28 October, 2023

The Dutch regional jets that changed the European aviation industry for decades....

At age 20 Anthony Fokker built his initial aircraft, the Spin in 1911, whilst he was a student in Germany. The aircraft didn't last long, business partner  Franz von Daum flew Spin into a tree, but that wasn't the end of Fokker's aviation dream. He recovered the engine and built another one and Fokker taught himself to fly with this early aircraft until von Daum also destroyed this model.  A third version that Fokker built helped make this young aviator a name in his home country when he flew the craft around the tower of the Grote or St.-Bavokerk, a church in his hometown Haarlem, on 1 September 1911. As the local newspaper put it, "It happened that in the evening air, which curved over the grey Saint Bavo on the Grand Place, a lonely man suddenly arrived, a man from the north, on the back of a white-winged air bird." 

That's the story, albeit vastly abridged, of how Anthony Fokker started his aviation business which he would expand by selling several 'Spin's' to the German government at the start of the war.  From a factory in Germany, his company built the Fokker M.5, which was largely a light reconnaissance aircraft from which other aircraft, with modified machine guns, were developed. Towards the latter stages of the war, the Fokker factory produced a number of different planes, including the Fokker Dr.I Dreidecker - triplane, probably most famous as the craft of choice of Baron von Richthofen - Red Baron. 

Perth (PER) to Exmouth (LEA) flight - Fokker 100
Photo by Simon Lehmann on Unsplash
After the war, Fokker saw the opportunities of aviation back in his own country and in 1919 registered 'The Netherlands Aircraft Factory' located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  Fokker continued to design and build military aircraft for the Royal Netherlands Air Force and then some other foreign military customers including Norway and Italy. 

It was from these origins that the Fokker company built its reputation, the Fokker F28, F100 and F70 are a family of narrow-body, twin-engined, medium-range, turbofan regional jetliners designed and produced by the Dutch aircraft manufacturer. They were developed from the F27 Friendship, a successful turboprop-powered regional airliner that provided many airlines with a backbone to their domestic and regional fleets. 

The Fokker jets were known for their reliability, efficiency, and comfort, and were operated by various airlines and governments around the world. However, they also faced competition from other jetliners such as the BAC 1-11, Boeing 737 and the Airbus A320, to name but three. 


The Fokker F28 Fellowship


The Fokker F28 Fellowship was the first jet airliner manufactured by Fokker. It was developed in response to a specification issued by British European Airways (BEA) in 1960 for a high-speed regional airliner powered by turbojet engines. Fokker decided to use its experience with the F27 Friendship and design a jetliner that would meet the needs of its existing customers, especially in the North American market.

The F28 was announced in April 1962 as a 50-seat aircraft with a range of 1,000 nautical miles (1,900 km) and a cruising speed of Mach 0.75 (about 800 km/h). It featured a T-tail configuration, a low-wing design with wingtip fuel tanks, and two Rolls-Royce Spey turbofan engines mounted at the rear fuselage. It also had a simple and robust design that minimized maintenance costs and maximized operational flexibility.

The prototype of the F28 made its maiden flight on 9 May 1967 from Woensdrecht in southern Netherlands. The flight test program involved five aircraft and over 1,000 flight hours. The type certification was achieved on 24 February 1969 by both European and American authorities. The first delivery was made to Braathens SAFE on 28 March 1969.

Fokker developed several variants of the F28 with different seating capacities, engine options, and performance improvements. The initial version was the F28-1000 with 50 seats, followed by the stretched F28-2000 with 65 seats in 1971. The most successful version was the F28-4000 with 85 seats, which introduced quieter Spey engines with higher thrust, a redesigned cockpit, and a modified wing in 1976. The last version was the F28-6000 with 79 seats, which had an increased takeoff weight and range in 1984.

The F28 was well received by airlines and passengers for its speed, comfort, and reliability. It was also suitable for operating from short runways and hot-and-high conditions. It was used for various purposes such as scheduled flights, charter flights, corporate transport, military transport, and VIP transport. Some of its notable operators included Garuda Indonesia, AirQuarius Aviation, Linjeflyg, Biman Bangladesh Airlines, Air Niugini, Iran Aseman Airlines, and the Royal Netherlands Air Force.

The production of the F28 ended in 1987 after 241 aircraft were built. The last aircraft was delivered to Air Mauritanie on 30 November 1987. The F28 was succeeded by two newer derivatives: the Fokker 70 and the larger Fokker 100.

The legend of the F28 still lives on, a Myanma Airways Fellowship XY-ADW is used as a Cafรฉ Flight bar of the Sky Palace hotel in NayPyiTaw, the capital of Myanmar. Another model is on display outside at the Defence Services Museum, also in NayPyiTaw.  The Colombian Air Force has an F28 1000 model, registration FAC 0002, which was still flying back in 2021. A former Braathens SAFE example of the type, named “Olav Kyrre” is on display at  The Norwegian Aviation Museum.

The Fokker 100


Image by Robert Waghorn from Pixabay
The Fokker 100 was a larger version of the F28 that was developed in the early 1980s as a response to the growing demand for regional jetliners with more than 100 seats. It was based on the F28-4000 but had a longer fuselage that could accommodate up to 122 passengers in a single-class configuration or up to 107 passengers in a two-class configuration. It also had new winglets, more powerful Rolls-Royce Tay turbofan engines, a modern glass cockpit, and improved aerodynamics.

The prototype of the Fokker 100 made its maiden flight on 30 November 1986 from Woensdrecht. The flight test program involved four aircraft and over 1,500 flight hours. The type certification was awarded on 20 November 1987 by both European and American authorities. The first delivery was made to Swissair on 6 February 1988.

The Fokker 100 was a larger and more advanced version of the F28 that could seat up to 122 passengers in a single-class configuration or up to 107 passengers in a two-class configuration. It featured new winglets, more powerful Rolls-Royce Tay turbofan engines, a modern glass cockpit, and improved aerodynamics. It also had a lower operating cost and noise level than its competitors.



The Fokker 100 was well received by airlines and passengers for its comfort, performance, and reliability. It was also suitable for operating from short runways and hot-and-high conditions. It was used for various purposes such as scheduled flights, charter flights, corporate transport, military transport, and VIP transport. Some of its notable operators included American Airlines, US Airways, TAM Airlines, KLM Cityhopper, Air France, Iran Air, Garuda Indonesia, and the Royal Australian Air Force.

The production of the Fokker 100 ended in 1997 after more than 278 aircraft were built. The last aircraft was delivered to TAM Airlines on 28 March 1997. There are nearly 100 Fokker 100s still flying these days, with many operating in Australia with Alliance Airlines and the Qantas Group carrier Network Aviation. Air Niugini has seven in its fleet with six Fokker F70s still flying until they get replaced with Airbus A220 jets the firm has on order. Iran Aseman Airlines is understood to have five F100s still in airworthy condition and was a former operator of F28s. Karun Airlines flies 5 of the type as well as an equal number of vintage Fokker F50s.  

The Fokker 70



The Fokker 70 was a smaller version of the Fokker 100 that was developed in the early 1990s as a response to the demand for regional jetliners with less than 100 seats. It was based on the Fokker 100 but had a shorter fuselage that could accommodate up to 80 passengers in a single-class configuration or up to 72 passengers in a two-class configuration. It also had a reduced fuel capacity and a lower takeoff weight.

The prototype of the Fokker 70 made its maiden flight on 4 April 1993 from Woensdrecht. The flight test program involved two aircraft and over 800 flight hours. The type certification was achieved on 14 July 1994 by both European and American authorities. The first delivery was made to Ford Motor Company on 25 October 1994 for private use. The first commercial delivery was made to Sempati Air on 18 January 1995.

The Fokker 70 was a smaller and more efficient version of the Fokker 100 that could seat up to 80 passengers in a single-class configuration or up to 72 passengers in a two-class configuration. It featured the same winglets, engines, cockpit, and systems as the Fokker 100. It also had a lower operating cost and noise level than its competitors.

The Fokker 70 was well-received by airlines and passengers for its comfort, performance, and reliability. It was also suitable for operating from short runways and hot-and-high conditions. It was used for various purposes such as scheduled flights, charter flights, corporate transport, military transport, and VIP transport. Some of its notable operators included KLM Cityhopper, Austrian Airlines, Alliance Airlines, Air Niugini, Malev Hungarian Airlines, Kenya Airways, and the Dutch Government.

The production of the Fokker 70 ended in 1997 after only 48 aircraft were built, including a prototype model and the last aircraft was delivered to Air Niugini on 29 March 1997.  Around 20 of those planes are said to be still flying today, Alliance Airlines of Australia had 14 of the type earlier this year, including one that is fitted out with a VIP cabin. Air Niugini had four of the jets at the start of this year which had performed well for the carrier.  


Over the years there have been a number of attempts to restart commercial aircraft production in The Netherlands, including by Rekkof (yes, that's Fokker spelt backwards), a company founded by former Fokker employees and investors. Rekkof has proposed to produce modernized versions of the Fokker jets with new engines, avionics, and interiors. However, these plans have faced various challenges and delays over the years, and have not yet materialized.

The Fokker jets remain a remarkable achievement of The Dutch Aviation Industry and the skills of the engineering and innovation professionals who worked so hard on these powerful, comfortable and reliable aircraft. The reputation they built and the fondness many in the aviation world still have for those rear-engined twin jets from the land of Tulips and Edam will last for many years to come.  


Various sources have been used to construct this article, including some of the airlines mentioned in this article, Fokker Services Group, Wikipedia, Military History, National Archive, and Modern Airliners.


Search