12/23/1939: The Flying Dutchman Passes Away

12/23/1939: The Flying Dutchman Passes Away

DALLAS — Anton Herman Gerard “Anthony” Fokker was a Dutch aviation pioneer, entrepreneur, aircraft designer, and manufacturer who passed away on this day in 1939. He played a significant role in the development of aviation during the early 20th century.

Fokker is best known for his work during World War I, where he produced several notable fighter aircraft for Germany, including the Eindecker monoplanes, the Dr.1 triplane, and the D.VII biplane. However, after the Treaty of Versailles prohibited Germany from producing aircraft, Fokker relocated his business to the Netherlands.

In the Netherlands, Fokker’s company continued to thrive and was responsible for the production of various successful aircraft, including the Fokker F.VII trimotor, which became a popular passenger aircraft during the interwar period. Fokker’s success extended beyond Europe, as his aircraft gained international recognition through daring expeditions and record-breaking flights.

For example, Richard E. Byrd and Floyd Bennett used the Fokker F.VII aircraft to fly over or near the North Pole in 1926. In 1928, Amelia Earhart crossed the Atlantic to Wales in a Fokker F.VII/3m trimotor, and in 1930, Charles Kingsford Smith circumnavigated the globe in another Fokker aircraft.

Fokker in the Netherlands in 1934.  Photo: Willem van de Poll - Nationaal Archief Fotocollectie Van de Poll
Fokker is pictured in the Netherlands in 1934. Photo: Willem van de Poll, Nationaal Archief Fotocollectie Van de Poll, Nummer toegang, Bestanddeelnummer 190-0079, CC BY-SA 3.0 nl


Despite his achievements, Fokker’s reputation suffered a setback in 1931 when the famous University of Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne was killed in a crash involving a Fokker F.10A aircraft. Additionally, Fokker faced financial challenges, and in 1929, General Motors took over Fokker Aircraft Corporation of America, eventually discontinuing its production in 1934.

Fokker passed away in New York on December 13, 1939, at the age of 49 due to pneumococcal meningitis. His ashes were later buried in the family grave at Westerveld Cemetery in Driehuis, North Holland.

Despite the challenges he faced, Fokker’s contributions to aviation were recognized posthumously. In 1970, he was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame, and in 1980, he was posthumously inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Dayton, Ohio.

KLM (KL) had a Boeing 747-200 aircraft with the registration serial PH-BUN that was named after Fokker. This particular aircraft served KL from 1979 until 2004.

Featured image: Fokker in de Spin. Photo: Nationaal Archief, originally posted to Flickr as Fokker in zijn Spin/Dutch aviation pioneer Fokker in his first aircraft, at gahetna.nl, Public Domain. Article source: Anthony Fokker: The Flying Dutchman Who Shaped American Aviation

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