Dutch aviation pioneers still flying

Although one might not guess it, the Netherlands is a veritable hotbed of aviation pioneering and development.

Pioneers of commercial aviation

The Dutch national airline, KLM, which first took to the skies in 1920, is the world's oldest national airline still in operation and still flying under it's original name: Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (Royal Dutch Airlines). By 1926, it was offering flights to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Brussels, Paris, London, Bremen, Copenhagen and Malmö, using primarily Fokker F.II and Fokker F.III aircraft. These Fokker aircraft were also designed and built in the Netherlands. Fokker and KLM are synonymous with the development of commercial aviation in Europe.

Active on three continents

Today, with a turnover of 616 million euros and around 3,700 employees, Fokker is active in many markets and on three continents, diversifying and growing its businesses, focusing on growth in two key regions: China and Mexico. China is known to have keen ambitions to become a force to be reckoned with in the aerospace sector and has many opportunities for growth within its steadily expanding domestic market. To this end, a memorandum of understanding has been signed between Fokker Technologies and the Chinese state-owned aircraft manufacturer Comac. Comac received orders in 2010 for a total of 100 domestically-developed C919 passenger aircraft (China's equivalent of the Boeing 737 and Airbus A320), which will be brought onto the market in five years time. Fokker has already been active for a number of years in the Chinese market via its subsidiary Fokker Elmo, which has a factory located there for the production of cabling systems for Airbus, Boeing and Chinese customers.

Fokker Aerostructures, the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft) and NLR have combined their knowledge and Glare expertise in the Fiber Metal Laminate Center of Competence (FMLC) for research and development activities.

Fokker Aerostructures, the Technical University of Delft (TU Delft) and NLR have combined their knowledge and Glare expertise in the Fiber Metal Laminate Center of Competence (FMLC) for research and development activities

Image: Fokker

Airbus A380

Fokker Technologies has five subdivisions focused on both military and civilian projects including aircraft maintenance and cabling systems. Customers for these services include Boeing, Airbus and Bombardier. The division also develops aircraft components, such as tail assemblies for business-jets made by market leaders in this segment including Gulfstream, Dassault and Cessna. These tail units are fabricated from the lightweight composite material 'Glare' which was developed by the Aerospace Faculty of leading Dutch technical university TU Delft, and is also used in larger aircraft such as the 'superjumbo' Airbus A380.

Expansion into the Americas

Fokker Aerostructures' expansion phase also includes the establishment of a production facility in Mexico. This strategic move is designed to secure lower production costs, as well as providing North American customers including Boeing, Airbus and Lockheed Martin with faster and better service. Additionally, by shifting production elements to a dollar-linked economy, the firm hopes to reduce its exposure to potential currency fluctuations. Fokker's parent company, Stork, has longer-term plans for establishment of production facilities for Fokker Elmo and Fokker Aerostructures within the US itself, even closer to its customer base. Fokker Services already have a facility in the US.

Anthony Fokker in 1912

Anthony Fokker in 1912

Image: Source: United States Library of Congress

Fokker fact file:

  • Named after its founder Anthony Fokker
  • Started out in 1912 in Schwerin, Germany, moving back to the Netherlands in 1919.
  • Fokker aircraft dominated the global civil aviation market in the 1920s and 1930s.
  • The F-27 Friendship, introduced in 1958, became the world's best selling turboprop airliner, reaching almost 800 units sold by 1986.
  • In the late 1960's, Fokker set-up a modest space division, building components for European satellites. Fokker developed the first Dutch satellite (the ANS) together with Philips and a number of Dutch universities and went on to contribute to many European satellite projects, as well as to the Ariane rocket programme.
  • Today, the company has a turnover of 616 million euros and employs around 3,700 people.