The warplane industry in Germany has attained such enormous proportions that it is difficult to visualize it in the United States. Where we think in hundreds, the Germans think in thousands of warplanes and a yearly production of 18,000 warplanes is mere child's play for them. From what the writer saw when he visited their factories last year Germany has a capacity of 50,000 warplanes a year right now without expanding existing facilities. These factories are not working at maximum capacity but only produce replacements and reserve planes and engines for the vast air fleets. Should the need arise, the tremendous production facilities of these factories can be thrown into high gear immediately with unlimited supplies of material and trained personnel at their command.
Warplane production factories in Germany differ widely from those to which we are accustomed in the United States. Here we have slavishly copied automobile factories with practically all of the departments under one roof. As a result, our warplane factories constitute inviting targets which could be completely destroyed from the air. Needless to say, we have not provided air raid shelters for our employees or proper anti-aircraft protection for our factories despite the national emergency which we are told exists.
In Germany, each warplane production factory is a self-contained unit comprising numerous buildings spread over a large area, often camouflaged with trees. Workshops are kept to one- story height whenever possible to avoid casting shadows and specially constructed anti-aircraft gun platforms and guns are provided on the roof. Subterranean air-raid shelters with adequate ventilating and provisioning systems are located near the buildings to accommodate all the employees deep in the bowels of the earth.
When one obtains permission to visit a warplane factory in Germany, one is usually taken to the main factory where only development work and small series production is carried on. Small series production means from a few hundred to a thousand or more warplanes a year and is considered negligible. Real mass production of warplanes by the thousands and tens of thousands takes place in special production factories in different parts of the country so arranged that damage to one or more of them will not appreciably affect the output.
With the exception of Junkers, none of the German warplane factories build their own engines. Engine production has been standardized and only the very minimum of types and models are turned out. The entire German Air Force is built around three gasoline engines the 1,200-hp Junkers Jumo-211, the 1,200-hp Mercedes-Benz DB-601 and the 1,000-hp BMW-132. In addition, thousands of Junkers Jumo Diesels of from 700 hp to 1,500 hp have been produced for a special long-range bombing fleet. Aircraft engines in Germany are built along mass production lines similar to those used for airframes and the engine factories can supply the needs for 50,000 warplanes a year.
Heinkel He 111 twin-engined bombers are one of the best known German warplanes and many thousands of them are in commission. These planes are built by flow-line production methods at Oranienburg and elsewhere on a big scale. The latest Heinkel bombers have a speed in excess of 300 mph with full load and should not be confused with the older models used during the earlier stages of the European war. In addition to these warplanes considerable quantities of He 112 single-seater fighters having a speed of approximately 375 mph are beginning to make their appearance armed with two shell guns and a number of machine guns.
Friendly rivalry has existed between the designers of fighting planes in Germany and the firms of Heinkel and Messerschmitt have each in turn held the world's speed record. In March, 1939, a Heinkel He-112U fighter was flown at a speed of 463.9 mph only to be beaten in the following month by a Messerschmitt Me-109 with a speed of 468.9 mph which is the present high-speed record. The latest Messerschmitt product is the twin-engined Me-110 two-seater fighter which has a speed of 380 mph at high altitudes and sufficient flight range to convoying.
A visit to the Dornier factories at Friedrichshafen on the shores of Lake Constance proved particularly interesting as both flying boats and land planes were being turned out in appreciable quantities. The flying boats were sturdy Do-24 three-engined patrol planes having a speed of 200 mph and a flight range of 2,200 miles. Unlike the hundreds of Consolidated PBY twin-engined patrol planes built for the United States Navy, these German planes are equipped with rotatable tail-gun turrets and do not have any blind spot astern. Their safety factor in the event of failure of one engine is 66-2/3% compared with only 50% for our twin-engined flying boats.
Landplane production at the Dornier factories was found to be confined to Do-17 and Do-215 twin-engined bombers having a speed in excess of 300 mph and a ceiling of 30,000 ft. Some of them were powered with BMW-132 air-cooled radials and others with Mercedes-Benz DB-601 engines.
Practically all the observation planes used by the German Air Force are built by Henschel which incidentally is the largest locomotive firm in Europe. In appearance the Henschel He-126 is similar to the high-wing Douglas observation plane used in the United States. The German planes are powered with BMW-132 air-cooled radials and have a maximum speed of 225 mph.
Junkers have the unique distinction of building gasoline and diesel engines as well as warplanes in a dozen or more large factories. The warplanes in production consist of the Ju-87 dive bomber (Stuka), the Ju-88 twin-engined high-speed bomber, the Ju-89 four-engined heavy bomber and the Ju-52 three-engined transport plane. In addition, numerous Ju-86-K twin-engined long-range bombers powered with diesels have been produced for the Air Force. The writer spent several days at the Junkers factories to see how warplanes and their engines are produced by the largest aircraft firm in the world.
Part II of this article describing the Junkers aircraft factories will appear in an early issue of Aviation.
In Germany it is the policy for firms in the aircraft industry to specialize in one particular product. Some firms build airplanes (airframes), some build airplane engines and others again build propellers. The firm of Junkers Flugzeug und Motorenwerke AG holds a unique position in that it builds all three products airplanes, airplane engines and propellers. In addition, it manufactures airplane engine test stands. S
ince it entered the aircraft industry 30 years ago at Dessau, the Junkers firm has grown and expanded until now it has branches in nine other cities. With 30,000 people employed in its factories at Dessau in 1939, undoubtedly it is the largest aviation firm in the world. Its airplane factories, of which there are five throughout Germany, are known by the designation IFA (or JFA) which stands for Junkers Flugzeug AG. The four airplane-engine factories are known by the designation JUMO which is derived from the original name of the engine factory, Junkers Motorenbau GmbH. These two divisions were combined under the present management and name in l937.
When one visits the Junkers headquarters at Dessau one is taken to the IFA or airplane factory, first. Right inside the gatehouse is the main administration building which is ultramodern in every detail, even to anti-aircraft guns on the roof. Taking an elevator to this point of vantage one sees the airplane factory close at hand, then a large flying field with numerous hangars, and in the far distance a group of buildings constituting the Jumo factory in which the airplane engines and the propellers are built. So large is the area covered by this manufacturing center that one has to think in terms of square miles rather than acres when estimating its extent.
After leaving the administration building with its hundreds of offices and attractively appointed private dining rooms, one emerges onto wide paved streets leading to the factory buildings. These buildings are separated by plots of grass, planted with trees and flowers in many instances, and contain rustic seats on which the employees can relax during the noon hour. Here and there are large grass-covered mounds with concrete steps leading down to air-raid shelters deep in the ground. To the left of the administration building is the Junkers museum, in which scale models and full-size exhibits depict the progress made by the firm since the early days. A motion picture theater, in which were shown some interesting films of the production of diesel aircraft engines and their use in civil and military aircraft, is part of this museum.
The principle activity in the airplane factory at Dessau is the development and small-series production of new types of airplanes for military and civil purposes. In the case of war planes, the approved types ultimately are allocated to the firm's production factories in other cities where they are built by the thousands. Last year the war planes in small-series production at Dessau included the four-engined Junkers Ju-89 bomber modeled after the Ju-90 40-passenger airliner, the two-engined Ju-88 fighter-bomber which is now in mass production, and a number of three-engined Ju-52 transport planes for parachute troops and two-engined Ju-86K fighter-bombers powered with Jumo-205 diesels.
At that time, the Junkers Ju-87 dive bomber was being built in large numbers for the Luftwaffe in the production factories. The accompanying photograph shows the fuselage assembly hall in one of these factories with six flow lines and nearly 100 fuselages complete with landing gears and wing stubs on the floor. The fuselage consists of an upper and a lower shell, placed one upon the other, and riveted together. The mounting of the 1,200-hp Junkers Jumo-211 gasoline engine in the airframe is facilitated by an overhead crane.
The Jumo engine factory at Dessau is quite a ride by automobile from the airplane factory and covers approximately the same area of ground. It is a self-contained unit with its own administration building and defense system. Last year mass production of 1,200-hp Jumo-211 gasoline engines equipped with direct fuel injection was in progress in the numerous well-equipped buildings. Standardized power units comprising an 880-hp BMW-132 radial and its oil tank, firewall and plug-in connections and controls also were being built. These power units can be used to replace the engines in Junkers Ju-90 and Focke-Wulf Condor airliners and the replacement of an engine is made in less than 30 minutes. Controllable-pitch and constant-speed propellers were being manufactured in several of the buildings.
Passing through the wide aisles in the buildings it was noticeable that many of the machines had been built especially for the mass production of the parts they were turning out. A considerable number of the multi-speed and semi-automatic lathes had been manufactured in a large machine tool factory belonging to the firm. Practically all of the machines had individual drives and the tooling was extremely up-to-date. No shortage in machine tools was being experienced as a special factory had been assigned to supply them.
The control department responsible for the quality and the quantity of the engines produced was divided into four sub-departments: Controlling the raw materials and complete assemblies received from outside sources, the working appliances including tools and dies, the production and inspection of the engine parts, and the assembly and testing of the engines. All of the vital engine parts were being inspected after each stage of manufacture to ensure perfection and interchangeability and to prevent waste. The inspectors had received special training in a technical school at the factory and each of them was a specialist for a certain range of parts. Extensive use was being made of electrical measuring apparatus which was quick and practically foolproof in operation.
Both men and women were employed in the engine factory, with the women doing the less skilled work. That the management had studied the convenience of the employees was evinced by the large containers of hot water (for tea) and coffee inside each building. Twice a day small electric lunch wagons pulling trailers piled with soft drinks and edibles passed along the aisles. No objection was made to a pause for refreshments provided it did not interfere with the work.
The training school at the factory at Dessau was particularly interesting inasmuch as it had received the highest award of the German Labor Front for professional training in 1936. At the time of the author's visit, more than 600 boys from fifteen to seventeen years of age were taking an apprenticeship course to become mechanics. Over each boy's bench was a card showing his name, age and personal history, the date he entered the training school, and curves showing his weekly progress and the quality of his work. In another department men from overcrowded professions such as barbers, carpenters and waiters also were taking a mechanic's course. These men were being prepared to earn a good living in a field in which there was a demand while at the same time a greater volume of business was ensured for their former competitors.
In another part of the factory was the veterans' department, in which skilled employees past the retirement age could continue to work if they desired to do so. In this department scale models of engines and airplanes were being constructed for exhibition purposes, together with cutaway engines with moving parts and sectional models. Everything was made easy for the veterans and they could smoke at their work and rest when they felt inclined.
The dining rooms for the employees were spacious and well furnished, and the food was plentiful and wholesome. Provision was made for everyone to have a hot meal at lunch time and the meals were priced very low as only the cost of the food was charged against them. In the dining rooms there was a raised platform from which musically inclined employees could entertain their fellow workers during meal time. Separate dining rooms were provided for the children of working parents so that the latter would not be worried about matters at home. The kitchens supplying the dining rooms were models of cleanliness and they were air conditioned.
In Germany, it is the belief that the people should have a healthy, care-free and positive outlook on life. This belief was reflected in the shops and offices of the Junkers factories where every- one seemed to have the feeling of being at home at his or her work. After all, most people will be content if they have a steady Job amid good surroundings and the knowledge that the interest of the management in them does not end at the factory gate.
Part III of this article describing the production of diesel aircraft engines in the Junkers factories will appear in a subsequent issue of Aviation.
This multi-part article was originally published in the September and November, 1940, and unknown, 1941, issues of Aviation magazine.
The original article includes photos:
- Part I: September, 1940, vol 39, no 9, pp 44-45, 132.
- Part II: November, 1940, vol 39, no 11, pp 44-45, 122.
- Part III: unknown issue, 1941
- Part IV?
- Part I: 4 photos
2 photos credited to European; 2 apparently not credited.
- Part II: 5 photos
Photos are not credited.
Note: Part III and any possible subsequent parts are not included in my collection. It is likely that Part III was in the January, 1941, issue; Part IV, if there was one, would have been in the March, 1941, issue. Neither is available.