As an advent special, Zurich airport opened its duty free shops for the general public, but also carried out a draw for seats aboard a chartered Junkers Ju-52. I was lucky enough to win one of the 34 tickets, and could finally add that behemoth plane to my log. So, let’s go flying!

Here's the GPS track and the flight data:


Let's go!

As she arrives, the old lady is turning heads on the observation deck! 

However, we get to meet her from up close. Yay! 

A couple more detailed views of the 1939-built plane. This also makes her the oldest plane in my log, beating Buffalo Airways' DC-3 C-GWIR (1942), Pacific Airways' DHC-2 Beaver N264P (1952) and Air Chathams' Convair 580 ZK-CIB (1953).

Joy and excitement are in the air as we board! 


Soon enough, we are all buckled up, the three radial engines are fired up and we taxi to intersection E7 at Runway 16 in preparation for take-off. The wait for departing traffic on the runway is very welcome, as it lets me indulge in the bubbling of the old engines. And you can do the same if you want – just hit play!  

Here's the traffic: Two giants of their time united in one photo! 

Low-Altitude Flightseeing over Zurich

After departing from Rwy 16, we head over the suburb of Oerlikon towards Zurich’s city center, enjoying a view of the Glatt valley, with the military airfield of Dübendorf visible, too.

Continuing, we also overfly Zurich’s main ice-hockey and concert venue, Hallenstadion. Currently, Zurich’s ice-hockey team is playing a team from south-eastern Switzerland, whose blue-yellow team bus can even be seen in the shot!


After just a couple of minutes we reach downtown Zurich, with its large Main Station drawing all the attention

The three BMW 132 A3 nine-cylinder radial engines spread their lovely sound all over the city, making many a pair of eyes look up to the skies – also in the region of my home, which is hidden somewhere in these shots:

Maybe Zurich’s intelligence hotspot: The technical university ETH with its popular ice-skating rink, joined by Zurich’s main university immediately to the right

Next we are treated to a fantastic view of Zurich’s historic downtown district, with the famous landmarks of St. Peter’s Church (large clock face), Fraumünster Church (green spire), and Grossmünster Church (twin towers) easily identifiable.

Bidding a temporary farewell to Zurich as we reach its lakeshore and head onwards to central Switzerland

Heading for the mountains

While cruising along the lake there is plenty of time to enjoy the unique atmosphere on board, and also shoot a quick video:


Next up I make my way to the cockpit (which everyone on board is invited to do). As can be seen, we are in a shallow climb up to 6’000ft, while cruising with an indicated airspeed of just under 150km/h, which translates to a mere 80 knots.

For lovely details, have a look at the leather straps mounted on the pedals or the state-of-the-art performance indicator located below the GPS, giving away all relevant airspeeds for our current weight of 10 tons. Better don’t look at the EGT indicator for the middle engine :-)

What a fantastic view up here! 

The look along both wings doesn’t just reveal the historic BMW engines, but the fuel gauges mounted on them tell us that there are about 600 litres left in each tank. And for those of you who’d like to listen to those props humming a bit more as you keep reading, just hit play below!  

Despite our slow cruising speed, we’ve finally reached our first mountain: Mount Rigi, which I’ve already had the pleasure of circling around during several VFR flights. Never in a massive 10-ton plane though, which is a whole different animal!

Next stop, craggy 'Grosser Mythen' which I'd like to hike up next summer! 

Next to 'Grosser Mythen' you can find - veeeeery surprisingly - Kleiner Mythen, its smaller brother. Also note the serpentines of the hiking path zig-zagging their way up to Grosser Mythen's peak! 

On our way back to Zurich we make a low-pass over the town of Einsiedeln, famous mostly for its huge monastery here: 

Back in Zurich, our main football stadium (Letzigrund) is visible, while the large green space in the vicinity is occupied by the central cemetery

Back at Zurich Airport

On a lefthand downwind inbound to Zurich’s Runway 28 (which is used to handle VFR landings while IFR inbounds use runway 14 up in the north) we are treated to a fantastic view of the airport complex, with terminals B, A and E (from bottom):

Terminal A is getting ready for the evening wave...

...but the others still have plenty of space too.

Turning to base for 28, we are currently aligned with Rwy 32, which is all lit up for the Rwy 14 IFR inbounds. 

As announced by the pilots, we only went for a low-pass, saying hello to the tower and going for a steep turn over Zurich's western apron, mostly used for Business and VIP flights. Love it! 

Once again we are treated to the famous ZRH view, which includes all three runways and terminals

Thereafter, it's time to land. Tightly hugging the church tower of Kloten we make our way back to Runway 28 - great fun! 

Taxiing to our stand, we pass the envious folks up on the observation deck, who are joyfully waving at our old lady! 

What a fantastic ride indeed – even if the weather didn’t really cooperate, and the little light left (together with the distorted windows) made photography quite a challenge. The ambiance inside however is hard to beat. Slowly chugging along in this historic plane, hearing the old radial engines hum all around you and gazing around in the spartan cabin takes you right back to the pioneer days of commercial aviation.

And it’s simply a lot of fun to fly on these birds. That’s definitely something I will do again soon, as it also helps keeping these vintage planes in the air. A team of over 100 volunteers works on them unpaid in their free time, as 13 hours of maintenance and preparation are needed for each hour spent in the air. But it’s definitely worth the effort!

Special thanks go out to Zurich Airport and Ju-Air for this fantastic flight, which made for a very nice early Christmas gift to myself!

Tis Meyer

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