s northland.
BEGINNING OF THE END
In 1942, Canadian Pacific Airlines took over all of Canadian Airways’ fleet. In 1947, CF-ARM was taken out of service because of difficulty in getting parts. It was bought by a junk dealer who stripped it down and sold it for parts. The fuselage ended its days as a child’s playhouse in Winnipeg.
The Richardson Family took the floats to Lake of the Woods to form a floating dock at the local yacht club. When the floats were no longer needed, they were sunk on site. In 1982 the Aviation Museum’s dive team salvaged one full float and part of the other float and brought them into the Museum.
With a generous donation from George T. Richardson, the Museum purchased a Junkers JU-52/3M in 1982 from the Wings and Wheels Museum in Orlando, Florida. That museum had lost its lease and was forced to put its memorabilia up for auction. Similar to the original JU-52, its only difference was a tri-motor formation instead of a single-engine version of the plane.
But, bringing the aircraft to Winnipeg is a story in itself, a true-life adventure with LCol Mal Joyce, of 402 Squadron, at the controls.
A RELIC TAKES WING
Keith Olson, then museum curator, contacted the Base Commander at CFB Winnipeg, who in turn called on LCol Malcolm Joyce, Commanding Officer 402 (City of Winnipeg) Air Force Reserve Squadron. Olson and Joyce got together and developed an exercise to bring the Junkers to Winnipeg similar to recovery of a “downed aircraft”. The official sanction allowed use of a squadron DC-3 aircraft with pilots and technicians to acquire the Junkers, get it ready for flight and fly it to Winnipeg.
SPECIAL AIRWORTHINESS PERMIT
A special airworthiness permit was issued by the U.S. Federal Aviation Authority and Transport Canada, but the Junkers could only be flown with two pilots and a crewman technician. The other squadron personnel flew in the escort DC-3.
Joyce recalls: “The airframe on the Junkers was in excellent condition but the three engines were rather questionable. There were two, fixed-pitch propellers on the wings with a Pratt & Whitney 1340 engine on the nose having a constant-speed propeller. This modification had been made some time ago to fly the aircraft to Orlando. The nose engine had two dead cylinders, and that was our best engine. We also had a few basic flight instruments and a very elementary floating compass; all in all, woefully inadequate for instrument flight.”
After a few days working on the aircraft and a number of ground runs on the engines, the team took off for Tuscaloosa, Alabama on May 11, 1982. The next day, they took off for St. Louis, Missouri where American Airlines pitched in to solve a few maintenance problems, including pumping up the nitrogen tank that was needed for the air brakes. The Junkers’ air brake cylinder leaked and would not hold a charge for very long. It needed a burst of air each time before using the brakes. The team’s techs plumbed in a large nitrogen cylinder in the cargo cabin for this purpose.
The morning of May 13, at St. Louis, Joyce was taxing out in line with about ten passenger jets when they were cleared for take-off. Joyce recalls: “I had to hold the nose engine throttle back behind the idle position, as this is the way both wheel brakes are applied. While we waited in line the nose engine had carboned up. As I applied the power for take off, the nose engine quit. I got the engine started again and tried to take off, only to have the same engine quit once more. This time the tower radioed we would have to taxi off the runway so he could get the other aircraft off. However, the pilot of an American Airlines DC-10 that was second in line said, ”Junkers, Y’all go ahead of us. My passengers are enjoying the show.” We thanked American Airlines and this time got quickly on the runway and managed to get airborne on the first attempt, with all three engines turning.”
The crew’s technique on each leg was to have the DC-3 take off first and circle until the Junkers was able to fly in formation with it. Needless to say air traffic control was disrupted in many ways at busy airports. On the scheduled Minneapolis leg, weather forced the tag team to land for an overnight at Quincy, Illinois. A local TV crew appeared and just before the 6 pm local news, the announcer came on with a picture of the Junkers in the background and said: “Nazis have arrived in Quincy, more after the National News.”
GROUNDED IN MINNEAPOLIS
On May 14, the team flew as far as Minneapolis. The next day, after takeoff, the left engine failed and the crew landed immediately. The technicians did not have enough time to repair the engine and the Reservists had to get home to Winnipeg as they had other assignments to get to on Monday. With the Air National Guard’s permission, the team left the Junkers in their care, boarded the DC-3 and headed home to Winnipeg.
SIDESTEP TO KENORA
It wasn’t until June 6 that 402 Squadron reassembled the team and flew back to Minneapolis in the DC-3. Engine techs were able to rewire the dead engine and get it going. They took off for Winnipeg but poor weather forced a landing at Kenora, Ontario. Once again the Junkers was stowed and the crew returned to Winnipeg in the DC-3. The following Thursday, June 10, they were able to return to Kenora in the DC-3 and fly the Junkers to Winnipeg.
A FEW FINAL FLIGHTS
The Junkers was flown to Gimli for storage. A year or so later it was flown back to Winnipeg. The next year the team attempted to fly the Junkers to the Gimli Air Show but the nose engine – the Pratt & Whitney with two dead cylinders – failed after take off forcing an emergency landing back at Winnipeg.
The following year with a borrowed, time-expired, Pratt & Whitney 1340 engine, Joyce flew the Junkers to that year’s Gimli Air Show and even did two passes down the show line then flew back to Winnipeg. The crew landed, taxied to the military ramp, and disembarked.
The Flying Boxcar was back in Winnipeg for good.
In the ensuing years, Bristol Aerospace remodeled the JU52/3M into the static version of the JU-52/1M, which is now a proud part of the Museum’s collection. Following his retirement from the Air Force in 1984, Mal Joyce had a 10-year career with Transport Canada as Regional Director of Aviation Safety. In addition to delivering the Junkers to its door, figuratively speaking, he has served the Museum in a number of volunteer capacities including a term on its Board of Directors.