The Fokker F.VII, also known as the Fokker Trimotor, was an airliner produced in the 1920s by the Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker, Fokker's American subsidiary Atlantic Aircraft Corporation, and other companies under licence.
The F.VII was designed as a single-engined transport aircraft by Walter Rethel. Five planes of this model were built for the Dutch airline KLM. One of these planes, registered H-NACC, was used in 1924 for the first flight from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies. In 1925, while living in the US, Anthony Fokker heard of the inaugural Ford Reliability Tour, which was proposed as a competition for transport aircraft. Fokker had the company's head designer, Reinhold Platz, convert a single-engined F.VII A airliner (a 1924 Walter Rethel design) to a trimotor configuration powered by 200 hp Wright Whirlwind radial engines. The resulting aircraft was designated the Fokker F.VII A/3M. Following shipment to the US, it won the Ford Reliability Tour in late 1925. The Trimotor's structure comprised a fabric-covered steel tubing fuselage, and a plywood-skinned wooden wing.1
The Fokker F.VII B/3M had a slightly increased wing area over the A/3M, with power increased to 220 hp per engine, while the F.10 was slightly enlarged, carrying 12 passengers in an enclosed cabin. The aircraft became popularly known as the Fokker Trimotor.2
The 8- to 12-passenger Fokker was the aircraft of choice for many early airlines, both in Europe and the Americas. Along with the similar Ford Trimotor, itself having an all-metal design based on the World War I aircraft designs of German engineer Hugo Junkers, it dominated the American market in the late 1920s. However, the popularity of the Fokker quickly came to an end after the 1931 death of Notre Damefootball coach Knute Rockne in the crash of TWA Flight 599, a Fokker F.10. The subsequent investigation, which revealed problems with the Fokker's plywood-laminate construction, resulted in the temporary banning of the aircraft from commercial flights, more stringent requirements for its maintenance, and the rise of all-metal aircraft such as the Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-2.3
Pioneers and explorers
The F.VII was used by many explorers and aviation pioneers, including:
Single-engined transport aircraft, powered by a 360 hp (268.5 kW) Rolls-Royce Eagle piston engine, accommodation for two crew and six passengers; five built.
Single-engined transport aircraft, slightly larger than F.VII with new undercarriage and wing. Flown on 12 March 1925. First aircraft had 420 hp (310 kW) V-12 Packard Liberty engine but remaining 39 F.VIIa had mostly radial Bristol Jupiter or Pratt & Whitney Wasp engines.
Version with two additional underwing engines, flown on 4 September 1925. The first two aircraft were identical to the F.VIIa. From the third aircraft, the fuselage was 31 in (80 cm) longer and was powered by with 200 hp (149 kW) Wright J-4 Whirlwind radial engines. Probably only 18 were built while many F.VIIas were upgraded to the F.VIIa/3m standard.
First two Fokker F.VIIAs were converted into three-engined transport aircraft.
Main production version with greater span; 154 built including built under licence.
American built version of the Fokker F.VIIB-3m; built by the Atlantic Aircraft Corporation in the United States.
Enlarged version of the Fokker F.VII airliner, able to carry up to 12 passengers; built by the Atlantic Aircraft Corporation in the United States.
Military transport version of the Fokker F.9, powered by three 220 hp (164 kW) Wright J-5 radial piston engines, accommodation for two pilots and 10 passengers; three built in 1926 for the US Army Air Corps.
Military transport version for the US Army Air Corps, with greater wingspan, powered by three 220 hp (164 kW) Wright J-5 radial piston engines, accommodation for two pilots and 10 passengers; eight built in 1928.
One C-2A fitted with three 330 hp (246 kW) Wright J-6-9 radial piston engines. Redesignated C-7 when four C-2A examples were similarly reconfigured.
Military transport conversion of C-2A for the US Army Air Corps by re-engining with 300 hp (220 kW) Wright R-975 engines. XC-7 prototype and four C-2As redesignated in 1931.
Six new production C-7 (Wright R-975) aircraft with larger wings, new vertical fin design, and fuselages patterned after the commercial F.10A.
Experimental light bomber version of the C-7, powered by three 410 hp (306 kW) Pratt & Whitney R-1380 radial piston engines; one built.
Military transport version of the US Navy and Marine Corps; three built.
Military transport version for the US Navy; three built.
Military transport version for the US Navy, powered by three Wright J-6 radial piston engines; one built.