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Farewell Fokker 70. Fokker and KLM Conclude Relationship After 97 Years

Notice the beautiful characteristic bright white landing lights right under the wingtips.

On October 29 2017, the remarkable 97 year history of KLM and Fokker came to an end. KLM retired the Fokker 70 type after 21 years of service.

The last 4 Fokker 70s departed on a stormy, but beautiful sunny Sunday morning, from Amsterdam Schiphol Airport to Norwich Airport in England, where they will get their new livery, before they will depart to their new owners in Africa, Asia and South America. Many planespotters gathered near Runway 04-22, also known as the Oostbaan at East-Schiphol, where they watched the last 4 Fokker 70s taxi to the runway, take off and return for a memorable flyby, saying goodbye to it’s home base airport and the people of Holland. In honour of the special bond between the two Dutch Aviation Company’s, a Fokker monument was revealed today to the public in the shape of the characteristic Fokker 70 Tail.

 Last Landing Ever October 28 2017: This amazing video comes from Jerry Taha Productions and shows the last landing ever of the KLM Fokker 70.

Yesterday evening, the last 4 Fokkers returned from their final official flight and landed for the last time ever at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. The stormy wind was raging over the Schiphol runways with some furious gusts, as if it wanted to challenge the small Fokker 70s during their final touchdown on Dutch ground. This wasn’t anything new for the baby Fokker jets. The Fokker 70s went through many storms while returning to their home base over the past 24 years. Schiphol is famous for its stormy weather. The Fokker 70 proved to be capable of handling any condition. A total of 47 Fokker 70s were built.  40 of them are still in use with airliners across the globe.

Fokker 70 was a reliable jet…even a king flew it!

There was only one incident involving a Fokker 70 throughout its history. An Austrian Airlines Fokker 70 had to make an emergency landing on a field due to ice ingestion, resulting in engine failure of both engines. All passengers survived the crash.  The jet was able to be repaired and eventually returned to service.  The former Dutch Queen Beatrix and the present King Willem-Alexander used the Fokker 70 as their Government Plane.  King Willem-Alexander often flew the plane himself to maintain currency. Many passengers never knew that the Prince, later their King, was flying them to their destinations in Europe or back to the Netherlands.  The Government of Kenya is still using the old reliable Fokker as their primary aircraft for the head of state.

Video Farewell Fokker: This amazing video comes from Schipholhotspot

The Fokker F70, better known as the Fokker 70, is a narrow body, two-engined airliner for 80 passengers. It was developed as a smaller model of the Fokker 100, which was a better model of the Fokker F28. The first F70 entered service in 1993 and between 1993 and 1997. Fokker manufactured a total of 48 aircraft. The Fokker 70 entered service with KLM in 1996. KLM initially owned 26 F70s. They reduced the fleet to 19. In the past few years, the fleet dwindled to just 7 jets. Maintenance costs for the aging jets kept rising, especially after Fokker went out of business. As major inspections have neared, KLM slowly replaced the Brazilian Embraer E175 (88 passengers) and E-190 (100 passengers). They are cheaper in maintenance and use 20% less fuel and can carry 20% more passengers. The Fokker 70 was the last aircraft built by Fokker before it went bankrupt in 1996.

Stormy Landing: This incredible storm landing video comes from Jerry Taha Productions

A storied history between KLM and Fokker

Dutch aviation pioneer Anthony Fokker (1890-1939) was the founder of the Fokker aircraft company. He became famous when he flew over the city of Haarlem in 1911 with his own Fokker Spin, which he built in 1910 in Germany. At that time, before WWI, Germany was emerging as the center of aviation in Europe.

During WWI, the Fokker planes became famous.  Fokker was friends with Manfred von Richthofen, also known as The Red Baron. He flew the famous Triple Wing fighter plane, the Fokker Dr.I. The D.VII would become the best fighter plane of WWI.

After the war, Fokker needed to find a new market to sell their planes.  They emerged as one of the first companies to sell passenger aircraft. KLM was one of their first customers. KLM’s 97 year relationship with Fokker began in 1920, 1 year after KLM was born. KLM initially started with converted military planes, but in 1920 KLM bought two Fokker F.II.s (4 passengers) and then the Fokker F.III. (5 passengers).

The 20s would become the Golden Years for Fokker. KLM flew 18 different types of Fokker aircraft between 1920 and WWII. One aircraft in particular stood out.The Fokker F.VII.(8-12 passengers) would become Fokker’s first highly successful airliner. It was utilized by a variety of European airlines. Other companies also produced the aircraft under license.

The 1930s were more of a challenge for Fokker. American companies (like Douglas) would make great advances in commercial aviation. The DC-2 and DC-3 were more advanced than Fokker aircraft. They were manufactured out of aluminum vs. Fokker’s wood and steel construction. This put Fokker at a disadvantage to its American rivals. Airlines like KLM, previously a Fokker operator, chose the DC-2 and the DC-3. Anthony Fokker, the founder of the company also passed away just before WWII began.

Fokker thrived after the war…for a while

With WWII, and the recovery period, Fokker would not gain its footing again until the 1950s. The F-27 Friendship was their first post-war success. It would become the most successful aircraft that Fokker built. 786 aircraft were built.  KLM was a big fan of the F-27.  They flew the F-27 Friendship until the early 90s.

Fokker’s first jet was the F-28 Fellowship in the late 60s.  They built 241 F-28s. KLM was a dedicated user of the type. The F-28 would evolve into the F-100 and Fokker 70 aircraft.

Fokker went back to its roots in the late 1980s as they rehashed their previous successes.  They developed the Fokker 50, based on the successful F-27. KLM also flew the Fokker propliner to regional destinations. KLM flew the Fokker 50 from 1990 until 2010.  Fokker also evolved the F-28 into the Fokker 100, the largest aircraft built by Fokker.  Fokker made 283 of the type. KLM flew the Fokker 100 from 1989 until 2009.

Fokker F70s Battling against Extreme Crosswinds: This video of Fokker F70s in Full Action comes from Jerry Taha Productions

Truly the end of an era

Fokker’s last production aircraft was the Fokker 70.  While the aircraft has become decidedly more rare with KLM’s retirement of the type, it is still flying today in countries all over the world.  KLM’s Fokker 70s are expected to end up with other operators.

For Dutch aviation lovers and geeks, it’s reassuring to know the last Fokker 70s will keep flying in other parts of the world, instead of ending up in a desert or a museum. The end of Fokkers at KLM was a sad day but we are very proud of this great pioneer and what a man named Fokker did for aviation.

It’s amazing to think that such a small country as the Netherlands would be able to create such a proud legacy of aviation. Anthony Fokker, a  brave innovator, turned his dream of flight and turned it into a business that lasted almost 80 years. KLM’s days of flying Fokkers have ended but the legacy of the aviation firm lives on and its aircraft will continue to fly at various carries around the world for at least a few more years to come.

Special thanks for Jerry Taha for the story and videos.

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