Fokker F.VII

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Aero Favourite 9
Fokker F.VII
Page 3

Pioneering flights with the Fokker F.7


The first Fokker F.VII was registered H-NACC. The aircraft was used in a pioneering flight from Amsterdam
to Batavia in 1924. (Photo: KLM)

The Fokker F.VII, single-engined and three-engined versions, made a lot of pioneering flights. It already began with the first F.VII registered H-NACC in 1924. On 1 October 1924, almost six months after the first flight, the H-NACC took off from Amsterdam Schiphol for a long-distance flight to Batavia in the Dutch East Indies (now Jakarta in Indonesia). In the long term the Dutch airline KLM wanted to start an intercontinental air service between Amsterdam and Batavia and the flight was intended to learn about problems and difficulties to be expected when such a service would start. The aircraft was drastically modified to make the flight possibel. The aircraft, with pilot Thomassen á Thuessink van der Hoop, second pilot Van Weerden-Poelman and mechanic Van den Broeke, made an emergency landing near Philippopel in Bulgaria, after a cooler cracked and the cooling water drained away. During the landing the right undercarriage wheel collapsed. It seemed the end of the venture, but a Dutch illustrated weekly, Het Leven sponsored a new engine and after delivery the H-NACC could resume its multi-hop flight to Batavia on 3 November. It reached its destination on 24 November 1924.

The F.VIIa H-NADP in which Van Lear Black flew to Batavia, seen at Rotterdam Waalhaven Airport. (Photo: KLM)

A second flight from The Netherlands to Batavia took place in 1927. The American millionaire Van Lear Black first flew a series of charter flights with KLM and decided that he would like to fly to Batavia as well. For this flight F.VIIa H-NADP was used. The flight commenced on 15 June 1927. It was a tiring flight with technical problems, sand storms and soggy airfields, but the crew succeeded in reaching Batavia on 23 July.

A few months later, on 1 October 1927, a third Dutch pioneering flight to Batavia started, with the F.VIIa/3m 'Postduif'. After a number of test flights KLM started its Amsterdam - Batavia service on 25 September 1930, beginning once every two weeks, with Fokker F.VIIb/3m aircraft of course.

In the meantime Fokker F.VIIs were successful in many other parts of the world. Anthony Fokker himself flew the first F.VIIa/3m in the Ford Reliability Tour of 1925. With much success and he gained a lot of publicity for his business. The result of the tour was that the same aircraft was used by Lieutenant Commander Richard E. Byrd for an attempt to fly over the North Pole. The flight was financed by the Ford family and the aircraft was named 'Josephine Ford', after the daughter of Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford. The event took place on 9 May 1926 from Spitsbergen.

Fokker F.VII Byrd Arctic Expedition  Fokker F.7

The first F.VIIa/3m while participating in the Ford Reliability Tour in 1925 (picture right) and in the colours in which it performed the flight over the North Pole by Richard E. Byrd. (Photos: Fokker)

Fokker's success in the Ford Reliability Tour raised interest among the military. Both the US Army Air Corps and the US Navy ordered some examples of the F.VIIa/3m, in a modified form and designated C-2 (USAAC) and TA-2 (Navy). Two Lieutenants of the US Army Air Corps, Lester Maitland and Albert Hegenberger, used one of the C-2s, named 'Bird of Paradise', for the first flight from continental USA to Hawaii. They departed from San Francisco on 28 June 1927 and arrived in Honolulu the next day. It was the first aerial crossing of the Pacific Ocean. The flight took 25 hours and 50 minutes. The real significance of the flight was the navigational accuracy: finding small islands in the vast Pacific Ocean.

Also in June 1927 Richard E. Byrd flew a C-2 on the second flight from New York to Paris, just six months after the pioneering flight of Charles Lindbergh. The intention was to cross the Atlantic before Lindbergh, but the Byrd had to await repair of his aircraft after an accident. The aircraft, baptised 'America', needed forty hours to reach Paris. However, because it was very foggy in Paris, the aircraft couldn't land. The crew decided on landing on the beach at Ver-sur-Mer, but the aircraft touched down in the sea and sank up to its wings. After the French Navy hauled the aircraft to the beach, souvenir hunters demolished the plane, leaving only its steel tube frame. Anyhow, it was the third successful non-stop transatlantic flight by a heavier-than-air machine.

Another C-2, named 'Question Mark', under command of Major Carl Spaatz, stayed in the air over Southern California for 150 hours and 40 minutes at a strech - almost a week. The flight took place in January 1929. The aircraft was refueled from other aircraft dozens of times. An engine failure forced the crew to end the flight, but it convinced the military about the reliability of the aircraft. Because radios were not very reliable at that time, communication was performed by dropping notes to the ground, ground panels, hand signals, flashlight signals and messages written on blackboards carried in the planes. Oil for the engines was transferred by lowering cans by rope from other aircraft, as well as food and other supplies.

Fokker C-2 Fokker F.7 America

Left: The Fokker C-2 'Question Mark' during its long endurance flight in 1929. Above the C-2 'America' of Richard Byrd.

The most famous Fokker F.VIIb/3m was the 'Southern Cross' of the Australian aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, nicknamed Smithy. It was the first F.VIIb/3m, built in Amsterdam and delivered to George Hubert Wilkins, who wanted to use this aircraft, named 'Detroiter' and a single-engined F.VIIa 'Alaskan' for a flight over the North Pole. His attempt failed, but the aircraft was taken over by the Australian aviator Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, who renamed the aircraft 'Southern Cross'. On 31 May 1928, Kingsford Smith and his crew departed from Oakland in California to Australia in a Fokker F.VIIb/3m named 'Southern Cross'. Other crew members were pilot Charles Ulm, James Warner and Captain Harry Lyon. After stops at Honolulu, Hawaii, and Suva, Fiji, the Southern Cross touched down in Brisbane on 8 June. Kingsford Smith was instantly world famous and his success was also good publicity for Fokker. The trans-Pacific flight was soon followed by the first crossing of the Australian continent from Melbourne to Perth in August 1928 and the first crossing of the Tasmanian Sea from Australia to New Zealand in September of that year.

The Southern Cross was the first F.VIIb/3m.

(Photo: Fokker)
Southern Cross

More flights followed: a record flight from Australia to London in June and July 1929 and the first flight from London to New York in June 1930. After having continued the latter flight to San Francisco, Kingsford Smith was the first man to have flown around the world via Australia. In November 1935 Smithy got lost over the Gulf of Bengal in an attempt to set a new England-Australia record. This happened with a Lockheed Altair. Some months earlier he had donated the Southern Cross to the Australian people. The aircraft is still exhibited in the Sir Charles Kingsford Smith Memorial in Brisbane.

A Fokker F.VIIb/3m named 'Friendship', the fourth F.VIIb/3m built, flew the first woman over the Atlantic Ocean. The passenger was Amelia Earhart. The aircraft was bought by Richard Byrd who wanted to make an Antarctic expedition with the aircraft. His sponsor Ford persuaded him to fly a Ford Trimotor instead. Byrd sold the Fokker to the rich American woman Amy Guest, who recruited a crew to fly her to Europe. Her family objected, however and she had to resign. Another woman was chosen to become passenger on the flight. Her name was Amelia Earhart.
The Friendship flew from Trepassey Bay in Newfoundland to Burry Port in Wales on 17 June 1928 in twenty hours and 49 minutes. Pilot was Wilbur Stultz and the mecanic Louis Gordon. The aircraft was fitted with pontoons so that it could land on water. This was necessary two times during the flight, the first time when fog made landing impossible near Halifax, Nova Scotia, the second time at the end of the flight in Burry Port in Wales, when the fuel was almost exhausted. Without floats it would have been difficult to find a suitable place to land.

Amelia Earhart  Amelia Earhart

Two pictures of the F.VIIb/3m Friendship on floats. The aircraft flew Amelia Earhart over the Atlantic.


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