The Fokker M.21 was a biplane fighter aircraft based on the earlier Fokker D.I but powered by the 160hp Mercedes D.III engine. After the failure of earlier Fokker biplanes, he had been given an order for 400 AEG C.IV biplanes, seen as similar enough to his own designs for his workforce to be able to produce them without problems. Considered the poor workmanship and materials often found in Fokker production aircraft this was a very generous conclusion. The AEG aircraft was powered by the 160 hp Mercedes D.III engine. Fokker had previously attempted to use this engine to improve the Fokker D.I, but the light weight construction of his aircraft could not cope with the more powerful engine.
Having worked on the AEG, Fokker decided to make another attempt to use the more powerful engine. The Fokker M.21 was a two-bay biplane, with straight wings of identical length. The fuselage tapered to a horizontal knife edge, with a comma-shaped rudder and horizontal tailplane attached. A variety of different combinations of engine cowlings and propeller spinners were used, before Fokker settled on a rounded cowl and no spinner.
The M.21 entered German army testing in October 1916, and after a series of failures was accepted as the Fokker D.IV. Further failures followed, and December 1916 all Fokker aircraft were withdrawn from frontline service. The D.IV would become a trainer.
Books on the First World War |Subject Index: First World War
At age 20, Anthony Fokker built his initial aircraft, the Spin (Spider)—the first Dutch-built plane to fly in his home country.
Taking advantage of better opportunities in Germany, he moved to Berlin where, in 1912, he founded his first company, Fokker Aeroplanbau, later moving to the Görries suburb just southwest of Schwerin, where the current company was founded, as Fokker Aviatik GmbH, on 12 February 1912. [ 1 ]
World War I
Fokker capitalized on having sold several Fokker Spin monoplanes to the German government and set up a factory in Germany to supply the German army. His first new design for the Germans to be produced in any numbers was the Fokker M.5, which was little more than a copy of the Morane-Saulnier G, built with steel tube instead of wood for the fuselage, and with minor alterations to the outline of the rudder and undercarriage and a new aerofoil section. [ 2 ] When it was realized that it was desirable to arm these scouts with a machine gun firing through the propeller, Fokker developed a synchronization gear similar to that patented by Franz Schneider. [ 3 ]
Fitted with a developed version of this gear, the M.5 became the Fokker Eindecker which, due to its revolutionary armament, became one of the most feared aircraft over the western front, its introduction leading to a period of German air superiority known as the Fokker Scourge until the balance was restored by aircraft such as the Nieuport 11 and Airco DH.2.
During World War I, Fokker engineers were working on the Fokker-Leimberger, an externally-powered 12 barrel Gatling gun in the 7.92x57mm round capable of firing over 7200RPM. [ 4 ]
Later during the war, the German government forced Fokker and Junkers to cooperate more closely, which resulted in the foundation of the Junkers-Fokker Aktiengesellschaft on 20 October 1917. As this partnership proved to be troublesome, it was eventually dissolved again. By then, designer Reinhold Platz had adapted some of Junkers design concepts, what resulted in a visual similarity between the aircraft of those two manufacturers during the next decade.
Some of the noteworthy types produced by Fokker during the second half of the war included the Fokker D.VI, Fokker Dr.I Dreidecker (the mount of the Red Baron), Fokker D.VII (the only aircraft ever referred to directly in a treaty: all DVII's were singled out for handover to the allies in their terms of the armistice agreement) and the Fokker D.VIII.
Return to the Netherlands
In 1919, Fokker, owing large sums in back taxes (including 14,250,000 marks of income-tax), [ 5 ] returned to the Netherlands and founded a new company near Amsterdam with the support of Steenkolen Handels Vereniging, now known as SHV Holdings. He chose the name Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek (Dutch Aircraft Factory) to conceal the Fokker brand because of his WWI involvement. Despite the strict disarmament conditions in the Treaty of Versailles, Fokker did not return home empty-handed. In 1919 he arranged an export permit and brought six entire trains of parts, and 180 types of aircraft across the Dutch-German border, among them 117 Fokker C.I's, D.VII's and D.VIII's. This initial stock enabled him to set up shop quickly.
After his company's relocation, many Fokker C.I and C.IV military air-planes were delivered to Russia, Romania and the still clandestine German air-force. Success came on the commercial market too, with the development of the Fokker F.VII, a high-winged aircraft capable of taking on various types of engines. Fokker continued to design and build military aircraft, delivering planes to the Dutch air force. Foreign military customers eventually included Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Hungary, and Italy. These countries bought substantial numbers of the Fokker C.V reconnaissance aircraft, which became Fokker's main success in the latter part of the 1920s and early 1930s.
1920s and 30s: Fokker's glory period
In the 1920s, Fokker entered its glory years, becoming the world's largest aircraft manufacturer by late 1920s. Its greatest success was the F.VIIa/3m trimotor passenger aircraft, which was used by 54 airline companies worldwide and captured 40 percent of the American market in 1936. It shared the European market with the Junkers all-metal aircraft but dominated the American market until the arrival of the Ford Trimotor which copied the aerodynamic features of the Fokker F.VII, and Junkers structural concepts.
A serious blow to Fokker's reputation came after the TWA Flight 599 disaster in Kansas, when it became known that the crash was caused by a structural failure caused by wood rot. Notre Dame legendary football coach Knute Rockne was among the fatalities, prompting extensive media coverage and technical investigation. As a result all Fokkers were grounded in the USA, along with many other types that had copied Fokker's wings.
In 1923 Anthony Fokker moved to the United States, where he established an American branch of his company, the Atlantic Aircraft Corporation, in 1927 being renamed Fokker Aircraft Corporation of America. In 1930 this company merged with General Motors Corporation and the company's new name would be General Aviation Manufacturing Corporation (which in turn merged with North American Aviation and was divested by GM in 1948). A year later, discontented at being totally subordinate to GM management, Fokker resigned. On 23 December 1939, Anthony Fokker died in New York City.
World War II
At the outset of World War II, the few G.1s and D.XXIs of the Dutch Air Force were able to score a respectable number of victories against the Luftwaffe but many were destroyed on the ground before they could be used.
The Fokker factories were confiscated by the Germans and were used to build Bücker Bü 181 Bestmann trainers and parts for the Junkers Ju 52 transport. At the end of the war, the factories were completely stripped by the Germans and destroyed by Allied bombing.
Post-World War II rebuilding
Rebuilding after the war proved difficult. The market was flooded with cheap surplus aeroplanes from the war. The company cautiously started building gliders and autobuses and converting Dakota transport planes to civilian versions. A few F25s were built. Nevertheless, the S-11 trainer was a success, being purchased by several air forces. The S-14 Machtrainer became one of the first jet trainers, and although not an export success, it served for over a decade with the Royal Netherlands Air Force.
A new factory was built next to Schiphol Airport near Amsterdam in 1951. A number of military planes were built there under license, among them the Gloster Meteor twin jet fighter and Lockheed's F-104 Starfighter. A second production and maintenance facility was established at Woensdrecht.
In 1958 the F-27 Friendship was introduced, Fokker's most successful post-war airliner. The Dutch government contributed 27 million guilders to its development. Powered by the Rolls-Royce Dart, it became the world's best selling turboprop airliner, reaching almost 800 units sold by 1986, including 206 under license by Fairchild. There is also a military version of the F-27, the F-27 Troopship.
In 1962, the F-27 was followed by the F-28 Fellowship. Until production stopped in 1987, a total of 241 were built in various versions. Both an F-27 and later an F-28 served with the Dutch Royal Flight, Prince Bernhard himself being a pilot.
In 1969, Fokker agreed to an alliance with Bremen-based Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke under control of a transnational holding company. They collaborated on an unsuccessful regional jetliner, the VFW-614, of which only 19 were sold. This collaboration ended in early 1980.
Fokker was one of the main partners in the F-16 Fighting Falcon consortium (EPAF, European Participating Air Forces), which was responsible for the production of these fighters for the Belgian, Danish, Dutch, and Norwegian Air Forces. It consisted of companies and government agencies from these four countries and the United States. F-16s were assembled at Fokker and at SABCA in Belgium with parts from the five countries involved.
In 1967, Fokker started a modest space division building parts for European satellites. A major advance came in 1968 when Fokker developed the first Dutch satellite (the ANS) together with Philips and Dutch universities. This was followed by a second major satellite project, IRAS, successfully launched in 1983. The European Space Agency (ESA) in June 1974 named a consortium headed by ERNO-VFW-Fokker GmbH to build pressurized modules for Spacelab.
Subsequently, Fokker contributed to many European satellite projects, as well as to the Ariane rocket in its various models. Together with a Russian contractor, they developed the huge parachute system for the Ariane 5 rocket boosters which would allow the boosters to return to Earth safely and be reused.
The space division became more and more independent until, just before Fokker's bankruptcy in 1996, it became a fully stand-alone corporation, known successively as Fokker Space and Systems, Fokker Space, and Dutch Space. On January 1, 2006 it was taken over by EADS-Space Transportation.
Fokker 50, Fokker 100, and Fokker 70
After a brief and unsuccessful collaboration effort with McDonnell Douglas in 1981, Fokker began an ambitious project to develop two new aircraft concurrently. The Fokker 50 was to be a completely modernised version of the F-27, the Fokker 100 a new airliner based on the F-28. Yet development costs were allowed to spiral out of control, almost forcing Fokker out of business in 1987. The Dutch government bailed them out with 212 million Guilders but demanded Fokker look for a "strategic partner", British Aerospace and DASA being named most likely candidates.
Initial sales of the Fokker 100 were good, leading Fokker to begin development of the Fokker 70, a smaller version of the F100, in 1991. But sales of the F70 were below expectations and the F100 had strong competition from Boeing and Airbus by then.
In 1992, after a long and arduous negotiation process, Fokker signed an agreement with DASA. This did not however solve Fokker's problems, mostly because DASA's parent company Daimler-Benz also had to deal with its own organisational problems.
On January 22, 1996, the Board of Directors of Daimler-Benz decided to focus on its core automobile business and cut ties with Fokker. The next day an Amsterdam court extended temporary creditor protection. On March 15 the Fokker company was declared bankrupt.
Those divisions of the company that manufactured parts and carried out maintenance and repair work were taken over by Stork N.V. it is now known as Stork Aerospace Group. Stork Fokker exists to sustain remarketing of the company's existing aircraft: they refurbish and resell F50s and F100s, and converted a few F50s to transport planes. Special projects included the development of an F50 Maritime Patrol variant and an F100 Executive Jet. For this project, Stork received the 2005 "Aerospace Industry Award" in the Air Transport category from Flight International magazine.
Other divisions of the company that were profitable, continued as separate companies, like Fokker Space (later Dutch Space) and Fokker Control Systems.
In November 2009, Stork Aerospace changed its name to Fokker Aerospace Group. As of 2011, the Fokker Aerospace Group changed its name to Fokker Technologies. The five individual business units within Fokker Technologies all carry the Fokker name:
- Fokker Aerostructures
- Fokker Landing Gear
- Fokker Elmo
- Fokker Aircraft Services
- Fokker Services
The former Fokker aircraft facilities at Schiphol were redeveloped into the Fokker Logistics Park. One of the former Fokker tenants is Fokker Services.
Meanwhile, Rekkof Aircraft ("Fokker" backwards) is attempting to restart production of the Fokker XF70 and XF100, supported by suppliers and airlines.
The Fokker Menace
At the outbreak of World War I, military men regarded the airplane as an unreliable toy that might or might not have a certain value for reconnaissance or for artillery observation–provided it didn’t frighten the horses. In fact, the new flying machines soon proved they could do a respectable job in both roles. The next step was obvious: To prevent the enemy from carrying out those same functions, airplanes would have to be capable of fighting one another. High above the ruined landscape, away from the mass murder, the mud, and the reek of the battlefield, a new form of warfare had begun.
Arguably the most outstanding fighter pilot and leader of all time was one of the first, the young German Oswald Boelcke. (He was 25 when he died.) A reconnaissance pilot at the outbreak of war, he began to fly the new single-seater fighters in 1915 with his compatriot Max Immelmann, he spearheaded what the British called the Fokker Menace, after the plane they flew.
Three basic factors set Boelcke above his fellows. He was a great leader, with the power to inspire his men. He was a successful fighter pilot, the ranking ace of the first half of the war. Most important, he was an original tactical analyst and thinker at a time when there was no experience on which to draw. Nearly three-quarters of a century later, despite all the technical advances, his rules for air fighting are still relevant.
If the case seems overstated, consider that when Boelcke’s fighting career started, combat between aircraft was a haphazard affair, with the contestants knowing only what they wanted to do, but having little or no idea how to achieve it. By the time his career ended, less than 18 months later, he had raised air combat to a science that relied on formations rather than on individuals. He put his own theories into practice, and in the process laid the foundation on which fighter pilots of all other nations built their tactics.
The gulf between the ace and the average fighter pilot is very wide. In fact, there may be almost no average fighter pilots, just victors and victims. A recent analyst, who based many of his findings on First World War aviators, has concluded that only one pilot in every 15 has a better than even chance of surviving his first decisive combat–but after five such encounters, his probability of surviving increases by a factor of 20. Only about 5 percent of fighter pilots become aces, and this tiny minority tends to run up large scores at the expense of their less gifted opponents.
We know that it happens, but why? What separates people like Oswald Boelcke from the vast majority of fighter pilots? That quality has been identified as situational awareness (SA) and is now established as the Ace Factor. SA is the mysterious sixth sense that enables a pilot to keep track of everything happening around him in the middle of a confused dogfight. As Major John R. Boyd , USAF, put it in a 1976 briefing, “He who can handle the quickest rate of change survives.” To a degree, SA can be learned, as witness the modern Aggressor and Top Gun training programs, but with some pilots it seems innate. It certainly was for Oswald Boelcke, the father of air fighting.
Boelcke made his reputation in the Fokker Eindecker. Equipped with one and later two machine guns firing through the synchronized propeller disk, which was introduced in the summer of 1915, the plane was destined to have a far-reaching effect on air combat and would enable the Luftstreitkrafte the German air service–to attain a measure of superiority for several months. The most used type, the E.111, could manage a top speed of only 87 mph, had a ceiling of 11,500 feet, and took a half hour to reach 10,000 feet. But it was as good as or better than the aircraft that first opposed it. It could dive at a steep angle without shedding its wings, which was not always the case with aircraft in those days. Typical of its opponents was the Vickers FB.5, a two-seater pusher biplane with a maximum speed of only 70 mph and a ceiling of 9,000 feet it required 19 minutes to struggle up to 6,500 feet.
So far as is known , the first operational flight by a Fokker Eindecker was made on June 24, 1915, with Boelcke at the controls. At this point in the war, there were no fighting squadrons as such, just small units of two or three aircraft whose main task was to protect the artillery spotters. At first, few Fokkers were available, and they tended to stay on their own side of the lines. But as Boelcke said in a letter home in July, “The consequence is that they do nothing but go for joyrides round our lines and never get a shot at the enemy, whereas I have the pleasure of getting a good smack at the fellows over yonder. One must not wait till they come across, but seek them out and hunt them down.”
Despite this aggressive attitude, chances were few. Not until August 23 did Boelcke manage a decisive combat in his new single-seater, firing a few shots at a Bristol Scout that later landed behind its own lines. Max Immelmann had opened his score some three weeks earlier by wounding the pilot of a British BE.2c, which was forced to land behind the German lines. After this, the pace increased, and by January 1916 Boelcke and Immelmann had raised their scores to eight each, at which point they were awarded Germany’s highest decoration, the Pour le Merite, or Blue Max.
By the standards of later times, this progress seems painfully slow, but it should be remembered that the young Germans were pioneers in their field and had to find the best methods by trial and error. They had often flown together, and it has been suggested that this was the origin of a fighting pair, working as a team. There seems little evidence that this was the case it is far more probable that they flew together for mutual support against the Allied formations that were coming into use at this time, rather than trying to operate as a team. Later on, Fokkers usually hunted in pairs, but a pair generally consisted of an experienced pilot showing a novice the ropes, rather than an organized team.
Immelmann, who had started as an NCO in the Railway Corps, initially gained a reputation for piling up aircraft on landing–actually, in those early days of combat flying, almost everyone did. But his main claim to fame lies in the famous maneuver that bears his name. In essence , the Immelmann turn consists of a fast, diving attack followed by a zoom climb, ruddering over the top, then aileron turning on the way down to line up for another pass. He seems to have been the first pilot to consistently use the vertical plane for maneuver, rather than the horizontal. This discovery appears to have been instinctive rather than reasoned and required excellent timing and judgment of distance to achieve results. In any case, the Immelmann turn seems to have made a greater impression on the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) on the receiving end than on German Air Service aviators who experimented with it. In time the RFC thought every Fokker they encountered was Immelmann.
Since Boelcke flew more often against the French during this period, he was not as well known to the British. It is interesting that he makes no reference to the Immelmann turn, though he doubtless took note of any innovations likely to bring success.
His own learning process proceeded apace. On October 16, 1915, he was attacked by a French Voisin that approached from the front quarter. “I calmly let him fire away, for the combined speed of two opponents meeting one another reduces the chance of a hit to practically nil-as I have already found by frequent experience….” Closing to between 25 and 50 yards, he pumped 200 shots into the French machine, which fell away vertically and crashed into a woods. (It must have been about this time that a French pilot tried to blast him out of the sky with a blunderbuss.)
On December 29 he joined in a scrap between Immelmann and two British aircraft. As is often the case, the encounter turned into two one-on-one combats, and a whirling, turning dog fight developed, during which over 3,000 feet of altitude was lost. Though Boelcke damaged his opponent, he ran out of ammunition. While he continued to make dummy attacks to confuse the English flier, Immelmann entered the fray, having disposed of his own opponent–but he suffered a jammed gun straightaway. The British plane, though almost forced to the ground, managed to escape across the lines.
Boelcke took the lesson of this combat to heart, and during a similar combat with a two-seater on January 14, 1916, he deliberately conserved his ammunition, firing only when his sights were definitely “on.” For several minutes of maneuvering, he did not fire a single shot. At last an opportunity presented itself, and a well-aimed burst put the British machine’s engine out of action. With no power, it force-landed between the trench lines. But it had managed to riddle Boelcke’s fuel tank (and had even put a bullet hole through his sleeve), so that he also had to force-land.
Boelcke was already emerging as an analytical thinker and theoretician as well as a fighting pilot, and from November 1915 he had begun to send reports on tactics, organization, and equipment directly to headquarters, by passing the usual channels. This is what set him apart from Max Immelmann, with whom he shared a friendly rivalry. Both men had a technical and mechanical bent, but Boelcke appears to have been much more aware of what was going on in the sky around him and, more important, why.
One of Boelcke’s technical reports has been recorded. It concerns the performance of a new Eindecker. The Eindecker had been continually upgraded until it reached the E.IV variant, which had double the engine power of the original E.I and E.11 types and carried two machine guns, angled up 15° from the aircraft axis. Max Immelmann had used the E.IV successfully, but Boelcke was not impressed by it. In his report, he comments that the E.IV was too slow and lost too much speed in the climb, and that the rate of climb fell off rapidly at heights above 10,000 feet. Maneuverability, too, was poor, due to the adverse effects of the torque caused by the large rotary engine, and in his opinion the upward angle of the guns was unsuitable for combat. While Immelmann went on to use the E.IV with no less than three machine guns fitted, trading performance and maneuverability for firepower, Boelcke was pleased to revert to his E.III model, which he considered a more suitable fighting vehicle. It was this total absorption with all aspects of air combat that molded him not only into an ace but into a great combat leader.
A kind of reverse situational awareness among the British fliers stems from this period. The Eindecker–credited with being able to outpace, out climb, and outmaneuver any RFC aircraft by a good margin-earned a reputation as a superfighter. Allied losses in air combat, negligible until this point, rose dramatically. The future ace James McCudden, flying as an observer in a Morane Parasol, described the Eindecker as “a long dark brown form fairly streaking across the sky,” and “when it got above and behind our middle machine it dived onto it for all the world like a huge hawk on a hapless sparrow.” Such descriptions did nothing for Allied morale, which reached a low ebb. Even those who repelled an attack–and there were many of them–tended to recount their adventures as epic escapes from mortal danger. Crews lost the will to fight back and were often hacked down as they attempted to escape.
It was not until the beginning of 1916 that the Allies were able to counter the Fokker menace. They formed their first fighting scout squad rons, which arrived at the front from February 1916 onward and consisted of three main types of aircraft. One was the British Airco DH.2, a single-seat pusher biplane armed with a single Lewis gun . It could reach 93 miles per hour at sea level, had a ceiling of 14,000 feet, and could climb to 6,500 feet in just 12 minutes. In absolute performance terms it had only a marginal edge over the E.III, but was far more maneuverable. The second type, the FE.2b, was a two-seater pusher whose performance was roughly comparable to that of the DH.2. The third type, the Nieuport Scout, was a single seat tractor biplane (meaning its propeller was in front) armed with a single Lewis gun mounted on a top wing and firing over the propeller disk. It had a maximum speed of 107 miles per hour, a ceiling of 17,400 feet, and could reach an altitude of 10 ,000 feet in 9 minutes. The two British pushers held an edge over the Fokker, and the French-built Nieuport completely outclassed it. Encouraged by their new machines, the British in particular started to carry the fight to the enemy.
Since Boelcke was still engaged mainly with the French in this period, the Nieuport became a principal concern. His 17th victory came on May 21, 1916, and was at the expense of the new fighters. He described it in a letter home:
Two Nieuports were flying at a great height on the far side of their lines, but I did not attack them….Then I saw two Caudrons that had hitherto escaped my notice wandering about below. When I went for one of them and began to shoot I saw one of the Nieuports diving down on me…I broke away from the Caudrons and bore northward, with the Nieuport behind me in the belief that I had failed to notice him until he was within two hundred meters of me–then I suddenly went into a turn and flew at him….[H]e wrenched his machine round and bolted southward.
But the French pilot made a mistake: He flew straight, giving Boelcke an easy shot from 100 meters astern. The German infantry saw him crash. This account contains several interesting points. First is Boelcke’s disinclination to attack the Nieuports from a position of disadvantage. Second is Boelcke’s admission that he initially overlooked the Caudrons, possibly because he was more concerned with danger from above. Third is that even while shooting at a Caudron–an activity that takes every ounce of concentration–Boelcke was still able to remain aware of the potential threat posed by the two Nieuports and to react as soon as one made a move against him. Fourth, Boelcke was able to present to the French pilot a picture of the situation as it was not. The Frenchman thought he had the advantage of surprise, and appears to have been so disconcerted that he made an elementary error–and paid the supreme price for it. Boelcke was master of the situation at all times, whereas the French pilot only thought he was.
The increasing use of French aircraft in large formations led to the need to counter them in strength. In June, Boelcke formed the first fighting squadron, called a Jagdstaffel (literally, “hunting swarm”), at Sivry on the Verdun front. Although it was not an official formation, it can be regarded as the forerunner of the units that were formed the following August and September. But Boelcke was then overtaken by events, the first of which was the death of Immelmann on June 18.
As is often the case, accounts are conflicting. Immelmann went down in a fight between four Fokkers of the Douai unit and seven FE.2bs of the RFC’s Twenty-fifth. German accounts say Immelmann’s synchronizing gear failed and he shot his own propeller off. RFC records credit Corporal Waller, the gunner in an FE.2b flown by Lieutenant McCubbin, with shooting him down. Either way, Immelmann was out of the battle, with a final score of 15, three behind Boelcke.
The loss was a great blow to the Luftstreitkrafte, coming as it did at a time when command of the air was rapidly passing to the Allies. As a direct result, Boelcke was grounded–the German High Command did not want to lose another hero. A few days later he was sent to the East to observe the scene there. Before he left he composed, at the behest of Flugfeldchef Colonel Thomsen, his famous rules for air fighting, the so-called Dicta Boelcke. More than one version of these rules have appeared, and they may later have been embellished a little. The following is the version given by Colonel Thomsen to Professor Johannes Werner for the preparation of the book Knight of Germany:
- 1. Try to secure advantages before attacking. If possible, keep the sun behind.
- 2. Always carry through an attack when you have started.
- 3. Fire only at close range, and only when your opponent is properly in your sights.
- 4. Always keep your eye on your opponent, and never let yourself be deceived by ruses.
- 5. In any form of attack it is essential to assail your opponent from behind.
- 6. If your opponent dives on you, do not try to evade his onslaught, but fly to meet it.
- 7. When over enemy lines, never forget your own line of retreat.
- 8. For the Staffel: Attack on principle in groups of four or six. When the fight breaks up into a series of single combats, take care that several do not go together for one opponent.
Reading between the lines, we can see a determined but cautious pilot, prepared to do everything in his power to load the dice in his favor. The rules themselves are elementary, obviously intended for the novice. The “advantages before attacking,” for example, could have been expanded into a mini-chapter had Boelcke been so inclined, but only the sun is mentioned. In our own time it could have been written “Reduce the enemy’s SA!” Rules two and six stress determination, saying in effect, “Do not show that your resolve is weakening,” and “The best defense is a good offense.” Rules three and five are concerned with getting results: shooting accurately at close range and with no deflection. The rest are pure situational awareness: Do not be deceived remember your exit route and do not leave an opponent unengaged, because he may well use the time to look around and pick his target. The essence of the whole document can be summed up in two words: win and survive.
The First World War was a time of learning, first how to use the new weapon, and then how best to apply it. Tactics played an ever more important role, and the formation leader now counted for more than the individual, leading his flight of Staffel in the careful jockeying and sparring for position before launching an attack. As the numbers of aircraft and the size of the formations increased, so did the confusion factor. Boelcke, for one, recognized that only by learning to minimize confusion could he keep the combat situation under control. The privileged few demonstrated an instinctive understanding of this, while the better leaders tried to instill the basic principles into their followers. But Boelcke alone seems to have formalized those principles into a code for air fighting, which in essence has stood the test of time.
In mid-August, having toured the Balkans and Turkey, Boelcke had reached Kovel, on the Russian front, when he received a telegram recalling him to the West to form one of the new Jagdstaffeln (Jastas for short). By September 2 he was back in action, this time against the British over the Somme battlefield. He immediately brought down a DH.2 flown by Captain Robert Wilson–his 19th victory. It was now Germany’s turn to introduce new equipment that would reverse the Allied, and particularly the British, air superiority. This was done with new biplanes , the Fokker and Halberstadt, and most of all with the Albatros D.II Scout. Armed with two Spandau machine guns firing through the propeller disk, the Albatros could top 109 mph and could get up to around 17,000 feet. Its initial climb rate was 3,280 feet in five minutes. Against the Nieuport 17 it was very closely matched, but had the advantage of greater weight of fire power. Boelcke’s Jasta 2 was equipped mainly with Albatroses and he would score almost all his final victories in that type of aircraft.
As pilots and aircraft trickled in, Boelcke launched into a thorough training program, aimed primarily at teamwork. As he stressed over and over, it did not matter who scored the victory as long as the Staffel won it. Instilling team spirit into a handpicked bunch of medal-hungry fighter pilots was not easy, and was at times downright exasperating. He was also the first leader to give what today would be called “dissimilar combat training,” stressing the weak points of the opponent’s machines. This he backed up with practical demonstrations, using captured aircraft and laying down the best methods of dealing with them. For example: Although it was very agile, the Vickers single-seater (really the DH.2) was noted for losing altitude during steep turns. It was best attacked from behind, where the pilot’s view was obstructed by the engine, and was also vulnerable to a zoom climb attack from behind and below. The Vickers two seater (the FE.2b) had a limited rear ward firing capability and thus was to be attacked from the rear, preferably from slightly below, but pilots were cautioned to get on its outside in a turning contest. The Nieuport, though fast and agile, generally lost altitude during prolonged turning. But in those days, what aircraft didn’t?
Jasta 2 commenced operations on September 16, and Boelcke worked his staff so hard that by the end of the month they had flown a total of 186 sorties, with 69 engagements and 25 victories, 10 of them scored by the maestro. Now the battlefield had become the classroom, with pre-takeoff instruction and an inquest after each engagement. The instruction took, but even so, four pilots (one-third of the complement) were lost during this period. After the first major engagement, on September 17, Manfred von Richthofen, not yet an ace but still an experienced flier, described sighting the enemy: “Of course, Boelcke was the first to see them, for he saw more than most men.” To see first, to be aware of all circumstances whether targets, hazards, or potentialities this was the key to the ace pilot.
Previously, Boelcke had scored 19 victories in roughly 10 months, most of them against French aircraft. From here on, all his victories were against British opponents, whose aggressive style gave him plenty of opportunity to score, as well as some worrisome moments. “On September 27,” he wrote,
I met seven English machines, near B. I had started on a patrol flight with four of my men, and we saw a squadron I first thought was German. When we met southwest of B., I saw they were enemy planes. We were lower and I changed my course. The English men passed us, flew over to us . . .then set out for their own front. However . . . we had reached their height and cut off their retreat. I gave the signal to attack, and a general battle started. I attacked one got too close ducked under him and, turning, saw an English man fall like a plummet.
That same day, Boelcke had an experience that can only be described as weird:
As there were enough others left I picked out a new one. He tried to escape, but I followed him. I fired round after round into him. His stamina surprised me. I felt he should have fallen long ago, but he kept going in the same circle. Finally, it got too much for me. I knew he was dead long ago, and by some freak, or due to elastic controls, he did not change his course. I flew quite close to him and saw the pilot lying dead, half out of his seat.
Over the final eight weeks of his life, he added another 21 hits to his tally, the 40th and last coming on October 26, just two days before his death. He wrote describing these victories in his always matter-of-fact-style.
About 4:45 seven of our machines, of which I had charge, attacked some English biplanes west of P[eronne]. I attacked one and wounded the observer, so he was unable to fire at me. At the second attack, the machine started to smoke. Both pilot and observer seemed dead. It fell into the second-line English trenches and burned up.
If it seems that his situational awareness deserted him at the last, this was probably due to fatigue. He had flown intensively over the previous eight weeks, and his final sortie was his sixth that day. Then came the midair collision with one of his own men, Erwin Bohme (who would himself account for 24 planes before his own death). Bohme later described what happened that day:
[We] had just begun a game of chess…then, about 4:30 p.m., we were called to the front because there was an infantry attack going on. We soon attacked some English machines we found flying over Fiers they were fast single-seaters that defended themselves well.
In the ensuing wild battle of turns, that only let us get a few shots in for brief intervals, we tried to force the English down, by one after another of us barring their way, a maneuver we had often practiced successfully. Boelcke and I had just got one Englishman between us when another opponent, chased by friend Richthofen, cut across us. Quick as lightning, Boelcke and I both dodged him, but for a moment our wings prevented us from seeing anything of one another–and that was the cause of it. How am I to describe my sensations from the moment when Boelcke suddenly loomed up a few meters away on my right! He put his machine down and I pulled mine up, but we touched as we passed, and we both fell earthward. It was only just the faintest touch, but the terrific speed at which we were going made it into a violent impact. Destiny is generally cruelly stupid in her choices I only had a bit of my undercarriage ripped, but the extreme tip of his left wing was torn away.
After falling a couple of hundred meters I regained control…and was able to observe Boelcke…heading for our lines in a gentle glide, but dipping a bit on one side. But when he came into a layer of clouds in the lower regions, his machine dipped more and more, owing to the violent gusts there, and I had to look on while he failed to flatten out to land and crashed near a battery position….He must have been killed outright.
Oswald Boelcke, the man who did so much to make fighter combat a professional activity rather than a sporting pursuit, died at the zenith of his powers. He is the example against whom all fighter pilots, both aces and leaders, must be judged. What sort of man was he that he could achieve so much?
The surviving records depict him as calm and balanced, with few idiosyncrasies except for going early to bed. He was a disciplinarian (both with himself and with others), of a technical turn of mind, and he drank and smoked little. His letters home show that he enjoyed the eminence to which he had risen and the opportunity it afforded of meeting the highest in the land (although he was openly scornful of blatant publicity). A portrait emerges of a man without weakness, with a wry sense of humor as a saving grace. His face was dominated by his eyes, which were very large and pale blue.
Perhaps the closest insights we get are not from Boelcke’s own letters home, which were carefully composed so as not to alarm his parents, but from his star pupil, Manfred von Richthofen, who was recruited for Jasta 2 in Kovel. Richthofen, who had encountered Boelcke briefly in October 1915, described that first meeting: “I heard a knock on my door early in the morning, and there he stood, a big man wearing the Pour le Merite. ”
Boelcke was in fact not a big man. Photographs show him as being on the short side, as was Richthofen. How could Richthofen describe him as big? The answer is that Boelcke’s personality made him seem larger. Richthofen also commented:
It is strange that everyone who came to know Boelcke imagined that he was his one true friend. I have met about forty of these “one true” friends of Boelcke, and each imagined that he indeed was the one true friend. . . . It was a strange phenomenon that I have observed only in Boelcke. He never had a personal enemy. He was equally friendly to everyone, no more to one, no less to another.
As Bohme wrote to a friend less than a month before the fatal collision:
You admire our Boelcke. Who would not? But you admire in him only the successful hero you can know nothing of his remarkable personality. That is known to only the few who are privileged to share his life….It is most remarkable how [he] inspires every one of his students and carries them along….They will go wherever he leads….He is a born leader.
Boelcke remains an inscrutable character, just slightly too good to be true. MHQ
MICHAEL SPICK is a well-known British aviation authority. This article is adapted from his new book, The Ace Factor, published by the Naval Institute Press.
This article originally appeared in the Winter 1989 issue (Vol. 1, No. 2) of MHQ—The Quarterly Journal of Military History with the headline: The Fokker Menace
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Operational history [ edit | edit source ]
In 1936 a few Fokker D.XXIs were used by the Spanish Republic. Although the order by the ML-KNIL was cancelled, the Luchtvaartafdeling (Dutch Army Air Force before World War II) placed an order of 36 aircraft, which were all delivered in time to participate in the war against the Germans in May 1940. The Fokker D.XXI, although much slower and more lightly armed than the Bf 109, performed surprisingly well in dogfights, due to its maneuverability. It was also one of the few aircraft that could follow a Stuka bomber into its dive. Nonetheless, the numerical inferiority of the Luchtvaartafdeling compared to the Luftwaffe resulted in the destruction of most Dutch Fokker D.XXI fighters during the campaign. Some were captured during and after 15 May, but their fates, apart from their capture, are unknown. ΐ]
The Fokker D.XXI performed better and for much longer in the Finnish Air Force, which had acquired a number of licence-built fighters prior to the start of the Winter War. Against the aircraft of the Soviet Air Force, the Fokker was more evenly matched, and its rugged design with a radial engine and fixed undercarriage made it very suitable for Finnish conditions. Later in the war, as newer models of Soviet fighters appeared, the Fokker D.XXI was underpowered and too lightly armed (with only four 7.92 mm/.312 in machine guns) to compete. Plans to arm the Fokkers with 20 mm cannons were dropped and only one fighter was armed as such (two 20 mm cannons and two 7.92 mm/.312 in machine guns). Another fighter was equipped with retractable landing gear, but due to less than anticipated performance improvement, wasn't continued in the series. During the Continuation War (1941–44) the Finnish State Aircraft Factory (Valtion Lentokonetehdas, VL) also built some 50 D.XXIs with the Swedish-built Pratt & Whitney R-1535 Twin Wasp Junior as the Bristol Mercury was in short supply. These can be identified by their longer cockpit glazing, smooth cowl, and large ventral air intake under the cowl. The fixed undercarriage lent itself to both unimproved runways and conversion to skis for winter use, both of which were advantages in the Finnish theater.
Several Finnish Air Force pilots became fighter aces with the Fokker D.XXI. The top scoring Fokker ace was Jorma Sarvanto who obtained 12 5/6 victories with the type. Many other future aces scored at least one victory with the Fokker. The highest scoring airframe was FK-110, with 10 victories. This aircraft survived the war and is on display at the Central Finland Aviation Museum.
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Hall of Fame
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Event of Interest
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Perfect design for commuter jets
Many readers will be familiar with the post-war Fokkers: the F27, F28, F50, F100 and F70. All of these excellent, reliable, economic aircraft were very modern in their day, but the Fokker 70 was the best of the bunch. Although Fokker only built 48 of these aircraft before it went bankrupt, the F70 paved the way towards a perfect design formula for commuter jets.
In keeping with history, KLM Cityhopper chose to operate its last Fokker flight out of the London, with an English captain at the controls. When flight KL1070 from London Heathrow shuts down its Rolls-Royce Tay engines at Schiphol, the Fokker era at KLM will come to an end. However, the special bond between KLM and Fokker will live on in memory. Looking back on this era, many of the events can be captured as “what if” questions.
Fokker M.21 - History
In 1910, through native intelligence, curiosity, ambition and inventiveness, and not through a classic technical education Anthony Fokker, the aircraft pioneer, designed and built his first aircraft, which was then considered to be the fastest, most stable aircraft in the world. Through the next fifteen years, from 1910 to 1935, aircraft designed and built by Fokker and his associated companies dominated the world of flying, exploration, record setting and air travel throughout the world. Fokker’s biggest success was the Fokker tri-motor passenger aircraft which dominated the European market until the arrival of the all metal aircraft brought out in the mid thirties by such American manufacturers as Douglas and Lockheed.
Anthony Fokker was born in Kediri, Java, The Dutch East Indies, in what is now Indonesia on April 6, 1890. His father was a tea and coffee planter. When Anthony was a boy the Fokker family returned to their native Holland and settled in Haarlem where Anthony received his elementary and high school education. As a teenager Anthony already had developed into a clever designer and builder. His parents allowed him to go to Germany to study automobile design and manufacture. While in Germany, Anthony became fascinated with flying machines which then had only been recently developed. The Kitty Hawk flights were very recent history. Also the aircraft of those days were simple but ingenious contraptions. A young inventive person such as Anthony obviously could relate to them.
By the time he was 20 years old, while still in Germany, Anthony designed, developed and built his first aircraft, and then taught himself how to fly it. Again keep in mind at that time, 1910, the aircraft industry had not even been started. It was still very much in the experimentation phase. In 1911, with family money he was able to go into the aircraft building business. His first commercial design was named “Die Spinne”, in Dutch “De Spin” and in English “The Spider”. The plane immediately won him recognition, not only in Germany, but throughout the international technical world.
By the start of the First World War, Fokker’s aircraft were in immediate demand and quickly the German Air Corps became his biggest customer. The German government forced the big Junkers industrial firm to work with Fokker on the building of the Fokker designs. The success of the German Air Corps in the First World War forced attention by all governments to the importance of aircraft as part of the defense of their countries.
Following the war, Fokker was able to move out of Germany, which now no longer was that promising economically or industrially. He was able to move much of his aircraft making equipment and inventory out of Germany to Holland. There he established an aircraft factory. However, he realized that the future of the aircraft industry, at least in the near term, was in the United States. So in 1922 he moved to the U.S. with the intent to start building aircraft there. He founded the Atlantic Aircraft company which later became General Aviation Corporation. He also became an American citizen.
It was during this time that he developed his now famous Fokker tri-motor aircraft which became the workhorse of the rapidly developing air travel industry. These rugged planes were also used extensively by the explorers of that age. It was a U.S. Air Corps Fokker T-2 which made the first non-stop transcontinental trip from New York to San Diego. Also the explorer Richard E. Byrd used a Fokker aircraft to make the first flight over both the North and South Poles.
During the depression, in the 1930s, Fokker returned to Holland to focus more on his Dutch possessions. He traveled back and forth between the U.S. and Europe and became one of the first global industrialists. While in the U.S., in 1939 he had some minor surgery done in a New York hospital. The surgery’s side effects caused an infection from which he died. He was only 49 years old at that time. The man who had been the pioneer in the aircraft building industry, the man who was the founder of air transport as we know it today, died of a minor infection, at a time when the age of antibiotics was still at an early stage.
Fokker’s planes made history on many occasions. The early examples center around the famous German Air Corps ace, Manfred Von Richthofen, known as the Red Baron. He was the feared German Air Corps pilot who downed many aircraft from the Western Allies. What is not always known is that the Red Baron was able to accomplish what he did because of the aircraft designed and built by Fokker.
Other famous exploits made with Fokker-built aircraft are by the following three flight pioneers. All three used the same aircraft, the Fokker F.VII, which says a lot for its reliability at that time. Richard E. Byrd made his first trans-Atlantic flight from New York City to Paris in1927. Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic in 1928. And Charles Kingsforth-Smith completed his first trans-Pacific flight, also in 1928. All three successful flights were made in the same Fokker model aircraft.
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Zgodovina [ uredi | uredi kodo ]
Pri dvajsetih je Anthony Fokker zgradil sovje prvo letalo Spin. Prvo zgrajeno nizozemsko letalo. Zaradi boljših pogojev v Nemčiji, se je preselil v Berlin, kjer je ustanovil svoje prvo podjetje Fokker Aeroplanbau, ki se je pozneje preselila v Görries, južnozahodno od Schwerina. Tam je leta 1912 ustanovil trenunto družbo Fokker Aviatik GmbH. Ώ]
Prva svetovna vojna [ uredi | uredi kodo ]
Fokker je prodal veliko enokrilnikov nemški vladi in tam tudi ustanovil tovarno. Prvo številčno proizvajano letalo je bilo Fokker M.5, sicer izboljšana kopija Morane-Saulnier G. ΐ] . V nemški vojski se je M.5 imenoval A III in je bil dokaj uspešen, uporabljal pa se je kot izvidniško letalo. Fokker je ugotovil, da je pametno oborožiti ta letala s strojnico, zato je razvil sinhronski sistem za streljanje skozi propeler. Tako oboroženi A III je Fokker razvil v verzijo Fokkerjev enokrilnik, eno izmed najbolj uspešnih letal na zahodni fronti začetnega obdobja. Z njim so imele nemške letalske sile nekaj časa prednost, do pojava Nieuport 11 in Airco DH.2 leta 1916.
Med vojno so Fokkerjevi inženirji delali na Fokker-Leimberger, z 12 cevnim Gatling topom, s hitrostjo streljanja 7200 nabojev v minuti. Α]
Pozneje je nemška vlada prisilila Fokkerja in Junkersa v bližje sodelovanje. Tako so leta 1917 ustanovili Junkers-Fokker Aktiengesellschaft, ki pa je kmalu propadlo. V naslednjem desetletju se je na Fokkerjevih letalih videlo določene podobnosti z Junkersovimi letali, ki so bili v marsičem naprednejši in jih je Fokker posnemal. Po vojni sta si bila na trgu potniških letal ravno tadva največja konkurenta.
Nemški letalski as Manfred von Richthofen, znan kot Rdeči baron, je letel na trokrilniku Fokker Dr.I in z njim dosegel nekaj od 80 zmag.
Up in the sky
Exactly 106 years, one month and six days after Fokker’s pioneering flight, I find myself at that historical site once more: the St. Bavo Church in Haarlem. When I look up, I can well imagine what a sight and sound it must have been back then.
When I step into the church on this special day (Friday the 6th of October), I hear the familiar theme tune of the animated movie “Up”. A bunch of balloons is floating around the church, carrying a tiny package. Inside it is KLM’s 98 th Delftware miniature house. The audience looks up in breathless awe, heaving a sigh of relief when KLM CEO Pieter Elbers has the package safely in his hands. No doubt Anthony Fokker breathed a similar sigh of relief 106 years ago, when he landed safely back on terra firma once more.
What the Red Baron Never Knew
The “flying machine,” born only a decade before World War I, matured swiftly during its teenage years. By the end of the Great War, aviation had already adopted nearly every major feature that would characterize military and civil airplanes for the next three decades. Cecil Lewis, a British fighter pilot whose memoir Sagittarius Rising is a classic of the era, wrote, “Every new machine was an experiment, obsolete in the eyes of the designer before it was completed, so feverishly and rapidly did knowledge progress.” No other period in the history of aviation has seen such rapid evolution.
From This Story
Pilots of the Sopwith Camel complained that the engine, guns, fuel tank, and pilot were clustered too close. They didn't know the airplane's very shape generated drag that hampered its performance. (NASM (SI Neg. #85-11029)) Plots of pressure surrounding the wings of a Sopwith Camel show both the concentration of low pressure on the upper wing and the loss of lift near the wingtips, which is due to air spilling around the tips. (AeroLogic) The view of this captured Fokker D.VII, idling at Bolling Field in Washington, D.C., after the war, showcases the fixed vertical fin. (NASM (SI Neg. #88-14933)) The analysis above shows that the switch to fin and rudder had almost no effect on maneuverability. (AeroLogic) Without computer analysis, wing strength sometimes had to be proved by more conventional methods. (NASM (SI Neg. #98-15116)) The Sopwith Camel's very shape generated drag that hampered its performance. (AeroLogic) A pair of German D.VIIs hunt for prey. With 160-horsepower engines and a fuselage of steel tubing, they could survive the rigors of aerial combat. (NASM (SI Neg. #77-54)) Baron Manfred von Richthofen's Fokker Dr.I had a good reputation, but a closer look proves the middle wing was nearly worthless. (NASM (SI Neg. #00119750))
Most of the improvements emerged from trial and error. But what if designers during the first World War had had the tools for simulation and analysis that are available today? Many of the errors would have been avoided had the firms of Fokker, Sopwith, Nieuport, and the rest had a few desktop computers.
The first error, made with the first airplane, was soon corrected. When Wilbur Wright took the Flyer on a sales tour of Europe in 1908, the virtuosity and self-assurance of his daily demonstrations stirred up a fever of renewed aviation activity among the Europeans. But the very next year, Frenchman Louis Blériot flew across the English Channel in an airplane whose configuration looked nothing at all like the Wrights’. The world abandoned the Wrights’ design, an unstable canard biplane with pusher propellers and a central engine, promptly and without regret. Blériot’s design—single wing, direct-drive engine in front, tail in back—foretold all the best design conventions of the next half-century.
The airplane that crossed the channel was Blériot’s 11th creation, and none of the previous 10 had looked much like it or, for that matter, like one another. While the Wrights had painstakingly refined one idea through study and experiment, Blériot seems to have randomly caromed from one design to the next, inspired by a series of unconnected ideas, until he chanced upon one that worked. Now if he had had a PC… An elementary analysis calculating pressure distributions could perhaps have saved him the trouble of the first 10 discarded designs.
The first great fighter of World War I was essentially an improved copy of the Blériot XI—a sportsman’s airplane equipped with a gun. Called the Eindecker—the name means “monoplane”—it was designed by Anthony Fokker, a young Dutch engineer, pilot, and entrepreneur living in Germany. The Eindecker had an “interrupter” system, enabling its fixed, forward-pointing machine gun to fire through the propeller without chopping the blades off. (One of the mysteries of the history of technology is the inability of the British and French, who could build both engines and machine guns, to quickly contrive a satisfactory way to synchronize them.)
Mainly because of its superior armament, the Eindecker ruled the skies above the trenches during the first year of the air war. Newspapers on the Allied side spoke of the “Fokker Scourge.” That such a rudimentary and wayward machine could be the dominant fighter of its era only shows how primitive aviation still was at the start of the war.
By 1916, the Allies were producing fighters superior to the Eindecker, and the Fokker Scourge came to an end. The new formula, exemplified by the Allies’ various Sopwith and Nieuport models, was a wire-braced biplane with thin, essentially rectangular wings. The superior rigidity of the bridge-like wing structure enabled higher speeds and more agility, great advancements for dogfighting.
Then British builder Thomas Sopwith produced a triplane. To enhance pilot visibility, he narrowed the wing’s chord—the distance from leading to trailing edge—and, intending to replace wing area lost, added a third skinny wing. The Sopwith Triplane was a pleasant-flying, stable, and even warm and cozy airplane—not a small concern when pilots prowled at 18,000 feet. A brief but intense international flurry of triplane designing followed. However, the only model to reach the front was the Fokker Dr.I. The “Dr” stood for Dreidecker, or triplane.
Even though Baron Manfred von Richthofen scored a number of victories in this triplane, three wings was a bad idea (see “Fokker’s Inefficient Triplane,” p. 29). No doubt it seemed to many that more wing area would mean more lift, and therefore a better rate of climb, but the rate is determined by weight, power, and wingspan.
An aerodynamicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Jerome Hunsaker, saw the fallacy of the triplane arrangement and in 1916 published a critique of it. According to Leon Bennett, whose book Three Wings for the Red Baron explores the triplane phenomenon at length, a German translation of Hunsaker’s work “did much to dampen triplane hopes.” Nevertheless, hundreds of Fokker Triplanes were built, and a reputation of high performance—especially rapid climb—grew up around them. Von Richthofen, their staunchest advocate, claimed that his triplane could “climb like a monkey and maneuver like a devil.”