Persistent gogetting

In the early twenties, all flights were executed under VFR conditions , keeping visual contact with the ground and with obstacles.

The altitude depended from the lowest clouds. Pilots did not even attempt to fly in the clouds, they got easily desorientated and there were no instruments available to inform the pilot about the position of the aircraft.

Persistent go-getting was common, however took the lifes from several Dutch pilots.

Amazing is the story of airman Hofstra, who safely landed in England after some frightening hours in fog and clouds over the English Channel

Read more about this adventure
(in Dutch)

Netherlands-Indies Flying Expedition Committee, third from the left General Snijders, second from the right Anthony Fokker The Fokker F.VIIa which made the first flight to the Dutch East Indies

Fokker shakes hands with Van der Hoop. The departure of the first flight to Batavia is about to take place

Emergencylanding in Philippopel, Bulgaria

New engine, gift from 'het leven'In Sengora

End of the first journeyThe crew of the first flight to the Dutch Indies: Van der Hoop, Van Weerden Poelman and Van den Broeke. On the right General Snijders and most left Albert Plesman

The crew of the H-NACC celebrating their return to Schiphol. Left Plesman, Van den Broeke, Van Weerden Poelman, van der Hoop. Further right Fokker and General SnijdersClose-up of the Rolls-Royce Eagle engine, the cockpit and the landinggear of the F.VII. The pilot was still rather unprotected in the open air

Fokker F.VII cabinFokker F.7 HN-ACC, Click to enlarge



Testflight to Batavia

The KLM called itself "Royal Dutch Airlines for the Netherlands and its colonies". This add indicated great plans for services in and to the Dutch colonies in the East Indies.

Reality however was a lot more modest.
It is already mentioned, flying regular services, through fog and low clouds, was quite a challenge in the early twenties, even with the best flying material available. The Fokker FIII had a range of 450 kilometers, not yet a suitable aircraft for a service to the Dutch Indies with a length of 16.000 kilometers.

On 12 November 1919 however, the Smith brothers Ross and Keith, departed from London in a Vickers Vimy bomber on the first flight to Australia.

The two pioneers safely landed their aircraft en that continent on 12 December.

In The Netherlands, their much-talked-of flight stimulated the vision of an air connection with Holland's large island colony in the Far East, the Dutch East Indies.


KLM Poster

Poster from 1924

What interested the Dutch especially wasthat the Vimy had made landings in the archipelago on its way to Australia. Year after year thereafter, Plesman and Fokker asked themselves why the Dutch could not do what the English had achieved in 1919.

The Vimy, as a bomber, had not even been designed for such pioneering flights.

Suitable aircraft

A suitable type of aircraft was still not available in Holland - until a new Fokker commercial airliner, the F.VII, changed everything.

The F.VII was a logical step forward after the F.IV and F.V.

Increasing air traffic demanded larger and more modern aircraft that could fly over longer distances carrying more passengers. Also, Plesman was conscious of the limitations of the five-seat F.III and told Fokker that he wanted to have a bigger aircraft. This led to a contract between KLM and Fokker on 10 December 1923 for the delivery of a passenger aircraft of the type F.VII.
The fact that Plesman wanted to fly to the Indies with this aircraft played an important part in its design,


and it could well be that Fokker took this into account.

He certainly much regretted that the F.V was not suited to flying to the Indies and that the Netherlands-Indies Flying Expedition Committee had turned down the military C.IV as it definitely wanted a real passenger aircraft.

Plans were made however and a large reward was put up for the first pilot to accomplish this first flight.

Until, in 1923, Dutch pilot Van der Hoop, designed a possible route for the flight and went to his director Plesman with it.

The route

Amsterdam - Praag 846 km
Praag - Belgrado 920 km
Beigrado - Konstantinopel 1008 km
Konstantinopel- Angora 475 km
Angora - Aleppo 820 km
Aleppo - Bagdad 812 km
Bagdad - Basra 575 km
Basra - Bushire 425 km
Bushire - Bender Abbas 695 km
Bender Abbas - Charbar 520 km
Charbar - Karachi 675 km
Karachi - Multan 910 km
Multan - Ambala 600 km
Ambala - Allahabad 850 km
Allahabad - Calcutta 770 km
Calcutta - Akyab 710 km
Akyab - Rangoon 570 km
Rangoon - Bangkok 790 km
Bangkok - Sengora 865 km
Sengora - Medan 563 km
Medan - Muntok 1000 km
Muntok - Batavia 500 km
Total 15899 km

Test flights

On 11 April 1924, the F.VII, still without registration letters, made its first flight from Schiphol with the Fokker test pilot Herman Hess at the steering wheel. That was the start of a series of test flights performed at high tempo.

KLM test pilot A. N. J. Thomassen à Thuessink van der Hoop (more commonly known as van der Hoop) joined the flights on a number of occasions preparatory to the flight he wanted to make to the Indies with the new Fokker aircraft which had meanwhile been chosen for this pioneering venture.

The Indies flight was to be made by van der Hoop together with Lieutenant H van Weerden Poelman of the Army Aviation Department , and KLM flight engineer P. A. van den Broeke.

After the introduction of a number of technical changes such as the fitting of a different stabilizer, the machine was handed over to KLM on 17 June and given the registration H-NACC. KLM started to build up experience with the F.VII on the airline's busy routes. On 1 September 1924, the aircraft was officially sold to the Netherlands-Indies Flying Expedition Committee. The name Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij (Royal Dutch Airlines) stayed on the aircraft in full, together with the KLM logo.


For the Indies flight, H-NACC had to be drastically modified, and Fokker therefore started to work on the aircraft again with a will. The capacity of the fuel tank was enlarged from 66 to 224 gallons and because of the warm climate that the F.VII would be experiencing, a supplementary radiator was fitted under the engine.

On top of the engine, an extra cooling water tank was installed and all bur two of the cabin windows were covered with fabric.

As there were no passengers, the seats were removed - and to prevent the aircraft sinking in soft landing fields, larger wheels were fitted. A result of these numerous changes was that the machine was much lighter.

This was necessary to enable sufficient fuel to be loaded plus a selection of spare parts including a propeller, cylinders, pistons and magnets.

In spite of all these precautions, much remained for improvisation en route. For example, navigation when flying over countries and areas that were hardly mapped.

Here van der Hoop had to use survey maps which were far from complete and were to different scales. The map of Thailand even had the place-names printed in local characters.

Emergency landing

One month later, on 1 October, H-NACC was waved-off at the start of its historic flight from Schiphol. Two days later the flight was interrupted by an engine failure. The reserve radiator sprang a leak, allowing the cooling water to escape. Following this, there was an unfortunate emergency landing near the Bulgarian town of Philippopel. The undercarriage was crippled and the wing slightly damaged, all of which could luckily be repaired on the spot.

More dramatic was the state of the engine which was so bad that a new power unit was needed - but the budget made no allowance for this.

The Dutch magazine 'Het leven' ('The Life'), a rather saucy magazine for those days - it even showed pictures of women in bathing costumes - came to the rescue. Via a collection raised by its readers, the magazine provided the money for a new power unit. The engine was installed on the spot under primitive conditions, enabling the flight to be resumed on 2 November after a month's delay.
The courageous crew were saved from any further incidents, and on 24 November H-NACC arrived in Batavia where the crew were given an enthusiastic welcome.

The 15,373 kilometre distance was covered in 55 days,


Emergencylanding in Philippopel, Bulgaria

with a total of 127 flight hours. Due to the extensive delays in Bulgaria, as a result of this engine trouble, the flight took almost two months to complete.

After a thorough inspection in Bandoeng, H-NACC made a number of flights over the Indies. After this, Rotterdamse Lloyd brought the by now famous F.VII back to Holland free of charge onboard the steamer 'Kertosono'.

Those who thought that after this successful flight by H-NACC, there would be a regular service to the Indies, were wrong.

To outsiders, the F.VII no doubt appeared very modern, but those more intimately concerned with the aircraft knew only too well that there was still much to be done.

Air travel was really still in its infancy and much had yet to be created, designed and tested before a reliable air service over such long distances would be possible.