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Junkers G38

Long-Haul Passenger Airliner / Heavy-Lift Long-Range Transport Aircraft

Nazi Germany | 1931

"The Junkers G38 of the 1930s represented the largest land-based aircraft in the world for a brief time in her flying career - two were constructed in pre-World War 2 Germany."

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 03/17/2021 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site; No A.I. was used in the generation of this content.
During the early part of its flying career, the Junkers model G.38 was the largest land-based airplane anywhere in the world. What's more is the giant aircraft was developed under the restrictions of the Treaty of Versailles which hampered German industry following World War 1 (1914-1918) but fittingly played its role during the "Golden Age of Flight" that saw aircraft evolve considerably. The aircraft proved a great study in blended body-wing design for the period and two examples were built primarily for the passenger-hauling role.

Like other Junkers aircraft before it, the G.38 was completed with corrugated duraluminium stressed metal skin. The large cantilever wings were deliberately designed as deep, measuring some 5.7 feet, to house passenger cabins and a pair of engine nacelles. The fuselage, with the cockpit flight deck (stepped arrangement) overlooking the nose, tapered towards the tail. The tail itself was capped by a triple-rudder configuration sandwiched between a pair of horizontal planes. The undercarriage was wheeled though fixed in flight and spatted for some basic aerodynamic efficiency. An operating crew of seven was carried.

Dimensions included a length of 76.1 feet, a wingspan of 144.3 feet and a height of 23.6 feet. Empty weight registered 32,900 lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 46,825 lb.

To power the massive bird, 2 x Junkers L55 V12 water-cooled inline piston engines were initially carried in the inboard engine mountings while 2 x Junkers L8a 6-cylinder, water-cooled inline piston engines were carried at the outboard positions. These gave an output power of 413 horsepower each. Because of the depth of the wing design (internally), not only could passengers be carried in the structures but flight engineers could also access the powerplants in-flight and make necessary repairs / adjustments.

Performance specs included a maximum speed of 140 miles per hour with a cruising speed of 110 miles per hour. Though slow the beast ranged out to 2,150 miles and its service ceiling reached 12,105 feet - certainly better qualities than competing Zeppelin passenger/cargo haulers of the period.

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Passenger capacity eventually numbered thirty across three compartments and the persons lucky enough to secure a ticket in the wings were given forward-facing windscreens built directly into the wing leading edges. Lavatories were built-in as were "smoking rooms". The aircraft's MTOW also provided the system with an excellent cargo-hauling capability when used in the dedicated transport role.

First-flight of the G.38 (also recognized as the "D-2000") came on November 6th, 1929 and the launch customer was German carrier Lufthansa with flights seen from Berlin to London beginning on July 1st, 1931. Revision work on the aircraft followed from October onward and resulted in greater passenger-hauling capabilities (a second deck being added). The work also included installation of four L88 series engines of 800 horsepower each. The D-2000 prototype aircraft eventually crashed in 1936 following some maintenance work and the damage proved so great the aircraft was not repaired and set back into active service.

A second prototype aircraft ("D-2500") finished construction and given the same twin deck internal design and its passenger-hauling capability was slightly increased to thirty-four travelers.

Flights soon resumed to various points within Europe and out to London. In 1934 the engine fits were replaced by Junkers 4 (Junkers Jumo 204) series powerplants which boosted overall output power by nearly 1,000 horses. With the D-2000 crashing in 1936, D-2500 continued on alone until Germany found itself in a world war over Europe once again. The D-2500 was requisitioned as a military transport and continued in this role until May of 1941 when she was bombed by Royal Air Force attackers where she sat in Axis-controlled Athens, Greece.

The large aircraft design was licensed out to Mitsubishi during the 1930s which allowed the company to produce a military-minded bomber-transport type. This product was designated "Ki-20" and six were completed from the period spanning 1931 to 1935. These 10-man bombers served with the Imperial Japanese Army Air Force and had a first-flight recorded in 1932.

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Power & Performance
Those special qualities that separate one aircraft design from another. Performance specifications presented assume optimal operating conditions for the Junkers G38 (D-2000) Long-Haul Passenger Airliner / Heavy-Lift Long-Range Transport Aircraft.
1929: 2 x Junkers L55 V12 water-cooled inline piston engines with 2 x Junkers L8a 6-cylinder water-cooled inline piston engines developing 413 horsepower each.
140 mph
225 kph | 121 kts
Max Speed
12,139 ft
3,700 m | 2 miles
Service Ceiling
2,175 miles
3,500 km | 1,890 nm
Operational Range
City-to-City Ranges
Operational range when compared to distances between major cities (in KM).
The nose-to-tail, wingtip-to-wingtip physical qualities of the Junkers G38 (D-2000) Long-Haul Passenger Airliner / Heavy-Lift Long-Range Transport Aircraft.
76.1 ft
23.21 m
O/A Length
144.4 ft
(44.00 m)
O/A Width
23.6 ft
(7.20 m)
O/A Height
33,069 lb
(15,000 kg)
Empty Weight
46,826 lb
(21,240 kg)
Design Balance
The three qualities reflected below are altitude, speed, and range. The more full the box, the more balanced the design.
Notable series variants as part of the Junkers G38 family line.
G.38 - Base Model Designation; two examples completed.
D-2000 - Original prototype; seating for up to 30 passengers.
D-2500 - Secondary prototype; revised internals for seating 34.
Global customers who have evaluated and/or operated the Junkers G38. Nations are displayed by flag, each linked to their respective national aircraft listing.

Total Production: 2 Units

Contractor(s): Junkers Flugzeug und Motorenwerke AG - Nazi Germany
National flag of modern Germany National flag of Nazi Germany

[ Nazi Germany ]
Relative Max Speed
Hi: 150mph
Lo: 75mph
Aircraft Max Listed Speed (140mph).

Graph Average of 113 MPH.
Era Crossover
Pie graph section
Pie graph section
Showcasing Aircraft Era Crossover (if any)
Max Alt Visualization
Small airplane graphic
Production Comparison
Entry compared against Ilyushin IL-2 (military) and Cessna 172 (civilian) total production.
MACH Regime (Sonic)
RANGES (MPH) Subsonic: <614mph | Transonic: 614-921 | Supersonic: 921-3836 | Hypersonic: 3836-7673 | Hi-Hypersonic: 7673-19180 | Reentry: >19030
Aviation Timeline
1 / 1
Image of the Junkers G38
Image from the German Federal Archives.

Mission Roles
Some designs are single-minded in their approach while others offer a more versatile solution to airborne requirements.
Some designs stand the test of time while others are doomed to never advance beyond the drawing board; let history be their judge.
Going Further...
The Junkers G38 Long-Haul Passenger Airliner / Heavy-Lift Long-Range Transport Aircraft appears in the following collections:
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