Last updated 1.9.16
AUSTRALIAN JUNKERS Ju 52/3m TRIMOTORS

Compiled by Geoff Goodall


Gibbes Sepik Airways Junkers Ju 52/3m VH-BUV in 1958 at home base Goroka, in the New Guinea Sepik District.
It has been re-engined with RAAF CAC Wirraway P&W R-1340 Wasp power plants with 3 bladed propellers.  
Photo by Brian Horsey via Ron Cuskelly collection


                Only three of these venerable German transports came to Australia in 1955-1956, many years after the majority had been retired by military and civilian owners around the world. The trio were imported by Gibbes Sepik Airways, an Australian airline company operating in Papua New Guinea, then administered by Australia.

                 Ju 52 development goes back to 1930 with the original single-engined aircraft. The first tri-motor Ju 52/3m variant was flown in 1932 and became the standard transport for the pre-war and wartime Luftwaffe. It was a rugged all-metal utility transport, strengthend by the Junkers trade-mark corrugated duralumin metal skin. For freight or troop carrying it had a large open cabin unobstructed by a wingspar.
Ju 52/3m trimotors were extensively flown as civil airliners by Lufthansa and many other European airlines, also in South America.
                Total production was 4,845 aircraft, including Ju 52/3m variants built in Spain as CASA 352 and France as Amiot AAC.1 Toucan
 

The Ju 52/3m was developed to replace the Junkers G.31 trimotors. These three G.31s were flown in New Guinea
by Guinea Airways 1931-1941 and set world air freight records. Note the open roof hatch to load bulky cargo.
Photo at Lae, New Guinea by Guinea Airways G.31 pilot Bert Heath, courtesy Ben Dannecker collection

                 Cargo was the life blood of New Guinea operators before a road network was constructed between major towns.
                 By 1954 Gibbes Sepik Airways at Goroka desperately needed larger capacity aircraft to handle the amount of air freight being offered. Founder Bobby Gibbes wanted to supplement his fleet of Noorduyn Norseman freighters with DC-3 size transports, but lacked the financial backing required. He was well aware of the remarkable feats carried out by the pre-war Guinea Airways Junkers G.31 trimotors and began to seriously consider that their replacement, the Ju 52/3m, would be a much cheaper compromise. However Gibbes' early enquiries brought the news that he was too late - the last of the civil Ju 52s in Europe had been retired and were gone.

Gibbes Sepik Airways
                  Established in September 1947 at Goroka, New Guinea by Robert H. M. Gibbes, former RAAF Wing Commander and WWII fighter ace. He was a popular character in the New Guinea Sepik District where he had been flying a Dragon for Mandated Airlines.  Gibbes started his airline with Austers then purchased ex RAAF Noorduyn Norsemans. Gibbes Sepik Airways grew to be an established charter operation with a good reputation.
                 Early 1955 Bobby Gibbes heard that a Swedish airline was advertising three Ju 52s for sale in "fly-away" condition, but at a high price. He travelled to Stockholm where he was disappointed to find them in a poor state, parked in the open winter weather with u/s engines and several engines missing. In his autobiography You Live But Once, Gibbes describes his frustrating negotiations that eventually brought the price down from 15,000 Sterling each to a more realistic 1,500 each, including a good stock of spare parts.  Because of their neglected condition he intended to dismantle them for shipping to Australia, but the quoted sea freight costs were prohibitive. There was no choice but to overhaul each at Stockholm and fly them back. A Swedish engineer was employed to work on the best of the three, SE-BUE, while Gibbes chased up spare German BMW 132Z radial engines and parts.
                His application to the Department of Civil Aviation for Australian registration of his veteran trimotors was met with little enthusiasm. As a new type, he had to satisfy DCA's strict airworthiness requirements which included a copy (in English) of the manufacturer's strength and stress design calculations plus all the aircraft manuals. Some of these he managed to provide, thanks to the help of British European Airways in London, which had operated 12 captured Luftwaffe Ju 52/3ms immediately after the end of the war.  

              On 8 October 1955 Gibbes departed Stockholm in the first Junkers, now painted as VH-BUU with Gibbes Sepik Airways name on the fuselage.  He had hired aGerman engineer/pilot as his copilot and carried Gibbes' coysin and her girlfriend as passengers. After numerous delays and adventures, reached Goroka six weeks later on 18 November.  The Australian certification overhaul began in the GSA hangar at Goroka. DCA allowed the company further time to submit required manuals because of the difficulty in dealing with the Junkers company at Dassau which was now in communist East Germany. VH-BUU completed its overhaul in December that year and entered cargo service.

Re-engining the Ju 52s
              Gibbes knew the aging BMW engines would be a continuing problem. He decided that the 800hp BMWs could be safely replaced by 600hp P&W R-1340 Wasps. He had earlier re-engined his Norseman fleet with the Australian built R-1340-S1H1-G geared engine running 3 bladed Hamilton Standard constant-speed propellers. This power plant was used by RAAF CAC Wirraway trainers and Gibbes had purchased a number from RAAF Disposals. He was determined to install them in his Ju 52s using Wirraway engine cowlings.  Because the engineering aspects were complex, Marshall Airways at Sydney-Bankstown were contracted to install the Wasps and handle DCA certification of the modification.

              DCA required a detailed stress analysis of the modified engine mounts and effects of the different engines before approving the modification drawings. Gibbes engaged Melbourne aviation engineering consultant M. Molyneaux to carry out this work, which extended to the strength of the wing structure and an analysis of the wartime German alloy used in the wing spar.
           
              In June 1956 VH-BUU set off from Goroka for the ferry flight to Sydney, flown by GSA pilot John McDermott. The starboard BMW engine failed over Torres Strait and McDermott made a forced landing at Horn Island where they were stranded. Gibbes quickly arranged for a P&W R-1340-S1H1G to be flown from Sydney to Horn Island by wartime friend Brian Blackjack Walker, now chief test pilot for De Havilland Aircraft in Sydney. Walker delivered the dismantled power plant in a DHA-3 Drover, and despite minimum facilities at Horn Island, the u/s starboard BMW engine was removed and replaced by the nose BMW, and the P&W Wasp fitted in the nose position. McDermott continued the flight to Bankstown, where Sid Marshall's crew under chief engineer Jack Davidson and Eric Cross went to work replacing all engines.  Sid himself knew the earlier Junkers G.31 trimotors well from his pre-war days as a ground engineer in New Guinea with Guinea Airways.  In addition to the engine controls and fuel systems, the modifications included improved firewall sealing, flexible fuel lines replaced by fire-resistant materials, and installation of fire detection and extinguishing systems.
               Brian Walker was called in for the test flying, with Sid Marshall in the right hand seat for the early flights, followed by DCA performance trials with the lower-powered engines.  Despite their misgivings, DCA were satisfied and the CofA amended to show the P&W engines. VH-BUU returned to New Guinea in September 1956 to commence freight work. Walker resigned from De Havilland Aircraft to join Bobby Gibbes as GSA Manager and Junkers pilot

              Gibbes was so disenchanted with the BMW engines that he gained DCA approval for a field-modification to have the two Junkers re-engined with P&W Wasps at Stockholm prior to their ferry flights. GSA senior pilot Robin Gray had been sent to Sweden to supervise the preparation of the two aircraft, engaging experienced German engineer Paul Raasch, ex Lufthansa, to complete the overhauls then crew the delivery flights and remain with the airline in New Guinea. Two more engineers were employed, Eddie Halle from Germany and Swede Sten-Erik Molker.  Six P&W Wasp power plants were shipped from Australia to Helsinki and installed - the removed BMW engines being sold in Europe to recoup some of the mounting costs. 
              Having experienced many radio problems on his Junkers ferry flight, Gibbes sent pilot Tony Chadim to Sweden to install modern Lear radio and navigation equipment to both aircraft, then crew the delivery flights to New Guinea.

The other two Junkers arrive from Sweden
              In early 1957 the two Junkers at Helsinki completed their long rebuilds and re-engining with the P&W Wasp power plants.  This generated a flurry of telegrams between DCA Head Office in Melbourne and the Civil Aviation Liasion Officer at Australia House, London. Their certification to satisfy international regulations presented an administrative dilemma, which was solved when the Swedish authorities agreed to issue Swedish CofA to both aircraft, despite them being Australian registered and the Wasp re-engining modification not having Swedish approval.  The CALO was instructed in addition to also issue an Interim Australian CofA for one month to cover the ferry flight.

             They departed Sweden on 13 January 1957 on the VFR delivery flight to New Guinea in formation. On board were:

VH-BUV: Pilots Brian Blackjack Walker and Englishman John Green, engineers Paul Raasch and Eddie Halle, passengers Green's and Raasch's families, loaded with their household effects.

VH-BUW: Pilots Robin Gray and Tony Chadim, engineer Sten-Erik Molker, passengers Chadim's wife & daughter. Loaded with spare parts.
Previous owner Albin Ahrenberg accompanied them for the early stages across Europe.

              They reached Goroka 26 days later to a great welcome as they circled the town in formation. They went to work as freighters. Despite the reduced power of the P&W Wasps, they quickly proved themselves worthy competition for the DC-3s of Qantas and Mandated Airlines.  They were well-known across New Guinea and were referred to as "JUs".  After the massive effort and expense of getting these other two Junkers to New Guinea, only days after going into service VH-BUW was wrecked in a takeoff accident on the notorious goldfields downhill sloping strip at Wau. Gibbes flew to Wau with his Junkers specialist engineer Paul Raasch, who said it could be repaired.         
             Such was Bobby Gibbes determination, a truck convoy and a team of drivers was contracted to move the dismantled aircraft down the mountains from Wau to Lae on a narrow winding road, then to Goroka, 300 miles. The rebuild in the airline maintenance hangar at Goroka was an aeronautical engineering triumph, taking 5 engineers a year to complete.  It was achieved without manufacturer's drawings, equipment or jigs, using Americad Alcad to replace the wartime alloys, the properties of which were unknown. The skinning Alcad was in sheets, which had to be pressed into the corrugations that were an essential part of thge aircraft's design strength. DCA inspectors monitored the rebuild, their tests revealing that the tolerances achieved were better than those of the other two Junkers.

              Some Gibbes Sepik pilot recollections sum up the Junkers period:
Ivan Bennett: "You didn't need a pilot's licence to fly the old JU, you needed a plumber's certificate. But it was a bloody good aeroplane. The corrugated metal construction made them very strong and gave them a much greater wing area than was apparent. They had great ability on short fields.  I did a lot of air drops in the JU. You could get back to 65 knots which made the job easier. One of the worst I did was at Simbai, to drop a roller to Jim McKinnon who was building a strip there. We landed at Aiome to get the metal roller. Jim gave us a detailed plan to fly up the Simbai valley and drop the roller. All well in theory, but the Simbai valley did not have enough room to complete a 360 degree turn in the old JU. Coming around in the turn I could see we were in deep trouble, so just as we missed a ridge I gave the signal to drop the roller because I had to climb out of there. The roller went into the next valley and took 3 weeks to get it out."

Adrian Nisbet: "Those JUs were terrible things, heavy as a brick, but magnificent aircraft for the job. Imagine getting into the old Maprik strip, only 1,600 feet long, with a trimotor carrying 7,500 pounds - as much as a DC-3.  They were an extraordinary aircraft for their time. Qantas were stripping down their DC-3s to try to get a bit more payload out of them to compete with the Ju 52s."

                Unfortunately the harsh New Guinea operating conditions took their toll on the P&W Wasps, which, although reliable in the company Norsemans, were blowing cylinders with increasing frequency in the Junkers. This was believed to be caused by excess vibration associated with the engine installations. With one Wasp shut down, a Ju 52 was unable to maintain altitude at most loads.
                They had several accidents, described in their individual histories below, but by the end of 1957 DCA had accepted the Ju 52s as part of New Guinea civil aviation operations. At this same time the Department was concerned by the inability of DC-3s to meet ICAO climb performance requirements after losing an engine on takeoff. Restrictions were imposed on the payload for New Guinea DC-3s, giving the
Ju 52s a distinct advantage.



Almost two more Junkers
                At the beginning of 1958  Gibbes Sepik Airways was suffering a cash-flow crisis because of lost revenue and repair costs caused by Norseman and Junkers accidents. The big Ju 52s were money-makers and Bobby Gibbes seriously considered obtaining two more as quickly as possible. He was aware of two Ju 52s available for sale in Mozambique and commenced negotiations for their purchase.
                In March 1958 Gibbes applied to Australian Customs to import the pair, and import licences were issued. Senior pilot Robin Gray was sent to Africa the following month to organise delivery arrangements. A week after Gray had departed, Gibbes received a telegram stating that DCA Head Office had deferred a decision on his application for additional Junkers aircraft pending an Australian Federal Government Policy review into airline services in New Guinea - which was expected to commence in June 1958.  Gibbes appealed to the Minister for Aviation in Canberra, who responded that the Customs import licences had been issued in error.  Gibbes was beaten and recalled Gray from Africa before the purchase had been finalised. 
            
The end of Gibbes Sepik Airways - and the Ju 52s
                 While fighting the bureaucratic decision to block additional Ju 52s, the final straw for Bobby Gibbes came in July 1958 when Norseman VH-GSA crashed in a valley near Mendi with the loss of pilot Ron De Forest. It was the first fatality in the history of the airline. Gibbes put his airline up for sale as a going concern.  In November 1958 his competitor Mandated Airlines (MAL) purchased Gibbes Sepik Airways and all its assets including the three Ju 52s and five Norseman aircraft.  The airline's maintenance
                 Gibbes Sepik Airways continued to operate under its own name as part of the MAL organisation until April 1960. However MAL management was modernising its fleet and did not intend to keep the Junkers.  VH-BUU was declared a write-off after being damaged in October 1959, despite engineers saying it could be repaired with spares stock inherited from GSA. The other two were retired the following year at Madang, left in the open until sold for scrap metal.
              


            Junkers Ju 52/3m               c/n 7256                                                                                           VH-BUU
41
Built at Bamberg, Germany by Junkers Flugzeng Und Motorenwerke AG.
Civil model Ju 52/3m-12 to the order of Deutsche Lufthansa. BMW 132L-2 radial engines.
Not delivered to Lufthansa, leased new to Aero OY, Finland
12.41
Registered D-AVIU Deutsche Lufthansa.
Allocated Lufthansa fleet name Theodor Schopwinkel
6.12.41
First flight Bemberg

assembled at Merseburg, first flight 06.12.41
named "Th. Schoepwinkel"
LUFTHANSA, D-AVIU, 1941
AERO O/Y, D-AVIU, leased from Lufthansa 18.12.41
AERO O/Y, OH-LAM, "Karjala", 19.02.42, damaged in ground collision at Malmo 06.07.43
ABA Sweden, SE-BUE, 1945
AHRENBERG, SE-BUE, 08.11.51
GIBBES SEPIK AIRWAYS, VH-BUU, 30.09.55
crashed 17.10.59 at Baiyer River / New Guinea, some parts still remain
18.12.41
Leased to Aero OY, Helsinki, Finland
19.12.41
Delivered Riga-Helsinki. Total airframe time: 5 hrs 15 mins
27.12.41
Entered passenger service Helsinki-Tallinn-Riga-Kaunas on behalf of Lufthansa
19.2.41
Registered OH-LAM  Aero OY, Helsinki, Finland.  Named Karjala
42
Used mainly on the Helsinki-Kaunas route until 12.42

Re-engined with BMW 132Z radials
6.7.43
Ground collision when landing Helsinki-Malmi Airport from Turku, Captain Laitinen: skidded off runway and struck a Finnish Air Force SB-2bis which was wrecked.
43
OH-LAM repaired and returned to service
4.49
Retired by Aero, stored at Helsinki-Malmi
8.11.51
sold to Firma M. Ahrenberg, Stockholm, Sweden. BMW 132A engines
30.4.52
Delivered from Helsinki to Sweden
4.52
Registered SE-BUE Firma M. Ahrenberg, Stockholm
54
Retired at Stockholm-Bromma Airport with two other Ahrenberg Ju 52s, parked in open awaiting sale
4.55
Inspected at Stockholm, by R.H. Gibbes, founder of Gibbes Sepik Airways in New Guinea. The three Junkers were advertised in good condition but on arrival he found them in poor condition with some BMW engines removed. Purchase negotiations began and Gibbes intended to send them as ship cargo.
4.55
Purchased by Gibbes Sepik Airways, Goroka, New Guinea

Sea freight cost proved prohibitive, so Gibbes engaged Swedish and German engineers to overhaul the three Ju 52s at Stockholm to allow them to be delivered by air to New Guinea.
SE-BUE was considered to be best of the three, work concentrated on getting it airworthy, and locating serviced BMW engines to replace its worn engines.
28.9.55
Registered VH-BUU Gibbes Sepik Airways, Goroka, New Guinea

Registration date 6.10.55 recorded in the Civil Register Ledger at DCA Melbourne Head Office
28.9.55
One month provisional CofA issued by DCA to cover the delivery flight to New Guinea
8.10.55
Departed Stockholm on delivery flight to New Guinea.
Captain R.H. Gibbes. pilot/engineer Gustav A. Jerdnell, passengers Gibbes' cousin Alison Moxham and her friend Jean Cameron.
10.55
Photo at Dusseldorf, Germany shows VH-BUU all metallic finish, with Gibbes Sepik Airways titles

Delayed several weeks at Karachi waiting for a replacement crankshaft to be sent from Sweden and installed in the port engine by Jerdnell

Ferry continued via Delhi, Calcutta, Rangoon, Labuan, Zamboanga
18.11.55
Arrived at Goroka
1.12.55
Test flown at Goroka by R. H. Gibbes after CofA inspection
1.12.55
Australian CofA issued by DCA
12.55
Entered freight service with Gibbes Sepik Airways
6.56
Departed Goroka on ferry flight to Sydney, flown by GSA pilot John McDermott. Marshall Airways at Sydney-Bankstown were contracted to replace the three BMW engines with threeP&W R-1340-S1H1G Wasp geared power plants with 3-bladed Hamilton Standard 3D40 Constant-Speed propellers.
6.56
The port BMW failed while crossing Torres Strait, McDermott was unable to maintain altitude and made a forced landing at Horn Island airfield. Stranded there with assengers who had paid a special fare for the return trip to Sydney. 

Bobby Gibbes arranged for his wartime friend Brian R. Blackjack Walker, then chief test pilot for
De Havilland Aircraft Pty Ltd at Bankstown, to bring a P&W R-1340 Wasp from Sydney to Horn Island. Walker used a DHA-3 Drover trimotor to carry the dismantled powerplant.
At Horn Island the u/s port BMW was discarded. The centre BMW was removed and installed in the port position, and the P&W Wasp installed in the centre position, where its lower power would not cause asymetric problems.

Arrived at Bankstown. Marshall Airways carried out the re-engining modification.
8.56
Test flown Bankstown with three P&W engines. Brian Walker carried out the initial test flights and a schedule of takeoff and landing performance tests for DCA.
Walker resigned from  De Havilland Aircraft the following month to join Gibbes Sepik Airways as Manager and Junkers pilot
9.56
VH-BUU ferried Sydney to Goroka with three P&W Wasps, to return to GSA freight work
15.11.58
Gibbes Sepik Airways was purchased by Mandated Airlines Ltd, Lae, New Guinea.
GSA continued to operate under its own name within the MAL organisation until April 1960.
17.10.59
Badly damaged in ground-loop, landing at Baiyer River airstrip.
Operating as Gibbes Sepik Airways but flown by a MAL pilot.
DCA accident report: "The pilot landed with strong downwind component. Aircraft swung off the strip into a drain during severe braking. The undercarriager was demolished."

Declared an insurance write-off.  MAL wished to replace the Ju 52s with modern types.

Bobby Gibbes in his autobiography You Live But Once describes the anger of the Gibbes Sepik Airways engineers who told him they could have repaired VH-BUU in three days because all the needed parts were held by MAL among the Junkers spares stockincluded in the purchase of GSA

Engines and parts removed, abandoend on the side of the strip at Baiyer River
1.9.60
Struck-off Register
early 60s
The remains of the airframe remained at the airstrip. Reportedly partially burnt for a scene in a movie.

Reportedly gone by 1970s


SE-BUE at Stockholm in 1952 in service with Firma M. Ahrenberg.           Photo: The Collection p3690-0055


VH-BUU at Minj, New Guinea in early 1956 with Gibbes Sepik Airways, soon after arrival from Sweden.
It still had the BMW radial engines with two bladed propellers.                    Photo by Robert Blaklie


VH-BUU at Brisbane-Eagle Farm, probably during the return from Sydney to New Guinea in September 1956
after the BMW radials had been replaced by P&W Wasps.


Baiyer River , New Guinea in October 1957 after VH-BUU ground-looped off the strip.
The wheel skid tracks tell the story.                        Photo: The Collection p3690-0068


Closeup of the damage sustained at Baiyer River, October 1957.              Photo: The Collection p3690-0063


The stripped remains of VH-BUU abandoned at Baiyer River airfield circa 1966.         Photo by Alan Bovelt



               Junkers Ju 52/3m            c/n 7493                                                                                VH-BUV, VH-GSS
.42
Built at Bamberg, Germany by Junkers Flugzeng Und Motorenwerke AG
Luftwaffe order to military configuration, completed as model Ju 52/3mg8e
.42
Transferred to Aero OY, Helsinki, Finland
Modified to civil passenger airliner by Junkers at Dessau, Germany

Ju52-3/mg8e, 7493 (jw)
first flight at Bernburg 28.04.42 as g8e
LUFTWAFFE, CK+QR, not taken up
JUNKERS, D-AXVA, converted to Z5
AERO O/Y, OH-LAO, "Waasa", 14.09.42
LUFTHANSA, D-AEAC, leased from AERO O/Y 31.10.42 - 03.07.44
ABA SWEDEN, SE-BUD, 05.45
AHRENSBURG, SE-BUD, 08.11.51
GIBBES SEPIK AIRWAYS, VH-BUV, 30.09.55, later VH-GSS 25.08.59
broken up at Madang, New Guinea in 1960
.42
Registered D-AXVA
21.8.42
Testflown at Dessau after civil conversion. BMW 132Z-3 engines
12.9.42
Registered OH-LAO Aero OY, Helsinki, Finland. Fleet name Vaasa
14.9.42
Handed over to Aero OY
21.9.42
Arrived Helsinki on delivery
31.10.42
Leased until 6.44 to Deutsche Lufthansa
31.10.42
Registered D-AEAC Deutsche Lufthansa
3.7.44
Registered OH-LAO Aero OY, Helsinki, Finland
18.6.46
Minor damage at Turku on a schedueld flight
12.4.49
Final Aero service prior to retirement: Vaasa-Kemi-Vaasa, under command of Captain Juurikas
4.49
Retired and stored at Helsinki-Malmi Airport
8.11.51
sold to Firma M. Ahrenberg, Sweden
1.52
Registered SE-BUD Firma M. Ahrenberg, Stockholm-Bromma Airport, Sweden
18.1.52
Delivered Helsinki to Stockholm
54
Retired at Stockholm-Bromma Airport with two other Ahrenberg Ju 52s, parked in open awaiting sale
4.55
Inspected at Stockholm, by R.H. Gibbes, founder of Gibbes Sepik Airways in New Guinea. The three Junkers were advertised in good condition but on arrival he found them in poor condition with some BMW engines removed. Purchase engotiations began and Gibbes intended to send them as ship cargo.
4.55
Purchased by Gibbes Sepik Airways, Goroka, New Guinea

Sea freight cost proved prohibitive, so Gibbes engaged Swedish and German engineers to overhaul the three Ju 52s at Stockholm to allow them to be delivered by air to New Guinea.

Following the modification in Australia of the first Ju 52 VH-BUU to P&W Wasp R-1340s replacing the BMW engines, DCA approved the conversion of the other two Ju 52s in Sweden to the same Gibbes Sepik Airways drawings.  R-1340-S1H1G power plants with 3 bladed propellers and Wirraway cowlings were shipped to Sweden.
29.8.56
Two Ju 52s noted at Bromma, SE-AYB and the other with no markings
1.57
Overhaul completed at Stockholm with P&W Wasps installed. Painted as VH-BUV.
13.1.57
VH-BUV & VH-BUW departed Bromma on delivery. Bad weather forced a return after 2 hours.
VH-BUV was under the command of GSA Captain Robin Gray
14.1.57
The pair departed again, successfully reaching Hamburg, Germany.
Delivery continued via Nice, Rome, Athens, Beirut, Abadan, Bahrein, Sharjah, Karachi, Ahmedabad, Naipur, Calkcutta, Rangoon, Bangkok, Saigon, Labuan, Zamboanga, Sorong, Wewak, to Goroka
8.2.57
The pair reached Wewak, continued to home base Goroka next morning
9.2.57
Landed at Goroka after circling the town in formation, to celebrate their arrival

Inspection at Goroka for Australian CofA renewal
11.4.57
Formally registered VH-BUV Gibbes Sepik Airways, Goroka, New Guinea
11.4.57
CofA renewed.

Entered freight service with Gibbes Sepik Airways
15.11.58
Gibbes Sepik Airways was purchased by Mandated Airlines Ltd, Lae, New Guinea.
GSA continued to operate under its own name within the MAL organisation until April 1960.
15.11.58
Port undercarriage collapsed at Mendi while turning after landing. Airframe suffered structural damage.
GSA pilots Ivan Bennett and Ken Davenport.
Quickly repaired on site by GSA engineers
DCA accident report "Whilst turning on sloping ground the port wheel retaining bolts sheared and the axle broke at the root allowing the aircraft to fall on the port wing."

(To Bobby Gibbes' relief, the documents for the sale of Gibbes Sepik Airways including its 3 Ju52s and 5 Norsemans to MAL had been signed just hours earlier, so the repair costs were MAL’s responsibility)
25.8.59
Change of Registration to VH-GSS Gibbes Sepik Airways, Goroka, New Guinea
1.4.60
Formal takeover date of Gibbes Sepik Airways by Mandated Airlines Ltd, Lae, New Guinea
.60
Retired at Madang by MAL
60
Junkers VH-GSS and VH-GSW parked in the open at Madang
1.9.60
Struck-off Civil Register
61
Sold for scrap. Broken up at Madang
6.62
The scrapped airframes of VH-GSS & VH-GSW arrived at Outer Harbour, Adelaide SA on a ship from New Guinea, on consignment to metal merchants E. R. Way & Son, Thebarton, Adelaide.
Also identified were Norseman airframe sections, salvaged Japanese wartime aircraft wrecks and at least one RAAF Bristol Beaufort

The Junkers fuselage sections were painted cream with green trim, "Gibbes Sepik Airways" on sides.


Three photographs of VH-BUV taken at Madang in June 1959 by Kevin Pavlich, who was flying
Adastra Aerial Surveys Lockheed Hudson VH-AGX on a New Guinea survey at the time.  
Courtesy Ron Cuskelly collection






               Junkers Ju 52/3m              c/n 641375                                                                        VH-BUW, VH-GSW

Built at Leipzig, Germany by Erla Flugzeugwerke, one of the wartime shadow aircraft factories.
Luftwaffe order to military configuration, completed as model Ju 52/3m

Taken on Luftwaffe chasrge as W/Nr 641375

Assigned as personal aircraft for Luftwaffe Field Marshall Albert Kesselring
4.45
As Berlin fell to invading Allied and Russian forces, this Ju 52 was flown out of Berlin by Kesselring's pilot, who flew it to Sweden to escape personal capture.  Aircraft impounded by British forces.
28.1.46
Registered OY-DFU DDL - Det Danske Luftfartselskab A/S, Copenhagen  Uffe Viking

(DDL-Danish Air Lines was to merge in 1951 to form Scandinavian Airlines System-SAS)
9.50
Registered SE-AYB Firma M. Ahrenberg, Stockholm-Bromma Airport, Sweden
54
Retired at Stockholm-Bromma Airport with two other Ahrenberg Ju 52s, parked in open awaiting sale
4.55
Inspected at Stockholm, by R.H. Gibbes, founder of Gibbes Sepik Airways in New Guinea. The three Junkers were advertised in good condition but on arrival he found them in poor condition with some BMW engines removed. Purchase engotiations began and Gibbes intended to send them as ship cargo.
4.55
Purchased by Gibbes Sepik Airways, Goroka, New Guinea

Sea freight cost proved prohibitive, so Gibbes engaged Swedish and German engineers to overhaul the three Ju 52s at Stockholm to allow them to be delivered by air to New Guinea.

Following the modification in Australia of the first Ju 52 VH-BUU to P&W Wasp R-1340s replacing the BMW engines, DCA approved the conversion of the other two Ju 52s in Sweden to the same Gibbes Sepik Airways drawings.  R-1340-S1H1G power plants with 3 bladed propellers and Wirraway cowlings were shipped to Sweden.
29.8.56
SE-AYB without engines noted at Bromma, parked with another Ju 52 with no markings 
1.57
Overhaul completed at Stockholm with P&W Wasps installed. Painted as VH-BUW
13.1.57
VH-BUW & VH-BUV departed Bromma on delivery. Bad weather forced a return after 2 hours
VH-BUW was under the command of GSA Captain Brian R. Walker
14.1.57
The pair departed again, successfully reaching Hamburg, Germany.
Delivery continued via Nice, Rome, Athens, Beirut, Abadan, Bahrein, Sharjah, Karachi, Ahmedabad, Naipur, Calkcutta, Rangoon, Bangkok, Saigon, Labuan, Zamboanga, Sorong, Wewak, to Goroka
8.2.57
The pair reached Wewak, continued to home base Goroka next morning
9.2.57
Landed at Goroka after circling the town in formation, to celebrate their arrival

Inspection at Goroka for Australian CofA renewal
18.3.57
Formally registered VH-BUW
21.3.57
Badly damaged at Wau when swung on takeoff and struck a building.

GSA pilot Peter Manser was making a down-hill takeoff on the sloping strip, carrying a heavy load of sawn timber. Just before becoming airborne the port engine suddenly lost all power, causing the aircraft to swing violently to the left and roll towards the Qantas terminal building and freight shed. The Qantas agent Mrs. Ivy Crawford saw it approaching and ran through the passenger room out on to the airfield and jumped over an embankment as the aircraft struck the building. The port wing sliced through the wooden structure, the roof collapsing as the Junkers kept rolling on to a road, tearing off its rear fuselage before Manser could bring it to a stop.  The fuselage was broken into three sections and 12 feet was smashed off the port wing.

DCA accident report: "Just after takeoff run was commenced, the aircraft struck a building when it ran off the strip. The accident was probably caused by a loss of power, for reasons undetermined, at a critical stage of the takeoff."

QEA later took legal action against GSA for the repair costs of the Qantas airport building at Wau

The wrecked aircraft was dismantled and loaded on two diesel semi-trailer trucks modified for the job by a Lae transport company. Accompanied by a team of drivers in jeeps, they moved the aircraft down the narrow road down the mountain to Lae, and on to Goroka.
12.9.57
Road convoy reached Goroka

12 month rebuild in the Gibbes Sepik Airways hangar at Goroka under GSA engineer Paul Raasch
1.8.58
Gibbes Sepik Airways was purchased by Mandated Airlines Ltd, Lae, New Guinea.
GSA continued to operate under its own name within the MAL organisation until April 1960.
30.1.59
Testflown Goroka after rebuild
1.59
Change of Registration to VH-GSW Gibbes Sepik Airways, Goroka, New Guinea
1.4.60
Formal takeover date of Gibbes Sepik Airways by Mandated Airlines Ltd, Lae, New Guinea
60
Retired at Madang by MAL
60
Junkers VH-GSS and VH-GSW parked in the open at Madang
1.9.60
Struck-off Civil Register
61
Sold for scrap. Broken up at Madang
6.62
The scrapped airframes of VH-GSS & VH-GSW arrived at Outer Harbour, Adelaide SA on a ship from New Guinea, on consignment to metal merchants E. R. Way & Son, Thebarton, Adelaide.
Also identified were Norseman airframe sections, salvaged Japanese wartime aircraft wrecks and at least one RAAF Bristol Beaufort

The Junkers fuselage sections were painted cream with green trim, "Gibbes Sepik Airways" on sides.


VH-BUW after the Wau accident March 1957. It has been secured at the top end of the downhill sloping airstrip.
Damage was far more than it appears - the rear fuselage, tailplane and 12 feet of port wing were torn away.
The wrecked Qantas terminal which it struck is on the left.                  Photo: Ben Dannecker collection


A tropics-damaged colour slide of the truck convoy carrying VH-BUW down the mountain from Wau.
  The Junkers was rebuilt and flew again.                                       Source unknown, via Greg Thom



The End


Outer Hrbour, Adelaide SA June 1962 - scrapped aircraft unloaded from a ship from New Guinea for an
Adelaide metal dealer.  It included wartime aircraft wrecks and Ju 52s VH-GSS and VH-GSW.
Photo by Geoff Goodall


References:
- Australian Civil Aircraft Register, Department of Civil Aviation
- DCA Annual Survey of Accidents to Australian Civil Aircraft: 1957, 1959
- DCA Head Office initial registration files Ju 52s: National Archives of Australia, Melbourne
- Balus - The Aeroplane in Papua New Guinea, Volume 1, James Sinclair, Robert Brown, 1996
- Sepik Pilot - Wing Commander Bobby Gibbes, James Sinclair, Robert Brown 1977
- Your Live but Once, Bobby Gibbes, self-published 1994
- Flypast - A Record of Aviation in Australia, Neville Parnell & Trevor Boughton, AGPS 1988
- Swedish Ju 52 listing, Aviation Letter, monthly journal, November 1971
- Stockholm Report August 1956, Air Britain Digest, March-April 1957
- wrecks at Adelaide report: Aviation Historical Society of Australia Journal, June 1962

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