Last week, KLM retired its last Fokker 70 after a flight from London to Amsterdam. The last KLM Fokker 70 landed at Schiphol around 8:30 pm on Saturday before a monument to Gokker was unveiled at the airport. The plane was met by a crowd of photographers, KLM customers, and other well-wishers who are sad to see the plane retired.
KLM’s last Fokker planes were decorated with a special livery that read “Thank you Fokker” on the side of the plane. The planes also featured the pictures of famous Dutch aviators on the tail.
“We wanted to find a way to thanks everyone who has worked on Fokker 70s for their efforts and dedication,” said Stefan Vermeeren, KLM’s now-former Fokker 70 fleet manager. “What better way to do this than by way of the aircraft itself? That’s a lot more festive than a thank you message by email, right?”
“By decorating the plane with the festive livery, we not only thank all our colleagues at KLM Cityhopper, but also that staff at all outstations, suppliers, ground handlers at other airlines, and aviation aficionados. It’s also a tribute to Dutch aviation, to our air transport industry, and it’s a special way to celebrate the bond between KLM and Fokker.” Vermeeren continued. “The words ‘Thank you’ on the side of the fuselage, together with the photo of Anthony Fokker, acknowledge the bond between KLM, Fokker, and the industry, but the words of gratitude are also intended for the broader community and other colleagues, companies and suppliers all over Europe, to thanks them for the many years of cooperation.”
KLM’s Fokker monument consists of a Fokker 70 tail mounted on top of an anvil. This was to symbolize that Fokker planes were the workhorses of KLM. As the monument was unveiled, the final four Fokker planes flew over Schiphol (without passengers) in KLM colors for the last time. From Schiphol, the planes flew to Norwich, England, where they will be repainted and transferred to their new owners across Asia, South America, and Africa.
KLM said that it decided to retire its Fokker fleet due to high maintenance costs. Fokker went bankrupt in 1996 and its aircraft were discontinued, making it difficult to find parts for the planes. KLM, however, was eventually allowed to fly their Fokker planes to England. The first KLM Fokker flight to England was operated by a British pilot, just like the last flight.
“[The planes] will all find homes with operators in Asia, Europe, and Latin America,” said Warner Rootliep, Cityhopper’s managing director.
KLM and Fokker have a remarkable 97 year history. The Fokker 70 itself has been with the airline for just over 20 years. The aircraft entered service with KLM in 1996, when the airline owned 26 of the planes. Over time, the fleet size was lowered to 19 and, in more recent years, only 7.
“The replacement of the entire Fokker fleet began nine years ago with the introduction of the first Embraer 190 in November 2008,” said Pieter Elbers, KLM’s CEO. “It can be difficult to keep reliability high for the small [Fokker] fleet, but our maintenance team at Cityhopper have done a fantastic job.”
Fokker planes first became famous during the World War 1. Manfred von Richthofen, also known as the Red Baron, was friends with Anthony Fokker, who founded the aircraft company and was known as The FLying Dutchman. Von Richthofen’s famous Triple Wing fighter plane was a Fokker Dr.I. A different Fokker model, the D.VII, is arguably the best fighter aircraft of WWI.
After the war, Fokker became one of the first companies to sell passenger aircraft. KLM was one of their first customers. (Not only was KLM one of the first customers of Fokker, but Fokker planes were the first that the airline owned. It’s first flight, in 1919, was operated on a leased De Havilland DH-16.) In 1920, one year after KLM was founded, the airline started flying converted Fokker military jets. It soon bought two Fokker F.IIs, which could hold four passengers. The airline soon purchased the Fokker F.III, which had room for five.
However, the partnership between the two might have been short lived. Albert Plesman, the Fokker/KLM administrator at the time, included a resolution condition in the procurement contract for the first Fokker’s ordered by KLM. This is in order the British government withheld permission to operate flights to the UK with Fokker’s, which may have been seen as an enemy to Britain since Germany operated a dominant Fokker fleet during world War 1.
KLM flew 18 different KLM models between 1920 and World War 2. The Fokker F.VII., which held up to 12, would become Fokker’s first highly successful airliner.
In the 1930s, American companies made their debuts in commercial aviation. The popularity of companies such as Douglas damaged Fokker, as many of the planes, such as the DC-2 and DC-3, were more advanced than Fokker aircraft. Fokker was put at a disadvantage to these American companies as most airlines, even those like KLM who had been loyal to Fokker, chose American planes over Fokker.
Fokker would finally gain traction again in the 1950s. The Fokker 27 Friendship was Fokker’s first post-World War 2 success. It would also become the most successful Fokker aircraft. 786 of the planes were built, and KLM flew the plane until the early 1990s.
Fokker’s first jet was the Fokker 28 Fellowship. 241 of the F-28s were built, and Fokker was a dedicated flyer of the plane. The Fokker 28 would eventually evolve into the Fokker 100 and Fokker 70 planes.
Fokker planes have an incredible safety record. Throughout the Fokker 70’s history, there has been only one serious incident involving the aircraft. An Austrian Airlines Fokker 70 had to make an emergency landing due to ice ingestion, resulting in dual engine failure. All of the passengers and crew onboard survived, and the plane was eventually returned to service.
Fokker isn’t only famous in Amsterdam for being operated so heavily by KLM. Former Dutch Queen Beatrix and current King Williem-Alexander used Fokker 70 as their government aircraft; Williem-Alexander even flew the plane.
Though KLM’s retirement of the Fokker 70 will make the plane more rare, it won’t be impossible to find in service. KLM’s retired aircraft are expected to end up with other operators.
KLM is replacing its Fokker 70s and Fokker 100s with newer, more efficient Embraer regional aircraft. KLM Cityhopper’s fleet currently consists entirely of Embraer E175s and E190s.
The Fokker 70 is a narrow-body, twin engine aircraft that can hold up to 80 passengers. It is a smaller model of the Fokker 100, which was based partially off of the Fokker 28.
Featured image by James Mellon via Flight Global