Originally prototyped in 1930 with one engine by Ernst Zindel in the Junkers works at Dessau, its corrugated metal fuselage gave a characteristic boxy appearance. Three BMW Hornet engines improved performance and load carrying abilities. As a Lufthansa airliner, the Ju52 could seat seventeen, reaching Rome from Berlin in 8 hours. Export models were also built with Pratt & Whitney Wasp and Bristol Pegasus engines.
The Ju 52 first saw military service in the Spanish Civil War with roles as a bomber and as a transport, including paratroop drops. The Luftwaffe relied on the Ju52 for transport roles during World War II. Compared to fighters, it was slow (top speed 165 mph) and lightly armed, so an escort was always necessary; many were shot down.
While most were destroyed following war's end, a small number was manufactured after 1945 in France and Spain. Some continued in productive service by the Swiss air force until the 1980's. Quite a few are still airworthy and in regular use today.