Anthonie Fokker was one of the greatest aviation pioneers in the world. With his inventions and developments, he made a major contribution to the rise of aviation in the first half of the 20th century. Fokker spent the first years of his life in Blitar (Kediri) on Java, in the former Dutch East Indies. When he was four, the family moved to Haarlem.
Fokker did not complete high school (HBS), and in 1920 went to a German trade school for mechanics. There, his technical talent and taste for adventure soon became obvious. With fellow student Franz von Daum, he built his first airplane, the Spin.
The first Spin soon failed, but the engine was still usable. In 1911 came the Spin II, which was more easily steerable. Fokker got his pilot's license in May of 1911, and in August, to mark the occasion of Queen's Day, Fokker circled Haarlem’s church in the Spin II. In 1912, the design of the third Spin was patented. Fokker, who in the meanwhile was earning a living as a demonstration pilot, borrowed money from his father in order to begin as an aircraft manufacturer; first in Johannisthal near Berlin, and later in Schwerin in Mecklenburg. His aeroplanes were soon in demand by the German Army (the Dutch Army used French airplanes).
The First World War offered the aviation industry unprecedented opportunities: downed enemy planes were studied, copied, and improved. The war in the air took off when it became possible to equip aircraft with machine guns, and thanks to Fokker, Germany was a step ahead in this respect.
After the war, Fokker managed without too many problems to move a large part of his German business to the Netherlands. His Nederlandsche Vliegtuigenfabriek was established in 1919 at the site of the Eerste Luchtverkeer Tentoonstelling Amsterdam (ELTA), which had recently taken place there. For Fokker’s friend, the aviation pioneer Albert Plesman, the ELTA also formed the direct impetus for the creation of his Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (KLM). Fokker and Plesman and would remain friends until their divergent business interests turned them into competitors.
In 1921, Fokker set up an office in the United States, followed in 1923 by the creation of the Atlantic Aircraft Corporation and the construction of a number of Fokker factories in the United States. At the end of the 1920s, Fokker was largest aircraft manufacturer in the world. But in 1930, he withdrew from the American subsidiary after it was acquired by General Motors. In the meantime, Fokker had become an American citizen. During the 1930s, Fokker also lost his market share elsewhere because of competition from new American planes that were made entirely of metal.
In the middle of 1939, Fokker was admitted to the hospital for an operation on his sinuses, but died shortly afterwards due to complications.
- 1921—Person (on screen)
- 1921—Person (on screen)
- 1925—Person (subject)
- 1957—Character (historical)