KLM and the Fokker F.II and F.III

By: Rob Mulder

The Fokker F.II was the first of a long range of aircraft that KLM purchased from the Nederlandsche Vliegtuigfabriek NV (Fokker) before the Second World War. KLM had opened its first air service on May 17, 1920 with leased British aircraft, but ordered in July 1920 the first Fokker F.IIs. The fleet was within two years extended by the new Fokker F.IIIs. In this article we give a short introduction of both aircraft. This article is the second version. The first version has been taken down from the internet after just one day since the information was incomplete. Thanks to Herman Dekker we have now verified all information.

The first aircraft for the KLM

The airline company KLM – Royal Dutch Airlines was formed on October 7, 1919 and was headed by the famous lieutenant Albert Plesman, organizer of the first air exhibition of the Netherlands, the ELTA. Right after the foundation the KLM joined the International Air Traffic Association – IATA that had its offices in the same city as the KLM, Den Haag (The Hague). The winter of 1919-20 was used for the organisation of the company. Albert Plesman started to look for suitable aircraft and for partners to work with. On May 10, 1920 it eventually signed an agreement with the British firm Aircraft Transport & Travel Ltd – AT&T. The two companies were to fly the air service Amsterdam – Rotterdam – London where AT&T would lease aircraft and crews to KLM. The first season KLM therefore operated an extensive fleet of English aircraft. On May 17, 1920 the first flight between London and Amsterdam was made by an Airco DH 16. Jerry Shaw had the honour to be the first pilot on this route. Except for the Second World War, this route has been operated ever since and can in 2005 celebrate its 95th birthday. The first passengers were two English journalists and also on board were a present from the Lord Major of London for his colleague in Amsterdam and a package with English newspapers. KLM also signed an agreement with the Dutch Royal Mail (signed on March 29, 1920) thus securing the transportation of airmail between the two cities as well. For this purpose KLM had to sign an agreement with Handley Page Transport Ltd since the British government had assigned this company to this company. On July 5, 1920 the pilot Hinchcliffe with the DH 9, G-EAMX (1) made the first flight with airmail from Holland to England.
The regular air services were changed from three times weekly into daily (except on Sundays) from June 28. And from July 12 the frequency increased to two daily departures. A new air service was inaugurated on September 1, 1920 in co-operation with the German airline company Deutsche Luft Reederei GmbH (DLR): Amsterdam – Bremen – Hamburg – København (Copenhagen). Also here a pool agreement was signed and AEG and LVG biplanes operated the air service. On October 31 all services were suspended because of the autumn weather. During the winter KLM could prepare itself for the next season with its own aircraft.

The Fokker F.II

When the KLM opened on May 17, 1920 the air service Amsterdam – Rotterdam – London Anthony Herman Fokker sent up his Fokker F.II in the air to impress the director of KLM, Albert Plesman. This was important, because before the KLM decided about an aircraft, the company investigated the possibility of buying, some Junkers F 13s from Germany. The aircraft was regarded as too expensive. Anthony Fokker had built the prototype of the Fokker F.II (known as V.45) at its factory in Schwerin (Germany). The prototype had made its maiden flight in October 1919. He sent Bernard de Waal to Schwerin to get the aircraft and transfer it to the Netherlands. The Germans were however prohibited to export aircraft so Bernard de Waal took off directly from the hangar. He managed to fool some German police officers after an forced landing and reached the north of the Netherlands. He landed near the Frisian village of Surhuisterveen to deliver a sewing machine that he had taken along for someone in Friesland. By train and ship the aircraft was transferred to Amsterdam and repaired. The aircraft was in December 1920 sold to the Dutch Rijksstudiedienst voor de Luchtvaart (Government Aviation Research Esthablishment) and used without  registration until 1931.

The Fokker F.II was a high-wing monoplane with fabric covered welded steel-tube fuselage and thick-section all-wood wing with ply covering. The wings were built in one piece and bolted to the top of the fuselage. The wing of the F.II tapered slightly in chord and sharply in thickness. The fuselage was of rectangular section, had hardly any taper in side elevation and ended in a vertical knife edge. The cabin for four passengers was beneath the wing, had three windows each side and a door in the port side. A fifth passenger could be carried beside the pilot in the open cockpit, which was immediately forward of the cabin (2).

On July 10 KLM ordered two Fokker F.IIs. The original aircraft was powered by a 185 hp BMW IIIa. Both aircraft were delivered to the KLM on August 25 and on September 13, 1920 registered as H-NABC (c/n 4057) and H-NABD (c/n 4058), but it would take until September 30 before the first aircraft took off for its maiden flight to London. The first flight was made by the Englishman Hinchliffe be it not without problems. But especially the engine gave problems. The technicians of the KLM managed to keep the aircraft flying, but in the winter of 1920-21 the engines were replaced by the 240 hp Armstrong Siddeley Puma that led to more reliability. The flight to London was made to give a demonstration flight for the English Air Ministry and later at Cricklewood for Handley Page Ltd and Aircraft Transport & Travel – AT&T.
On April 14, 1921 H R H Prince Hendrik performed the official opening of the new season. For the first time only Fokker-aircraft were used. In 1921 the two F.IIs made 55 flying hours and the next year 366 flying hours. This increased in 1925 to 439 hours. But the aircraft were not too much used. The Fokker F.III (see below) took over the air services and the F.IIs were only in reserve. It must be noted that the aircraft flew until September 1927 for KLM, but were soon replaced by the improved Fokker F.III. The two KLM-aircraft were sold to the Belgian airline company SABENA, where they were registered as OO-AIC and OO-AIB.

Another H-NABC exists! Between 1994 and 2004 the Fokker factory paid for and built a new Fokker F.II. The aircraft even received an original constructor’s number! The last known c/n was 1596, while c/n 1597 could not be confirmed, so the new H-NABC was allotted the c/n 1598. It is now exhibited at the Aviodrome at Lelystad Airport. An original Armstrong Siddeley Puma engine was found as well and installed. During our visit in the summer of 2004 we saw the aircraft and were impressed by the work done. Congratulations to the museum!

The Fokker F.III

Already before the delivery of the first Fokker F.IIs to the KLM the F.III was ready on the drawing board. A mock-up was constructed in Amsterdam and the designer Reinhold Platz returned to German to construct the prototype at the Fokker FlugzeugWerke GmbH at Schwerin. On November 20, 1920 the first flight with the prototype of the Fokker F.III (see picture of the aircraft at Amsterdam-Schiphol) was made with the KLM-pilot Hinchcliff at the controls. One month earlier (October 29) KLM had ordered the first Fokker F.III for delivery before the start of 1921-season. On April 14, 1921 the first Fokker F.III of the KLM entered service. At that day eight Fokker F.IIIs were delivered and registered as H-NABG to H-NABN. With the Fokker F.III, H-NABH the English pilot Gordon Olley inaugurated the air service Amsterdam – Rotterdam – London. Ray Hinchliffe inaugurated the air service from London with the Fokker F.III, H-NABH. Walter George Raymond Hinchliffe was born in Liverpool on June 10, 1894 and was a Great War fighter ace with 10 Squadron Royal Naval Air Service and 210 Squadron RAF. He joined KLM after the Great War.

At the same day a Fokker F.III flown by the German pilot Gnädig inaugurated the air service from Rotterdam to Amsterdam, Bremen and Hamburg. If this was not enough the next air service was opened just three weeks afterwards. In co-operation with the Belgian airline company SNETA and the French airline company CMA, KLM inaugurated the Amsterdam – Rotterdam – Brussels – Paris route. It was Gordon Olley that took the Fokker F.III, H-NABK on the first flight to Brussel. Here the passengers had to transfer to the Belgian or French aircraft that continued to Paris. There was no Air Treaty between Netherlands and France, thus KLM could fly all the way to Paris. That would take another two years.

Just five weeks after the opening of the air routes, the first Fokker F.III (H-NABL) was destroyed beyond repair due to an accident near Hekelingen (NL).  In June this aircraft was replaced by a new aircraft with the same registration in addition to two other aircraft that were ordered one month later: H-NABQ and H-NABT. The new Fokker F.III, H-NABL did not stay in service very long. Already on October 26 that year it was destroyed beyond repair following an accident at Rotterdam/Waalhaven.

For the first time KLM wanted to operate the services throughout the winter, but the on October 3 the service to Hamburg had to closed due to the general German economical situation and the dizzying inflation. On  November 19, 1921 the route to London was discontinued due to the uncertainly about the Dutch subsidy. The Fokker F.III had made 1,195 flights and carried 1,664 passengers, 1,547.885 kgs of mail and 38,907.175 kgs of freight. The aircraft had also made some special flights of which the annual repport mentioned the first night flight from Amsterdam to Berlin and Berlin – Amsterdam – London – Amsterdam on one day. Also a flight Amsterdam – Dortmund – Rotterdam – London  – Amsterdam on one day was made by one of the Fokker F.IIIs.

1922: The second year with the Fokker F.III

During the winter the Technical Department of the KLM overhauled all aircraft and their engines. On February 4, 1922 the KLM was asked by the Dutch Post Office to start up an air service from Amsterdam to Bremen and Hamburg. Due to the German railway strike, mail could not be carried and the aircraft seemed to be the perfect solution. The flights were made between February 5 and 10 and beside 1,535 kg mail, 26 paying passengers were transported. In addition KLM was asked to fly to the isolated Frisian islands and on January 6 and 28 and February 5 and 10 such flights were made commissioned by the Dutch Post Office and the Gist- en Spiritusfabriek (a yeast and distillery factory) from Delft.

The fleet of KLM consisted out of two Fokker F.IIs and ten Fokker F.IIIs. In addition it operated two De Havilland DH.9. The pilots were beside the German Wende, all Dutch and later the Russian-born pilot Ivan Smirnoff was taken over from the Belgian company SNETA.

The first loss of an aircraft was registered on May 17, when the Fokker F.III, H-NABT was destroyed beyond repair following an forced landing near Hythe (UK). On June 22, KLM could announce that it had flown 1,000,000 kilometres without a casualty. On August 21 the KLM-fleet of Fokker F.IIIs was further extended by the delivery of another three aircraft: H-NABS, H-NABU and H-NABV. Latter two had their wing mounted 25 centimetres above the fuselage (see picture of H-NABU) and the Siddeley Puma engine was replaced by the new 360 hp Rolls Royce Eagle VIII. Furthermore the fuselage was one metre longer, allowing a sixth passenger to be carried in the cabin.

In 1922 KLM operated pretty much the same network as in 1921: Amsterdam – Rotterdam – London, Amsterdam – Brussels – Paris and the domestic service Amsterdam – Rotterdam. On June 1, SNETA discontinued its operations and KLM completely took over the service between Amsterdamn and Brussels. The connection in Brussels to Paris in co-operation with the French airline company Compagnie des Messageries Aériennes – CMA did not function well due to the constant delay of the French aircraft. During the summer season KLM offered twice daily service to London in co-operation with the English airline company Daimler Airways Ltd. The service to Bremen and Hamburg was discontinued because of the problems with the German inflation. It was financially not possible to operate the service. This influenced also the results on the service to London and Paris, as many foreign passengers flew from their home country by KLM to Germany.

1922 also saw some special flights: On August 28 and 29 special flights between Amsterdam and Groningen commissioned by the Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf; On September 6, Geijssendorffer flew non stop from Amsterdam to København (Copenhagen, Denmark) with a Fokker F.III filled with flowers. It returned the next day with films about the visit to København of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. Special flights were also made to Oostende (Belgium), Vlissingen, Ede and Brussels (Belgium). For the first time flowers were carried on a large scale on behalf of flower florists from Boskoop. In June and July 3,837 kgs fresh flowers were flown to London. Generally the transportation of freight increased by some 100 %.

In 1923 saw changes in the line to Paris. On April 1 the lines to Brussels and London were re-opened, but after the hurdles were taken down, KLM was able to start on June 4 its own service from Amsterdam via Rotterdam and Brussels to Paris. Thus a twice daily air service was operated. The Dutch captain Hofstra made that day the first through KLM-service to Paris by the Fokker F.III, H-NABK, while Ivan Smirnoff made the first return flight in the Fokker F.III, H-NABM. On November 21 the condition of the air field Haren near Brussels was so bad that the landing there had to be dropped.

By the way, the latter aircraft was lost in accident on July 17 on Croydon, while Ivan Smirnoff lost his Fokker F.III, H-NABH on October 19 after an emergency landing on  Goodwin Sands. Again, the aircraft were lost, but there were no casualties.

KLM wanted to open an air route on Köln (Cologne, Germany), but political problems made this impossible. During a Belgian railway strike the frequence on Brussels was increased to once every hour. In addition some twenty extra flights were made from Germany to London. On joy-ride flights some 1,747 passengers were booked.

But it was time to find a successor of the Fokker F.III and in 1923 the Board of Directors of the KLM decided that the Fokker F.VII was to become this successor and three samples were ordered.

The next year saw the first fatal casualties in the history of the KLM. On April 24 the Dutch Captain Pijl and his two passengers disappeared with the Fokker F.III, H-NABS on a flight from London to Rotterdam. After an extra landing at Lympe to load some freight the aircraft departed without any problems, but must have fallen into the Channel. No wreckage or traces of the aircraft or its passengers was ever found.

The technical department at Rotterdam/Waalhaven managed to built a new Fokker F.III with the registration H-NABM (2) from parts of other Fokker F.IIIs and some new parts from the factory. In August it was taken in use.

In 1925 the first Fokker F.VII and F.VIIa entered service with the KLM and they took over the tasks of the Fokker F.III. The last Fokker F.III to open an air service was the H-NABQ. It was used by Captain Scholte on the inaugural flight from Rotterdam to Dortmund (Germany) on July 14, 1925. Due to bad results the line was discontinued on October 17.

Two aircraft were lost in 1925: On June 25, the Fokker F.III, H-NABM (2) was lost near Landrécies (France). The pilot Klunder and three passengers were killed and the aircraft lost. He was on his way to Paris and entered a weather front with rain. In a right hand swing the aileron on the right side was teared off causing the aircraft to crash. The next aircraft lost was the Fokker F.III, H-NABI. The failure of the rudder caused the aircraft to crash near Hamburg (Germany).

In the autumn of 1925 two Fokker F.IIIs (H-NABU and H-NABV) fitted with a 420 hp Gnome-Rhône aircooled 6 cylinder engine. They were mounted to test air-cooled engines.

But the increasing use of Fokker F.VII and F.VIIa also led to the selling of the first Fokker F.IIIs. On April 10, 1926 five Fokker F.IIIs were flown in formati­on from Amsterdam’s airport Schiphol to Basel, the main base of the Swiss airline company Balair. The KLM-pilots, who were assigned to fly the Fokker F.IIIs were Geyssendorffer (with H-NABG, c/n 1503), Scholte (with H-NABJ, c/n 1506), Sillevis (with H-NABK, c/n 1507), Duimelaar (with H-NABN, c/n 1510) and Iwan Smir­noff (with H-NABQ, c/n 1529). The aircraft made an extra landing at Köln, where H-NABJ with its pilot Scholte, had a delayed start due to ignition-problems. Nevertheless they all arrived at Basel at 3.15 pm. The aircraft were used on flights to Genève, Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Lyon and Stuttgart.

Just a few weeks later (on April 13) the Fokker F.III, H-NABU was lost in an accident near Amsterdam/Schiphol. Thus only the H-NABR and H-NABV were left.  They were used for freight- and photographic flights. The Fokker F.VII and F.VIIa had taken over the work from the obsolete Fokker F.IIIs.

The fate of the last two aircraft: The H-NABR was lost on July 24, 1928 following an accident during a photographic flight near Rotterdam. It hit the mast of a ship in the harbour and crashed into the water. One passenger drowned. That year the last remaining Fokker F.III (H-NABV) was re-engined with a 420 hp Gnome-Rhône Titan engine with a metal Curtiss Reed propellor. It continued to fly for KLM and was in February 1929 re-registered as PH-ABV. One year later (November 1930) it was sold for £ 300,-,- without an engine to the Australian Ray Parer, owner of the Bulolo Goldfields & Co.

(1) Some sources claim that the Airco DH 9 carried the registration G-EAPU or G-EAQP.
(2) From “European Transport Aircraft since 1910” by John Stroud.

The fleet

The fleet of Fokker F.IIs and F.IIIs in service with KLM is complete.

C/n 4057 Fokker F.II
Engine: 1x 178 pk Mercedes III, later 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
D 57 .19 Fokker Flugzeugwerke AG, Schwerin
25.08.20 Delivered to KLM, Den Haag
H-NABC 13.09.20 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
.21 Registration cancelled
H-NABC 04.10.21 Re-registered
21.08.22 Crashed at Tienen (Belgium)
29.08.22 BvI (Certificate of Registration) temperary withdrawn
23.03.23 BvI awarded again
22.9.27 Registration cancelled
O-BAIC 09.27 Registered to SABENA, Brussels (Belgium)
OO-AIC 20.06.29 Re-registered
C/n 4058 Fokker F.II
Engine: 1x 185 pk BMW IIIa, later 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NAHD .20 Registration applied but not taken up and cancelled
25.08.20 Delivered to KLM, Den Haag
H-NABD 13.09.20 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
01.12.20 Registration cancelled
H-NABD 11.21 Re-registered
22.9.27 Registration cancelled
O-BAIB 09.27 Registered to SABENA, Brussels (BE)
OO-AIB 20.06.29 Re-registered
05.05.36 Registration cancelled, 1937 broken up
C/n 1503 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABG 13.04.21 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
10.04.26 Delivered to Balair, Basel (CH)
28.04.26 Dutch registration cancelled
CH 152 .26 Registered to Balair, Basel
C/n 1504 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABH 13.04.21 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
30.08.21 Tipped over near Groningen
06.10.22 BvI temporary withdrawn
H-NABH <01.05.23 Re-registered
19.10.23 Forced landing at Goodwin Sands (UK) and lost.
13.11.23 Cancelled
C/n 1505 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABI 13.04.21 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
04.11.25 Crashed near Hamburg (Germany)
13.11.25 Cancelled
14.12.28 Wing used by RSL for wing tests
C/n 1506 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABK Officially awarded but not taken up
H-NABJ 13.04.21 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
29.03.24 Accident at Antwerpen (Belgium)
BvI temperary withdrawn
H-NABJ 16.07.24 Re-registered
10.04.26 Delivered to Balair, Basel (CH)
28.04.26 Cancelled
CH 153 .26 Registered to Balair, Basel
.28 Crashed near Lausanne/Blecherette (CH)
C/n 1507 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABL Officially awarded but not taken up
H-NABK 13.04.21 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
10.04.26 Delivered to Balair, Basel (CH)
CH 154 .26 Registered to Balair, Basel
13.08.26 Dutch registration expired
C/n 1508 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABM Officially awarded but not taken up
H-NABL (1) 13.04.21 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
20.05.21 Crashed near Hekelingen (NL)
19.07.21 Cancelled. Rebuilt as c/n 1533
C/n 1533 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
Ex c/n 1508.
H-NABL (2) 30.08.21 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
26.10.21 Crashed at Rotterdam/Waalhaven
Rebuilt as H-NABR (see below)
C/n 1509 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABN Officially awarded but not taken up
H-NABM (1) 13.04.21 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
17.07.23 Crashed at London/Croydon (UK)
27.07.23 Cancelled, parts used for H-NABM (2)
C/n K.L.M.2 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
Built by KLM from parts mainly H-NABM (1)
H-NACA Was to be registered as H-NACA, but not taken up
H-NABM (2) 05.06.24 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
25.06.25 Crashed at Landrécies (BE)
Registration not officially cancelled
C/n 1510 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABO Was to be registered as H-NABO, but not taken up
H-NABN 13.04.21 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
10.04.26 Delivered to Balair, Basel (CH)
CH 155 .26 Registered to Balair, Basel
.29 Registered to Ostschweizerische Aero Ges. St. Gallen
.29 Demolished and cancelled
C/n 1525 Fokker F.III
H-NABS Officially awarded but not taken up
C/n 1530 Fokker F.III
H-NABR 28.04.21 Registration request, but sold to Deutsche Luftreederei
C/n 1531

Fokker F.III

H-NABS 28.04.21 Registration request, but sold to Deutsche Luftreederei

C/n 1529

Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABQ 05.21 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
10.04.26 Delivered to Balair, Basel (CH)
CH 156 .26 Registered to Balair, Basel
.26 Crashed at Borex near Nyon (CH)
C/n 1533 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
Built by KLM from parts of other Fokker F.III (H-NABL)
H-NABR 16.06.22 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
24.07.28 Crashed at Rotterdam/Waalhaven
13.08.28 BvI expired
C/n 1535 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABS 12.05.22 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
15.08.23 BvI temporary expired, but re-registered
24.04.24 Disappeared while flying above The Channel
12.05.24 Cancelled
C/n 1532 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Siddeley Puma
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABT 05.21 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
17.05.22 Crashed near Hythe (UK)
15.06.22 Cancelled
C/n 1662 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Roll Royce Eagle IX later 1x 400 hp  Jupiter
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABU 10.08.22 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
13.04.26 Crashed at Amsterdam/Schiphol
27.04.26 Cancelled
C/n 1663 Fokker F.III
Engine: 1x 240 hp Roll Royce Eagle IX later 1x 400 hp  Jupiter
Regn. Date Remarks
H-NABV 10.08.22 Registered to KLM, Den Haag
PH-ABV 28.02.29 Re-registered
VH-UQF 03.12.30 Delivered to Bulolo Goldfields & Co, but crashed