Swiss Civil Aviation Authority Stops Commercial JU-52 Flights

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Image: JU-Air

Image: JU-Air

The Swiss Civil Aviation Authority (BAZL) has revoked operator JU-Air's authorization to conduct commercial flights with its historic Junkers JU-52 aircraft. The decision comes about half a year after the tragic accident of the company's JU-52 HB-HOT, which left three crewmembers and 17 passengers dead after the aircraft spiraled into terrain on a flight between Locarno and Dubendorf airport. According to witness reports, the aircraft banked left for a turn before entering a spiral, which ended in near vertical impact at high speed. In preliminary accident investigations, no immediate failure of any structural parts could be tagged as causative for the crash. However, corrosion and cracks, as well as various repairs to the main spar and other structural parts of the aircraft, raised questions with investigators.

JU-Air acquired the former military JU-52s and a 10-year-younger CASA 352 and gained the necessary certification for commercial use about 35 years ago. The company announced on its website on Tuesday that it is investing heavily in the future of its historic mission by completely renovating and rebuilding its remaining fleet. For 2019 and 2020, the operator is expecting very limited flying activity, but considers itself properly funded to continue and aim for a new—and still to be determined—setting in 2020.

Swiss authorities have re-evaluated passenger flights with historic aircraft and reached the conclusion that continuing to operate old-timers and vintage aircraft in commercial settings is no longer in harmony with safety expectations of this day and age. The commercial use of antique and historic aircraft in Europe is generally expected to change significantly toward the middle of 2019, when operators may be forced to convert their existing businesses into "flying clubs." Upon joining such a club, new members wishing to take part in any flying activity will have to fulfill minimum terms of membership prior to flights and be instructed and aware about the asserted elevated risk of flying in historic aircraft versus modern passenger aircraft.

Future regulatory developments on operating historic aircraft in commercial settings in Europe may prove disastrous for fans of vintage aircraft and, at the current time, there is no option for fans in Europe to get a chance for a flight in Junkers JU-52. A well-known German sister ship operated by the German Lufthansa Foundation (D-AQUI) has already been put in severe limbo after Lufthansa announced that it was pulling funding for the continued operation of the flying aviation monument last January.