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Anthony Fokker

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File:Anthony fokker.jpg
Anthony Fokker, posing for a German postcard in World War I

Anton Herman Gerard Fokker (April 6, 1890December 23, 1939) was a pioneer in aviation and a Dutch-American aircraft manufacturer.

Early life

Anthony (Tony) Fokker was born in Kediri, East Java (then Dutch East Indies, now Indonesia), son of Herman Fokker, a Dutch coffee plantation owner.

Four years later the family returned to the Netherlands and settled in Haarlem in order to provide Tony and his older sister Toos with a Dutch upbringing. Just like his father, Tony was not studious but rather played with model trains and steam engines, and did not complete his high school education. He devised a leak-proof tire but this was not an original invention and was already patented.

Move to Germany

File:Anthony Fokker 1912.jpg
Anthony Fokker in 1912.

In 1910, at age 20, Fokker was sent by his father to Germany to receive training as a mechanic. Yet his interest was in flying, prompting him to change schools. That same year Fokker built his first aircraft "de Spin" ("the Spider"), which was destroyed by his business partner who flew it into a tree. He gained his pilot license in his second "Spin" plane. In his own country, he became a celebrity by flying around the tower of the Sint-Bavokerk in Haarlem on August 31, 1911, with the third version of the "Spin". He also added to his fame by flying on the birthday of Queen Wilhelmina.

In 1912, Fokker moved to Johannisthal near Berlin where he founded his first own company, Fokker Aeroplanbau. In the following years he constructed a variety of airplanes. He relocated his factory to Schwerin where it was renamed Fokker Flugzeugwerke GmbH, and later shortened to Fokker Werke GmbH.

At the onset of World War I, the German government took control of the factory. Fokker remained as director and designed many aircraft for the Imperial German Army Air Service (Luftstreitkräfte), including the Fokker Dr.I, the triplane made famous in the hands of aces such as Manfred von Richthofen (the Red Baron). He also designed the synchronization gear that allowed the machine gun to be fired through the propeller blades, resulting in a phase of German air-superiority known as the Fokker Scourge. In all, his company delivered about 700 military planes to the German air force.

Return to the Netherlands

After the war's end, the terms of the Treaty of Versailles forbade Germany to build any aircraft or aircraft engines. In 1919 Fokker returned to the Netherlands and started a new aircraft company, the Nederlandse Vliegtuigenfabriek (Dutch Aircraft Factory), predecessor to the Fokker Aircraft Company. Despite the strict disarmament conditions in the Treaty, Fokker did not return home empty-handed: he managed to smuggle an entire train's worth of D.VII and C.I military planes and spare parts across the German-Dutch border. This initial stock enabled him to quickly set up shop, but his focus shifted from military to civil aircraft such as the very successful Fokker F.VII trimotor.

On March 25 1919, Fokker married Sophie Marie Elisabeth von Morgen in Haarlem. This marriage lasted four years.

Move to the US and death

In 1922, he moved to the United States and later became an American citizen. Here he established the American branch of his company, the Atlantic Aircraft Corporation. In 1927, Fokker married Violet Austman in New York City.

He died in New York in 1939 of complications of sinus surgery. He was 49 years old.

Popular culture




  • Dierikx, Marc. Fokker: A Transatlantic Biography. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1997. ISBN 1-56098-735-9.
  • Molson, K.M. Pioneering in Canadian Air Transport. Winnipeg, Canada: James Richardson & Sons, Ltd., 1974. ISBN 0-919212-39-5.
  • Nevin, David. The Pathfinders (The Epic of Flight Series). Alexandria, Virginia: Time-Life Books, 1980. ISBN 0-8094-3256-0.
  • Postma, Thijs. Fokker: Aircraft Builders to the World. London: Jane's, 1979. ISBN 0-531-03708-0.

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