BMW took over the license for manufacturing air-cooled radial engines from US aircraft manufacturer Pratt & Whitney Aircraft Company on 3 January 1928. The nine-cylinder model Pratt & Whitney Hornet was initially manufactured virtually unchanged under the designation BMW Hornet. Soon BMW embarked on its own development. The result was the BMW 132 that went into production in 1933, which was essentially an improved version of the Hornet engine. A number of different versions were built. Aside from the carburetor designs used mainly in civilian aircraft, versions with direct fuel injection were manufactured for the GermanLuftwaffe. The engines had a displacement of 27.7 liters and generated up to 1,200 PS (880 kW), depending on model.
The 132 found widespread use in the transport role, remaining the primary powerplant of the Junkers Ju 52 for much of its life, turning the BMW 132 into one of the most important aeroengines for civilian aircraft during the 1930s.
Numerous pioneering flights were undertaken with the BMW 132. The most impressive was the first direct flight from Berlin to New York in a Fw 200 S-1 Condor equipped with four BMW 132 engines. It covered the distance to New York in 24 hours and 57 minutes on 10 August 1938.