Why Did a Luggage Company Re-Create—and Fly—the First All-Metal Passenger Plane?
The Rimowa luggage company’s replica of an air-travel classic takes to the sky.
It has been 65 years since a Junkers F13 was in active service, but a replica of the aircraft, the Rimowa F13 (rimowa-f13.com), was scheduled to make its first flight in September (after Robb Report Private Aviation Sourcebook went to press), taking off from and landing in Dübendorf, Switzerland.
The German aircraft designer Hugo Junkers launched the original F13 in 1919 as the first all-metal passenger aircraft. The F13’s enclosed cabin contained four leather seats, and it could be heated for passenger comfort. The pilot and mechanic sat up front in an open cockpit, where they relied on visual navigation—as everyone did at the time.
Dieter Morszeck, CEO of the German luggage company Rimowa, got involved with the replica project in part because his company has a strong connection to the Junkers F13. Morszeck’s father, Richard, created a set of luggage in 1937 from the same material as the F13, a lightweight aluminum alloy called duralumin. The bags, which were called Topas and had a grooved design similar to that of the F13 exterior, quickly became a favorite among international travelers.
Building the replica proved challenging because none of the original aircraft were airworthy, and no one could locate a complete set of design plans. Engineers addressed this dilemma by visiting an aircraft museum in Paris, making a 3-D scan of a surviving F13, and using it to develop CAD plans. From those plans, the replica was built. Morszeck is pleased with the result. “I’m confident that we have managed to build a Rimowa F13 that is better than the original,” he says.
The Rimowa F13 flies a lot like the original, with a top cruising speed of just over 105 mph and a range of about 370 miles. The pilot and mechanic still sit in an open cockpit and can fly only in daytime and below 10,000 feet. That’s fine with Morszeck, who says, “I’m definitely going to fly her myself.”