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Type F.III.
Type of aircraft
Country The Netherlands
Date first flight 1921
Crew 1
Wingspan 17,6 m
Lenght 11,1 m
number of passengers 5
Enginetype 1xSiddeley "Puma"
235 hp
max speed 160 km/h
cruise speed 135 km/h
range 600 km


In dribs and drabs, the F.III spread to other continents. it is likely that four F.IIIs ended up in America, although their subsequent history is sketchy. But it is certain - because of photos that exist - that Noel Wien, subsequently founder of Wien Alaska Airlines, operated one of these aircraft. Another aircraft, baptized 'Half Moon' - the name of an historical Dutch ship - was piloted by Bert Acosta who later became famous through his connection with the New York-Paris flight with a Fokker C..2 in 1927.

According to some stories, which cannot be verified, two of the aircraft finally resided in Canada with Northern Aerial Minerals Exploration Ltd. There is also an indication that an F.III was sold from the United States to Mexico.

Apparently the U.S. was not yet ripe for passenger air transport. The last KLM F.III reached Australia. The proud owner, named Pares, would not enjoy it for long. When the aviation authorities pointed out that the aircraft was required to have an Australian registration, Pares told them that because of a crash in a river, this would no longer be necessary. He kept the registration for his later Fokker F.VII.

As already mentioned, the Swiss airline Balair acquired five ex-KLM aircraft in 1926. These remained in service for two years during which time two crashed. One aircraft went to the Ost Schweizer Aero Gesellschaft (East Swiss Aero Company) and was demolished in 1929. The remaining two went to new Italian owners and what happened then to them remains shrouded in the mists of time.

In Holland the F.III stayed in production for just one year. Construction at Schwerin was terminated after a year following completion of 21 F.IIIs. At Deutsche Aero Lloyd, licensed manufacture of the F.III (and F.II) continued on to 1928.

Special development

With seaplanes playing an important role in the early years of aviation, Fokker developed a version of the F.III with floats. Because floats had a marked effect on the stability, the fuselage was lengthened and the rudder enlarged.

In addition the F.IIIw had a dorsal fin. This version, the F.IIIw, did not however go into series production. Only a few photos were saved, and there are no drawings, no test reports: nothing.

It is assumed that the sole F.IIIw was converted back to standard F.III configuration. More successful were two F.IIIs rebuilt by Karl Grulich at Deutsche Aero Lloyd for Deruluft.

These aircraft, in 1925, combined the F.III wing with a new or substantially modified fuselage, and a new rudder with dorsal fin. In this form, the aircraft received the designation Grulich V.I (or sometimes DALFokker F.III). Later, in 1928, the Rolls-Royce Eagle engine on one of these two was replaced by a Bristol Jupiter.

This aircraft was designated V.Ia (some sources say V.2). It remained with Deruluft as the last F.III and flew until 1930.

Fokker F.III

The H-NAB, the third F.III from KLM

Fokker factory in Amsterdam, 1921. On the right the F.III is assembled, left the production of the C.II

KLM Fokker F.III in front af the hangar

Fokker F.III just before the painting in the colours of the company

Anthony Fokker in the cockpit of a F.3. This photo shows clearly the position of the pilot next to the engine

This first F.3 (Anthony is inside) was demonstrated in the U.S. in the summer of 1921. The U.S. at that point were to far behind in civil airtransport to buy such a modern aircraft

The F.III at the Paris Air Show



The monoplane limousine

At the Paris Air Show - the platform from which aviation's latest innovations are made universally known the flying world in autumn 1921 stared in admiration at the latest Fokker commercial aircraft: the F.III.

This was the machine that Fokker made his debut with at Paris. It coincided with when flying was becoming a more serious thing. The aviation magazine 'Flight' was pleased to report that in general there were no more freak structures to be seen. No hobbyist and artistic daydreams only serious construction work. The F.III looked rather lost between its mainly French competitors.

Compared for instance with the four-engined Bleriot Spad 45 which could carry 20 passengers, the five-seat F.III was a dwarf.

But, not without reason, the trade press noted that such early giants of the air could turn out to be too large for the demand for air travel at that time. The F.III, although small, scarcely needed an introduction at the Show, having already performed reliably on the KLM Amsterdam-London route for some months. Fokker's memories of his first time at the Show were not entirely positive.

To avoid association with the First World War, he had presented himself under the official name of the Netherlands Aircraft Factory (Nederlandsche Vliegtuigenfabriek), omitting the name Fokker.
In addition, the prototype on display was painted in KLM livery when actually it was a factory aircraft.

And although the F.III had been built in Germany, Fokker presented it as a Dutch product.

These precautions did not help. The press soon made the connection with Fokker and,

Fokker F.III Aero Lloyd, C Arvo Karin

Fokker F.III, C Arvo Karin

The Gnome-Rhône Jupiter engine in the F.3

The split ailerons of the prototype F.III

Luxury passenger cabin of the F.III

F.III refuelling

as he was regarded as being German, there was a great commotion.

The Fokker stand came under extra security and Fokker himself was given a permanent escort, including when he went into town.

The aircraft builder enjoyed it very much when at times he managed to escape his protector.

On departing for Holland, the English pilot Hinchliffe performed some daring and strictly forbidden stunts with the F.III over Le Bourget as a cheeky farewell gesture to the French.


For the F.III, Fokker refined the F.II. Plesman was reasonably satisfied with the F.II, experience during KLM's first flying season had given him cause to suggest some improvements.

He wanted more speed and he did not like the seat next to the pilot because the passenger there had no protection against the weather.

Also, pilots complained about the limited view. At first Fokker pondered over the KLM objections, then he let his chief designer


Reinhold Platz come from Schwerin to Amsterdam to work out his ideas.

So in october 1920, in the original ELTA halls, a mock-up of the future F.III was built using tubing plywood and cardboard. After its completion, Platz returned to Schwerin to build the prototype.

The facilities at the Amsterdam factory were not yet equipped for this work and Platz had more experienced personnel at his disposal at Schwerin. The prototype was ready in just over four weeks.


Compared with the reconstructed military aircraft which were often used for passenger transport, this new Fokker was very luxurious. It received high praise. The aviation press described the F.III as a "monoplane limousine with an extremely comfortable cabin with well-sprung armchairs and fancy curtains, upholstered walls, carpet on the floor, flowers in a vase, a flap table with ashtray, a hat rack and grip tassels". One could travel in the F.III in any type of dress "because there is no dust, no wind, no smoke or fumes".

A journalist had apparently discovered this latter simply by being on the ground. in fact, during flight, summer or winter, the heating blew in extremely unfresh engine odors. It seems probable that those who needed fresh air had to open the windows.

The fifth seat in the F.II was moved into the cabin which was therefore widened. in this way the rear of the cabin provided space for a three-seat settee with in front, two luxury armchairs attached to the floor by cables. The most unusual feature of the new commercial airliner was the positioning of the pilot's seat alongside the engine instead of behind it. The engine had therefore to be offcheeky farewell gesture to the set 4 in. from the aircraft centerline.

Fokker was so delighted with this idea that he applied for and got a patent for it in Germany. As this meant that the cockpit had to be situated ahead of the fire wall, Platz did not share Fokker's enthusiasm. Nor were pilots happy with their position next to the asymmetrically-placed engine. They were - as they put it with some exaggeration "burned on one side and frozen on the other".

There is no doubt that it was unpleasant and Fokker's patent did not earn much. In the drawing attached to the patent the pilot was shown seated left, as in the F.III prototype. With later F.IIIs the pilot was seated right of the engine. Probably it was the type of engine that determined which side the pilot was. A frequently told story, that the pilot on the prototype was seated right because Hinchliffe, the test pilot was missing his left eye, is incorrect. From photos it can be seen that in the prototype the pilot was seated left. Left or right, the view compared with the F.II was greatly improved. This was especially so after a piece was taken out of the wing leading edge above the pilot's head, enabling his seat to be set higher.

This cut-out in the wing also provided the opportunity for placing the instruments either side of the pilot's head.


Ahead of the pilot, the space was insufficient even though the complete instrumentation consisted of only six gauges: rev counter, ammeter, clock, altimeter, speedometer and compass. Apart from the engine/pilot arrangement, the F.III did not differ substantially from the F.II. The wing struts were omitted, so that the F.III had a completely clean wing.

The fuselage consisted of a steel tube construction covered with fabric, as were the ailerons. The wing was made entirely of wood. The wheel track of the undercarriage was 7 ft 61/2 in, or only 13 per cent of the span. in later years, 20 per cent was more normal with Fokker. The half-round windows of the F.II were replaced by a trapezium-shape as this was constructionally more simple. The new windows were an easy point of recognition, just as the fin and rudder on the F.III had an additional rib at the tip. Even so, an F.III also flew with the smaller F.II fin and rudder. The F.III prototype was equipped with 185 hp BMW IIIla engine.

Fokker had easy and cheap access to these engines as they were widely available in Germany from war surplus stocks. KLM, however, found the power of the BMW insufficient and had the more powerful 230 hp Armstrong Siddeley Puma installed. On the prototype, various arrangements of exhaust pipe were tested.

One of them even went vertically up through the wing. As this meant that the hot exhaust was uncomfortably close to the wing fuel tank, it was very dangerous. Finally the choice was made for a sort of streamlined chimney located on top of the engine.

The fuselage of the F.III prototype was shorter than that of the F.II because by placing the pilot and the engine side by side, a more compact aircraft was obtained.

A disadvantage of the shorter fuselage was the introduction directional stability problems causing the machines to drift to left and right.

This fault was difficult to cure. Even lengthening the fuselage by some 30 in was no solution.

A number of other small adjustments were tested without the desired results. Eventually when lengthening was tried again, this together with the other adjustments gave the F.III a flight performance described as " excellent".

Aircraft construction in those days was often a matter of trial and error like this.

Test Program

The test program started on Saturday, 20 November 1920 with the first flight being made by Hinchliffe. That the Englishman Hinchliffe flew the F.III was rather surprising as he was employed by KLM and not Fokker. Apparently this assistance by KLM had been agreed on as part of the purchase contract signed on 29 October 1920, ahead of the aircraft's first flight.

After his, return from America, Fokker involved himself in the F.III test program. He flew the aircraft himself and noted that the ailerons did not function properly in turns. This was solved by cutting them in two and slightly turning the halves in opposite directions about their hinge.


The trailing edges of the aileron halves were then set 2 1/2 in apart.

Shortly after this, it was found that a change to the wingtip profile gave the same result, whereupon sawn ailerons were no longer seen. Fokker noticed that, in its maneuverability and light controllability, the F.III could well compete with fighter aircraft, Hinchliffe and another pilot, Lieutenant Steup, even held a mock dog fight between the F.III prototype and a Fokker C.1 of the Dutch Army's Aviation Department.

This was probably more of a publicity stunt than a serious test as it was certainly not the intention to sell the F.III as a fighter plane.


The visitors to the 1921 Paris Air Show were not the first to see the F.III. On 14 April that year, KLM had officially re-opened its scheduled services using the F.III. After a speech by the Netherlands' Minister of Waterways - at that time also responsible for air travel - Prince Hendrik, husband of Queen Wilhelmina of Holland, pulled the chocks away from the wheels of H-NABN and Hinchliffe departed for London. On the same day, Gordon Olley flew another F.III over the same route in the opposite direction.

After London, the F.III soon appeared on routes to Bremen, Hamburg, Brussels and Paris. Although the term 'launch customer' did not exist in the early 'twenties, KLM in fact performed that role for the F. III, The airline was the first to place an order - for eight aircraft - and had, as already evident, a major influence on the final configuration.

The close collaboration of KLM in the development of the F.III was also


demonstrated in a letter that Platz wrote to Plesman two days after the first flight.

In this, he urgently requested Plesman to send the complete set of instruments.

Platz warned that, otherwise, the agreed delivery date could not be met. Apparently KLM took care not only of the engines for its aircraft, but also of the instruments. For the price per machine, excluding engine and instruments, the KLM contract stated 22,000 Dutch guilders.

After its first order for eight aircraft, KLM purchased a further four, one of which replaced an aircraft damaged beyond repair following an accident at Helingen, south of Rotterdam. In addition, KLM's Technical Department itself built two F.IIIs from spare parts plus the remains of the crashed aircraft.

Finally, two machines were ordered in 1922 so that KLM eventually received a total of 16 aircraft. All those delivered in 1921 were build at Schwerin.


The F.III was popular not just because it lacked any real competition (the Allies permitted the metal Junkers F. 13 to fly with limited power only), but more especially because of the regularity with which it performed. In this way, the 'monoplane limousine' made its contribution to KLM's reputation for regularity - although it must be said that eventually as many as half of the aircraft had crashed. In most cases the accidents ended safely for the passengers.

A good illustration of the reliability of the KLM aircraft was given in a report in the Dutch daily newspaper 'De Telegraaf' of 11 June 192 1. Fokker used this report as an advertisement in 'Het Vliegveld' aviation magazine. Such reports, which regularly appeared in Dutch newspapers, were good advertisements for Fokker as well as for KLM. The English press also praised the regularity of KLM's service, and was amazed that the airline with the best reliability ceased operations over the winter months.

KLM did not think itself able to continue flying in the winter in a regular way. it declared a 'hibernation' after its first operating season, and did the same from 1 October for the winter of 1921/22. In contrast, Fokker thought that flying in the winter was technically feasible and that for financial reasons Plesman would also rather keep flying. That winter, KLM did in fact prove that flying was possible. From 1 November, it temporarily resumed services to Bremen because a railway strike in Germany had created a big demand for air travel. Later on, when fierce winter weather prevented ships from reaching the Frisian Islands, KLM came to their aid with the F.III.

The heating with its smelly "fresh warm air" performed well throughout. Because air travel was still very young, much was written about it. Unusual events went especially well with the reading public as the majority had never seen an aircraft close up.


So it was frontpage news when an F.III lost a wheel during take-off from Croydon. The pilot Scholte had not noticed anything nor, when a military aircraft was hurriedly sent aloft, did he understand the pilot's gestures.

And in those days, there was no radio on board. At Waalhaven, the Dutch destination, employees laid out large letters on the grass: "L WIEL AF" - left wheel off. This was successful. Scholte put the F.III down with extreme care on its remaining wheel. Only when the aircraft was almost at a standstill did it veer sideways.

For the passengers, the incident had no serious consequences. A breathtaking adventure for KLM pilot Twan Smirnoff - later to become famous - and four passengers occurred when engine trouble was experienced during a flight over the English Channel. Because the coast was too far away, Smirnoff decided to put the aircraft down on a sandbank of the Goodwin Sands which, thanks to the low tide, was above water. But the five were not yet safe.

The incoming tide made the situation very tricky indeed. Showing his initiative, Smirnoff fired-off flares and just in time succeeded in attracting the attention of a passing coalship, the 'Primo'. The vessel picked up all of them just as the plane itself disappeared below the waves. Although officially the F.III was designed with a cabin for five passengers, KLM often-flew with seven. When the authorities got to hear of this, they demanded a special test flight with seven passengers onboard, the fuel and oil tanks full plus a maximum load of cooling water.

The F.III took off with no difficulty. Except for the publicity, this experiment was of little practical use.

During the flight the baggage space was empty and the passengers were seated very tightly together.


As already mentioned, the KLM F.III were equipped with six-cylinder watercooled Armstrong Siddeley Puma engines, with the pilot seated on the right. When KLM bought its final two F.IIIs in 1922, these were equipped with the more powerful 360 hp Rolls-Royce Eagle VIII engine and the pilot was moved to the left. As with the Puma, the Eagle was watercooled. The cooling systems of such engines were however very prone to technical problems.

Engine manufacturers were therefore working hard on the development of reliable air-cooled engines - which would also save the weight of the cooling water. When the first reliable air-cooled units became available in 1925, KLM replaced the Eagle VIII in its final two F.IIIs by the Gnome-Rhône Jupiter VI nine-cylinder radial engine. And for a short period in 1928, H-NABV testflew the 240 hp Gnome-Rhône Titan. KLM did other key work on these last two F.IIIs.


Its Technical Service department rebuilt them as parasol planes in which a tubular construction was used to raise the wing to approximately 12 in above the fuselage. The reason behind this change was that calculations had suggested that this would achieve a worthwhile gain in speed. In practice, this was found not to be so and both parasol planes were soon re-modified. When, halfway through the'twenties, the F.VII and F.VIIa became available to KLM, the role of the F.III with the national airline was played out. The remaining aircraft were technically in perfect condition. This aroused the interest of the Swiss airline Balair which acquired five as a bargain. The aircraft all flew in neat formation from Rotterdam to Basel on 28 April 1926.

KLM kept two aircraft in service for some years on freight operations carrying for instance flowers, newspapers and day-old chicks. The airline sold its last F.III in 1930.


The F.III played a valued role in air transport not just in Holland but also outside. Exactly how many aircraft were operated abroad is not known, nor is it known how many were built. But information is still available on more than sixty F.IIIs, from which it can be seen that Deutsche Aero Lloyd and Deutsch-Russische Luftverkehrs; Gesellschaft (Deruluft), founded at the end of 1921, were the most important German customers.

An order from Deruluft in 1922 covered ten machines equipped with Rolls-Royce Eagle engines. These aircraft were partly built in Germany and completed at the Fokker plant at Veere in Holland. They were replaced between 1927 and 1930, most of them being resold to the Ukrainian airline Ukzvozdukhput. As well as at Schwerin, F.IIIs were built under license by Deutsche Aero Lloyd at Staaken airfield under the supervision of its Technical Director Karl Grulich.

Because the aircraft built at Aero Lloyd differed in some points of detail from those delivered from Holland, they were designated as Fokker-Grulich F..IIIs. The wings for the Fokker-Grulichs came from Albatros, as did those built under license for the F.II.


Deruluft acquired the sole rights for air travel between Germany and Russia.

On 30 April 1922 an F.III opened the Deruluft service to Moscow, and on 1 May the Moscow-Königsberg route joined the modest world airline network. Initially Deruluft flew both services twice a week. The Berlin-Moscow connection was so successful that within two years its frequency was increased to one flight every working day which then, meant six trips a week. At that time the journey by train took some five days; by aircraft, less than 24 hours. One day the Deruluft management noticed that the aircraft needed an unusually long run before liftoff.

Investigation showed that the reluctant departure was caused by extra weight from a substantial quantity of meat, cheese, perfume and watches that the pilots had hidden in a space in the F.III wing.

This smuggling was very lucrative because of the prevailing scarcities in Russia. Deruluft kept the monopoly on routes between Germany and Russia until 1936, but the F.Ills did not stay that long. The last, rebuilt as a Grulich V.2, was replaced by a Dornier Merkur in 1930.


Deruluft was not the only operator of German F.IIIIs. As well as Deutsche Aero Lloyd (already mentioned), the F.III was also flown by Deutsche Luft Reederei, Süddeutsche Luft Hansa and Deutsche Aero Luft. Because of airline mergers and bankruptcies, the F.IIIs regularly changed ownership. The last F.III remained in the service of German aviation up to 1936. Most of the German operators flew with BMW engines. The 185 hp BMW IIIa engine however, had been found not to be powerful enough in the prototype.

Later, BMW came out with the 250 hp BMW IV and the even more powerful 320 hp BMW Va. The latter engine was fitted to a number of Fokker-Grulich F.IIIs which were given the identification F.IIIc.

This prompts the question: was there ever an F.IIIa or F.IIIb?


There certainly was, but neither got beyond the drawing board.

These versions were characterized by a larger wing: with the F.IIIa 491.4 sq ft, and with the F.IIIc 560.0 sq ft. The Hungarian airline Malert used yet another power unit having, in 1922, ordered six F.IIIs with BMW IIIa engines. Later the Hungarians preferred their own 230 hp Hiero IV engine.

The aircraft of Malert flew to Vienna and Belgrade through to 1929. Four F.IIIs entered service with the Danish airline Det Danske Luftfartselskab (DDL) in 1925 and operated routes to Hamburg and Belgrade.

Two of the Danish aircraft later came to England to fly with British Airlines. This company went broke however before it could operate its first scheduled service.