The final Fokker: How the iconic aircraft manufacturer is disappearing from the skies
One of the more enduring relationships in aviation history is about to end.
KLM, the Dutch flag carrier, is preparing to bid a fond farewell to its last Fokker aircraft, marking the final chapter in a partnership that has lasted 97 years. Almost since the dawn of flying.
Fokker, founded in 1912, went bankrupt in 1996, but its aircraft have remained tireless workhorses of KLM – and many other airlines – since. However, the time has come, says the Dutch airline, for the two to part company.
KLM is currently celebrating its Fokker heritage via the medium of aircraft liveries, with a message that reads “Fokker, thank you” and tail fins emblazoned with an image of the man behind the brand, Anthony Fokker. The airline will also create a film and photo gallery of its final Fokker flight on October 28, when its last Fokker 70 touches down for the final time.
What is so important about Fokker?
Anthony Fokker is hailed as one of the most important entrepreneurs in global aviation history, and earned a somewhat predictable nickname, The Flying Dutchman.
His first propeller-driven plane, which he designed and built in 1910, was called “De Spin” (The Spider), and it was flown for the first time in 1911 over the Dutch town of Haarlem.
One of the earliest aircraft manufacturers in the world, Fokker (the company) began life in Germany, where Fokker believed there were better opportunities than in his home nation, before returning to the Netherlands. Its initial success was in providing aircraft for the German First World War effort before it found its stride in the inter-war years, becoming the largest company of its kind by the end of the Twenties.
In that time, Fokker was behind the 1925 FVIIA aircraft, used by 54 airlines and as much as 40 per cent of the US market by 1936.
The company launched its last aircraft – the narrow-bodied Fokker 100 and its sister, the Fokker 70 – in the mid-1980s. They have since been used by some of the world’s largest carriers, including American Airlines.
Why does KLM love Fokker?
KLM is the world’s oldest airline, and its first aircraft, delivered in August 1920, were two Fokker F2s (its first flight, in 1919, was in a leased De Havilland DH-16). It has since operated more than 160 of the manufacturer’s aircraft.
More recently, KLM’s Fokker 50s and 100s have been replaced by Embraer aircraft, but eight Fokker 70s – all between 20 and 22 years old – still remain on the airline’s Cityhopper subsidiary, running between Amsterdam and a host of European cities.
As the flag carrier of the Netherland, KLM’s history is closely intertwined with the aviation ambitions of the Flying Dutchman.
Speaking of the KLM’s last Fokker flight, Kim Lammertse from the airline said: “It will be a festive day full of gratitude. I wouldn’t be surprised if the final farewell leaves lots of KLM staff teary-eyed.”
- The Fokker EI was the first aircraft to be armed with a synchronised machine gun that fired through the propellor and helped the Kaiser achieve air supremacy in the First World War during an episode known as the Fokker Scourge.
- The Red Baron (Manfred von Richthofen) is closely associated with a red Fokker DR.I triplane, the engine of which is on display at the Imperial War Museum.
- Such was the popularity and success of the Fokker DVII for the Germans in the First World War, the allies demanded their surrender when the Kaiser capitulated. A DVII is on display at the RAF Museum in London.
- Richard E Byrd completed his first trans-Atlantic flight from New York to Paris in 1927 in the Fokker FVII.
- Amelia Earhart became the first women to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger in a Fokker FVII.
- In 1928 Charles Kingsford-Smith completed the first trans-Pacific flight in another FVII.
How is KLM celebrating?
In addition to the portrait of Fokker on the wing and a book commemorating his relationship with KLM, the airline’s newest addition to the tiny model houses it hands out to its business class passengers is a miniature replica of Fokker’s childhood home. In an amusing twist, the gentleman who today lives in the house where Fokker grew up, refuses to fly, preferring to walk, cycle or sail.
“We wanted to find a way to thank everyone who has worked on Fokker 70s for their efforts and dedication,” said fleet manager of the Fokker 70 Stefan Vermeeren.
“What better way to do this than by way of the aircraft itself? That’s a lot more festive than a thank you message by email, right?
“By decorating the plane with the festive livery, we not only thank all our colleagues at KLM Cityhopper, but also that staff at all outstations, suppliers, ground handlers at other airlines, and aviation aficionados. It’ s also a tribute to Dutch aviation, to our air transport industry, and it’ s a special way to celebrate the bond between KLM and Fokker.
“The words ‘Thank you’ on the fuselage, together with the photo of Anthony Fokker, acknowledge the bond between KLM, Fokker and the industry, but the words of gratitude are also intended for the broader community and other colleagues, companies and suppliers all over Europe, to thank them for the many years of cooperation.”
Do other airlines still use Fokkers?
Yes, a number of airlines in Australia, including Virgin Australia, as well as Iran Air, though it has plans to replace them with ATRs.
According to AirlineGeeks.com, by Christmas there will only be 12 Fokker 100s left in Europe, with Helvetic Airways in Switzerland the largest operator, with five.
Other airlines continuing to operate Fokkers (70s and 100s) include Papua New Guinea’s Air Niugini, Air Panama and Fly All Ways in Suriname.
The remaining Fokkers have either been placed in storage or scrapped.