Veteran touches down on epic trip

PUBLISHED : Friday, 18 February, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 18 February, 2000, 12:00am

A 61-year-old plane making a round-the-world flight landed at Chek Lap Kok airport yesterday.

The white-and-red Junkers 52 emerged from thick cloud to descend smoothly on to the south runway.

The plane - which before its epic journey had only flown in Europe - carried three crew and two Filipino journalists on the trip from Manila, a spokesman for the flight's sponsor said.

Captain Hans Breitenmosen, co-pilot Uwe Schmuck and ground engineer Erich Lorenz, the third crew member on the flight, are covering most of the Asian leg.

Flying under the flag of Swiss airline Ju-Air, the plane started its journey in Switzerland on January 11. It has travelled across central and southern Europe, South Asia and Southeast Asia.

After Hong Kong, the plane will visit Taiwan, Japan and the United States before returning to its base in Dubendorf, Switzerland, in late May.

It took two months before Hong Kong authorities finally allowed the three-engine plane to land, said Mr Breitenmosen. 'Perhaps they are not used to this kind of plane. They are not sure how the old plane is equipped or what instruments it uses.' Although the Junkers has an electronic landing system, the pilot still needs to rely largely on visual aids, he said.

Built in 1939, the plane's top speed is about one-third that of today's jets. The flight from Manila to Hong Kong, which would take two hours on a commercial airliner, took about six hours.

Both captain and co-pilot volunteered to fly the Junkers 52. Mr Breitenmosen is a Boeing pilot for Swiss Air, while Mr Schmuck is an Airbus pilot for Lufthansa.

Sentimentality seems to be the reason why they agreed to fly without pay. 'The plane is 61 years old, from the World Word II era. Everybody looks at it wherever it goes,' said Mr Schmuck.