Ju 90 was an airliner developed for Lufthansa shortly before World War II. It was based on the Junkers Ju 89 bomber, which did not progress beyond prototype stage. During the war, the Luftwaffe impressed these aircraft for use as military transports.
When the Ju 89 project was cancelled, the third prototype was in a semi-complete state. At the request of Lufthansa, it was rebuilt as an airliner, retaining the wings and tail of the original design, but incorporating a new, wide-body fuselage. The prototype first flew on August 28, 1937 and was lost in a crash the following February during testing. A second prototype was delivered to Lufthansa in May. This one also crashed during tests, but Lufthansa was satisfied enough to order three aircraft. The RLM also ordered one for trials, and South African Airways ordered two with Pratt & Whitney Twin Wasp engines. Both airliner versions were designated Ju 90A-1 The RLM’s aircraft was eventually also provided to Lufthansa, who also received the South African Airways machines. With the outbreak of war, the Ju 90s were impressed into the Luftwaffe for a while (taking part in the invasion of Norway), returned to Lufthansa, and eventually taken back by the Luftwaffe.
In late 1939, the RLM ordered prototypes for a dedicated military version. One had a loading ramp under the fuselage to facilitate the carriage of larger cargoes. Another was equipped with machine-gun turrets and modified as a heavy bomber – ironically, the role that the Ju 89 had been rejected for. These military versions flew in late 1941, but never entered production. Further refinements of the design were suggested, which led eventually to the Junkers Ju 290.
In the end, only 18 Ju 90s of all versions were built and none are extant today.