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Junkers retro reboot makes US debut

Pilot report on A50 Junior

Editor's note: This story was updated March 29 to correct information about the corporate relationship between Junkers and Waco. AOPA regrets the error.

The Junkers A50 Junior, a new special light sport aircraft from Germany, is set to be a big draw at the Sun ’n Fun Aerospace Expo in Lakeland, Florida.

  • 'AOPA Pilot' Editor at Large Tom Horne pilots the Junkers A50 Junior light sport aircraft near Lakeland, Florida, just ahead of the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo, where the rebooted vintage design stands out among LSA models. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Adrian Schleiffer and Max Leidorf prepare a Junkers A50 Junior light sport aircraft during the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo at Lakeland Linder International Airport in Lakeland, Florida, March 24. The two-person, open cockpit, low-wing LSA taildragger is constructed of corrugated aluminum with spoked main landing gear, is powered by a Rotax 912iS engine, and has a digital avionics package. Photo by David Tulis.
  • The Junkers A50 Junior is readied for display during the Sun 'n Fun Aerospace Expo. Photo by David Tulis.
  • The Junkers A50 Junior is powered by a Rotax 912iS engine, a 100-horsepower modern upgrade of the original engine. Photo by David Tulis.
  • A Junkers A50 Junior is readied for display. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Faithful to the original design, the Junkers A50 Junior combines vintage ramp appeal with a modern engine, avionics, and a ballistic parachute. Photo by David Tulis.
  • 'AOPA Pilot' Editor at Large Tom Horne taxis the Junkers A50 Junior light sport aircraft. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Photo by David Tulis.
  • 'AOPA Pilot' Editor at Large Tom Horne directs the Junkers A50 Junior to an ideal backdrop. Photo by David Tulis.
  • 'AOPA Pilot' Editor at Large Tom Horne flies the Junker A50 Junior low and slow over central Florida. Photo by David Tulis.

Junkers (pronounced “Yoonkers”) is a brand more than a century old that was relaunched in 2016 with the first flight of a painstakingly crafted replica of the original Junkers F13. The Junkers of today shares a common corporate parent with Waco Aircraft Corp, which revived the Great Lakes and YMF-5 designs decades after the original Waco ceased operation in 1947. Junkers began building its line of aircraft in the 1920s, including transport, military, and general aviation variants. One of them, the A50 “Junior” debuted in 1929. It faded during Germany’s 12 inglorious years of the Third Reich, then vanished from the scene.

Until now. Today’s resurrected A50 just received its FAA airworthiness certificate. The company previously earned an airworthiness certificate in Germany, and has already sold 27 A–50s in Europe. Serial Nos. 4 and 5 are on display at Sun ’n Fun, and one A50 is being used to give demonstration rides at Lakeland’s Paradise City, a grass runway at the south end of the airport.

It’s a remarkable airplane in many ways. Its signature Junkers corrugated airframe certainly draws the eye, as do the large, spoked main landing gear and two tandem open cockpits. All these features—and a few more, like the wooden wing walk, and the leather coaming around the cockpit sills—are faithful to the 1929 design. So is the exemplary attention to detail in the execution of its construction details.

In other, major ways the new A50 differs radically from the original. Instead of the 1929 airplane’s 80-horsepower Armstrong Siddeley radial, there’s a 100-hp Rotax 912iS powerplant with dual-channel FADEC (full authority digital engine control) modules, two alternators, Garmin G3X touch-screen avionics, and a Galaxy ballistic recovery parachute. This blend of traditional style and modern avionics makes the A50 a standout in the LSA field.

I had a chance to fly the A50 just before Sun ’n Fun and can testify to the airplane’s great handling qualities, docile stall and, well, its tricky crosswind landing behavior. Those big-diameter, narrow-tread Avon tires look like they belong on a bicycle, and keep you busy on the rudders. But you could say that about any taildragger, let alone one at the LSA maximum gross weight of 1,320 pounds.

The panel in the Junkers A50 Junior contains a Garmin G3X display. Photo by David Tulis. The Junkers A50 Junior retains the vintage open-cockpit design, with a leather interior and modern features including a ballistic parachute and Garmin digital avionics. Photo by David Tulis. A beefy tailwheel system and corrugated aluminum are hallmarks of the Junkers A50 Junior.  Photo by David Tulis. With narrow spoked wheels and cambered main landing gear, the A50 requires active rudder correction during takeoff and landing, as taildraggers typically do. Photo by David Tulis. 'AOPA Pilot' Editor at Large Tom Horne enjoys a nice Florida breeze. Photo by David Tulis.

We flew over a swamp north of Lakeland, where the background was free of clutter. At 1,000 feet, with power set at 28 inches of manifold pressure and an engine speed of 4,800 rpm or so, indicated airspeed was 85 knots. True airspeed came in at 88 knots true airspeed. So no, the A50 isn’t exactly a speed demon. Its forte is giving you the sensations and feel of open-cockpit flying, cruising low and slow in a retro-modern exemplar of what we could call an art-deco expression of the Roaring Twenties.

The view ain’t shabby, either. Central Florida sure looks better from 1,000 feet!

Interested? The aircraft starts at $199,500 and will go up to about $220,000 with options.

Thomas A. Horne
Thomas A. Horne
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Tom Horne has worked at AOPA since the early 1980s. He began flying in 1975 and has an airline transport pilot and flight instructor certificates. He’s flown everything from ultralights to Gulfstreams and ferried numerous piston airplanes across the Atlantic.
Topics: Sun 'n Fun, Light Sport Aircraft

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