Late last week, luggage maker Rimowa made the first flight of its newly constructed Junkers F.13, an airplane that first flew in 1919. While the words in the previous sentence all make sense, it’s hard to imagine how they could have come together as they have. Well, here’s how it happened.
Though you might not have heard it about before this crazy project got launched, the Junkers F.13 was actually a revolutionary design. It’s often credited as being the first all-metal airplane, and it’s surely the first all-metal, low-wing cantilever airplane. And, remember, that it was dreamt up while biplanes were filling the skies of Europe. The designer, Hugo Junkers, was a visionary, and while his name is attached to the company that made many airplanes used by the Nazis at the outbreak of World War II, he was more interested in airplanes than politics, and by 1934, he’d been forced out of the company by the Nazis. He died a year later. The F.13 was produced in some numbers, around 300, and it was used commercially for around 15 years.
So it’s cool, important and kind of pretty in a corrugated way, but why is it being reborn?
That’s where Rimowa comes into the picture. The luggage company wanted a way to make a big splash in aviation and figured that bringing back a sheet-metal icon of years past might be a good way to do it. I guess they were right. The F.13’s rebirth is a hot topic these days, and not just in aviation media.
Rimowa, as I mentioned, makes luggage, but not just any kind of luggage. It makes luggage out of aluminum—see where we’re going here?—and it makes luggage that resembles engineered works of art more than suitcases, though they’re great suitcases, at least according to those who own them and use them. They’re pricey. The Rimowa Topas 30-inch Trolley Multiwheel suitcase goes for $1,160 online, usually with free three-day shipping, it should be noted. And the company has become an icon of its own in the high-end luggage world, to the point where it could afford to rebuild an iconic aircraft, one with an enviable level of engineering and using the same materials as its suitcases.
Before last week’s flight, there were no existing airworthy F.13s. Now there’s one. As aviation nuts, we get the good fortune to merely sit back and watch a really cool old airplane be reborn. If Rimowa sells more of its high-end luggage as a result, that’s just fine with me.
See more photos of the Junkers F.13 at rimowa-f13.com.