“They Had What It Takes – Part 39: Tony Fokker” by Alden McWilliams
With the 39th installment of Alden McWilliams’ “They Had What It Takes” in Flying Aces, he chronicles the man who is maybe the greatest aircraft designer of all time—The Flying Dutchman himself, Anthony Fokker!
Fokker was training as an automotive mechanic in Germany when he built his first plane—”The Spider”—in 1910. That plane was subsequently destroyed when his partner flew it into a tree. Fokker built another and managed to gained his piolt’s licence flying it. By 1912 he had started his own Airplane Company and quickly established a reputation for building some of the fastest and most stable planes flying at the time. One of the keys to his success is that he personally tested all the planes he designed and kept the pilot in mind asking their opinions on the planes. He sought out the advice of the men on the flight line and brought in the best engineers he could find.
After the war he returned to his native Holland establishing a company there and later emigrating to America where his tri-motor planes helped establish the fledgling airlines and some of the great airplane records of the 30’s. Fokker unfortunately died at 49 in 1939 from pneumococcal meningitis after having been ill for three weeks.
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(April 1940, Flying Aces)