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?
On Thursday, 1 September 1911 – more than a century ago – the people of Haarlem heard a strange humming sound overhead. The crowd on the square around the St. Bavo Church looked up and saw what seemed to be a gigantic, black bird. From above, Anthony Fokker, a citizen of Haarlem, looked down from his self-built “Spin” (spider in Dutch), laughing ecstatically as he circled the church steeple, before flying off.
Can you imagine what it must have been like? How wonderful? How incredible it must have been for the people of Haarlem to suddenly see such a large flying machine passing overhead? Anthony Fokker must have been overjoyed. He was airborne!
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 98th 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.
Anthony Fokker’s childhood home
KLM latest miniature house is a replica of Kleine Houtweg No. 65 in Haarlem, where Anthony Fokker spent his youth from the age of four. His parents had returned to the Netherlands from the Dutch East Indies with little “Tony” and his sister Toos. The stately mansion was then located at Kleine Houtweg No. 41, which changed to No. 65 when the street numbering was altered in 1935.
The attic at the front of the house became Anthony’s domain. The attic had a window overlooking the park. It was from here that he launched his earliest self-made model planes. Using paperclips to improve the aerodynamics, he watched his own creations fly far into the park. Many years later, in the 1920s, he became one of the world’s leading aircraft manufacturers, with factories in the Netherlands as well as the United States.
End of the Fokker Era
It is no coincidence that KLM has modelled its 98th Delftware miniature on the Fokker’s stately home, overlooking a lush, green park in Haarlem. At the end of October 2017, KLM Cityhopper will bid a fond farewell to its very last Fokker aircraft. In short, the new miniature house is a lasting memento to the 97-year partnership between KLM and this great Dutch aircraft manufacturer; a means of sharing a little piece of Fokker history with our passengers.