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The Fokker F.70 and F.100 Regional Jet

The Fokker F.70 and F.100 Regional Jet

1. Design Evolution:

Complementing the F.27 Friendship turboprop, the F.28 Fellowship was intended to offer pure-jet comfort, higher speeds, and reduced block times traditionally associated with larger twins, such as the BAC-111, the DC-9, and the 737, to regional route operators. But, following the demand for increased capacity in all markets, and seeking to incorporate then-emerging technological advances, Fokker soon envisioned a successor that would not only infringe on the traditional, short-range jet segment, but replace many of its first generation types.

Initial design studies, designated P315, F.28-2, and Super F.28, were undertaken in 1977 and were based upon the F.28-4000-the highest capacity and numerically most popular of the six versions, but featured a stretched fuselage for up to 115 passengers, a new wing, 16,500 thrust-pound engines, a Mach 0.75 cruise speed, and a 1,500 nautical mile range. Intended program dates, characterized by two-year intervals, included 1979 for the type’s launch, 1981 for its first flight, and 1983 for its certification.

Although powerplant progress had been made since the initial de Havilland Ghost and Rolls Royce Avon engines had been introduced, with the likes of the Spey and Spey Junior that respectively powered the BAC-111 and the F.28, the number of types was still very limited, and this served as the greatest obstacle to a more modernized and ambitious Fellowship successor.

Projected powerplants included an improved version of the Rolls Royce Spey, another of the Pratt and Whitney JT10D, a scaled-down CFM-56, and a proposed Rolls Royce RB.432. However, their manufacturers were either reluctant to launch such engines or optimized them for aircraft with higher gross weights than Fokker was considering.

In the event, these obstacles may have become opportunities, because still-increasing demand dictated even greater capacities-of about 150 passengers-on short- to medium-range routes, and a fuselage wide enough for six-abreast, single-aisle coach seating-or one more than the BAC-111, DC-9, or F.28 had offered.

Yielding to market demand, and buoyed by new generation, 20,000 thrust-pound CFM56-3 and RB.432 turbofans, Fokker elected to deviate from its five-across seating standard and offer a sixth one with a new proposal designated F.29, which would enter the ranks of other second-generation 150-seaters. Capacity, double that of the F.28, was 138 at a 34-inch pitch or 156 at a 30-inch pitch, and range was foreseen as 1,700 nautical miles, although its overall configuration remained identical to its smaller predecessor with two aft-mounted engines and a t-tail to avoid exhaust interference with the horizontal stabilizers. The first flight was now slated for 1983.

Because the development costs of such an ambitious project were beyond the economic viability of a small Dutch regional aircraft manufacturer, however, program reality was contingent upon a link with a risk-sharing partner.

McDonnell-Douglas, seeking to offer its own higher-capacity, advanced DC-9 successor with its projected, 150-passenger Advanced Technology Medium Range ATMR-II proposal, accepted the Fokker offer and, combining it with the similarly configured F.29, devised the McDonnell-Douglas Fokker MDF-100, intended for 2,000 nautical mile sectors with 153 dual-class, six-abreast passengers.

Although the t-tail was retained, its two turbofans were relocated and were now pylon-mounted below and ahead of the high aspect ratio, supercritical wing.

Despite its technical merits, it would only be launched if sufficient orders could justify its purpose, and in this case, none did, even after considerable marketing efforts, thus forcing cancellation of both the project and the partnership in 1982, or three years before the advanced airliner’s intended first flight.

McDonnell-Douglas ultimately offered its stretched fuselage MD-80 powered by refanned JT8D-209 engines and this, along with the Airbus A-320 family and Boeing 737-300 to -500 series, saturated what would have been the ATMR-II’s market.

Fokker, painstakingly aware that technological advances were eclipsing both its turboprop F.27 and pure-jet F.28 regional products, elected to follow its temporary partner’s lead by revising and enlarging its earlier offering.

Revisiting its F.28-4000-based P315 design study, it decided to incorporate advanced engines and systems in a stretched-fuselage successor optimized for 100-passengers and thus designated “F.100,” announcing the program, along with that of its next-generation F.50 turboprop, on November 24, 1983.

2. Fokker F.100:

Featuring a light-alloy, fail-safe, hot-bonded fuselage 18.10 feet longer than the F.28-4000’s, it offered, through composite construction, a 900-pound weight reduction, but retained its oval passenger windows and tail-installed ventral air brake, resulting in a 106-foot, 7.5 inch long fuselage length and a 116 feet, 6 ¾ inch overall aircraft length.

Two lower baggage/cargo holds were accessed by three starboard, upward-opening doors.

The 17-degree sweptback wings, with a 92-foot, 1.5-inch span and 8.43 aspect ratio, was based upon the Fellowship’s, but introduced revised leading and trailing edges and a greater leading edge chord to increase the high-speed buffet boundary and decrease drag. Incorporating fully powered, hydraulically actuated ailerons, double-slotted Fowler flaps, and five-panel lift dumpers ahead of them, it featured a 1,006.4-square-foot area.

The tailplane span was 32 feet, 11 ¼ inches.

The engine, the key to the aircraft, had not been available during Fokker’s earlier, independent studies. Designed for the Gulfstream G.IV business jet, the Rolls Royce Tay, incorporating the high-pressure section of the Spey Junior 555-which itself had powered the F.28-introduced a new low-pressure section.

Pylon mounted to the aft fuselage sides, the thrust reverser-equipped Mk 620 turbofans, developing 13,850 pounds of thrust, were fed by 1,274 US gallons of fuel carried in main wing tanks.

The aircraft was ground-supported by a twin-wheeled, hydraulically actuated, tricycle undercarriage.

Access was provided by a forward, left, manually operated, outward-opening, escape slid-equipped passenger door or optionally with an electronically-powered, out- and downward-opening, lighted airstair, which incorporated retractable handrails and a foldable bottom step.

A galley servicing door was located on the forward, right side, across from it, while four plug-type, inward-opening emergency exits were positioned over the wing.

The two-pilot glass cockpit featured two reclinable, lap belt- and shoulder harness-equipped seats, which were provisioned with thigh and lumbar supports and were horizontally and vertically adjustable. A third, wall-stored observer’s seat was located behind the pilot’s.

The main instrument panel, subdivided into captain’s, center, and first officer’s sections, featured duplicated primary and secondary fight instruments, although standby fight instruments were singularly located on the captain’s side and the fuel totalizer and brake system indicators were installed on the first officer’s side.

The six main instrument panels of the Collins electronic flight instrument system (EFIS) consisted of two primary flight displays (PFDs), two navigation displays (NDs), and two multifunction display units (MFDUs). The former two provided flight and navigation information, while the latter encompassed engine parameters, alerts, procedures, and messages.

The center panel offered engine indication and fight warning system displays, along with landing gear controls and indicators.

The pedestal sported the engine thrust levers, flap and trim handles, speed and parking brakes, the stick pusher, and the flight management system (FMS).

Other cockpit avionics included a digital aircraft flight control and augmentation system (AFCAS) for category IIIA automatic landings, a dual-channel full-flight regime autothrottle system, an ARINC 702 dual flight management system, an ARINC 706 dual digital air data system, dual radio altimeters, weather radar, dual ARINC 709 distance measuring equipment (DME), dual ARINC 710 instrument landing systems (ILS), and dual ARINC 711 VORs with marker beacon receivers.

The cabin, sporting a “new look” interior, was standardly configured with two electronically-powered, potable water-provisioned galley units, two lavatories, two garment closets, and enclosed overhead storage compartments for hand luggage.

Mixed class arrangements included 12 four-abreast first class seats at a 36-inch pitch and 85 five-abreast coach seats at a 32-inch pitch, or a virtually even ratio of 55 business to 50 economy seats. Single-class accommodation, at a 32-inch pitch, totaled 107.

Aircraft systems included two independent hydraulic systems for nose wheel steering, brake, undercarriage, and flight surface actuation; an AiResearch pressurization and air conditioning system; an AiResearch pneumatic system; an AiResearch thermal anti-icing system for the wings and tail; and a Garrett GTCP36-150RR auxiliary power unit (APU), operable at altitudes of up to 35,000 feet.

3. Flight Test Program:

Although the aircraft’s avionics were tested on an earlier F.28, the fight test program employed two stretched-fuselage F.100-standard aircraft, the first, registered PH-MKH, flying on November 30, 1986 and culminating, after a 2.5-hour inaugural flight, with the first automatic approach and flare for a touch-and-go after such a maiden operation.

Accumulating 150 hours, it was joined by the second prototype, PH-MKC, which first flew on February 25 of the following year, and both were subjected to wide climactic and operational realms, including water ingestion tests in Cranfield, runway performance tests in Granada, hot weather tests in Tunis, and icing tests in Norway, before ending their 11-month, 1,100-hour, 1,500-landing program. The only appreciable anomalies uncovered were those involving the brakes and the thrust reversers.

Dutch RLD and US FAA type certifications were granted, respectively, on November 20, 1987 and May 30, 1989.

Retrofitted with 15,100 thrust-pound Rolls Royce Tay Mk 650 engines, prototype PH-MKH first flew on June 8, 1988 and was certified with them on July 1 of the following year.

Performance data varied according to one of three gross weight options: standard, intermediate, and high. Powered by 13,850 thrust-pound Tay Mk 620s, the first offered a 95,000-pound maximum take off weight, an 85,500-pound maximum landing weight, and a 1,484 statute mile range with 107 passengers and baggage. The second, coupled with the 15,100 thrust-pound Tay Mk 650s, respectively equaled 98,000 pounds, 88,000 pounds, and 1,784 statute miles, while the third, again with the uprated turbofans, were 101,500 pounds, 88,000 pounds, and 1,933 statute miles. The addition of a 984-US gallon center fuel tank, available as of 1993, increased total capacity to 3,531 gallons.

4. Production:

Although F.100 final assembly occurred at Schiphol Oost, in Holland, aircraft components were manufactured by Shorts, of Belfast, Northern Ireland (wings), MBB of Germany (fuselage sections and the tail), and Dowty Rotol (the undercarriage).

5. In Service:

While Fokker envisioned that the F.28 would become the largest aircraft in a small airline’s fleet, it conversely predicted that the F.100 would become the smallest aircraft in a large airline’s fleet. Their prediction proved accurate.

Swissair placed the launch order for eight aircraft, along with six options, in July of 1984, and these were followed by orders and options for ten and five from KLM in May of 1985 and 20 and 20 in July by USAir, the latter enabling Fokker to penetrate the all-important US market. By the time that the second prototype had flown in 1987, orders and options had totaled 178.

The largest order, however-and the second in the American market-was for 75 firm and 75 optioned aircraft placed by American Airlines itself in March of 1989, which sought to replace its Boeing 727s and its European regional jet BAe-146 rival, acquired during the AirCal buyout, with the type.

USAir took delivery of the first Tay 650 version on the same day that it was certified, on July 1, 1989.

By the end of that year, 28 aircraft had been produced and the order book counted 382 by the beginning of 1990.

Other major operators included Air Littoral, Air UK, British Midland, China Eastern, Garuda Indonesia, Mexicana, Portugalia, Sempati Air, TAM Brazilian, Iran Air, Korean Air, Midway Airlines, TAT European, Deutsche BA, and Transwede.

A typical inter-European F.100 flight was sampled in June of 1994 with Swissair, which had initially taken delivery of the type on February 29, 1988 and had inaugurated it into service two months later, on April 25, replacing its first-generation DC-9-30s.

Formed on March 26, 1931 as a result of the Ad Astra Aero and Balair merger, it inaugurated Lockheed Orion express route service from Basel to Vienna with intermediate stops in Zurich and Munich, operating it year-round, as opposed to its initial, summer-only schedule, four years later.

Douglas aircraft facilitated advancement and route system expansion with DC-2 and, by 1936, DC-3 acquisitions.

World War II, as had occurred with all European carriers, resulted in a service suspension-in this case during the six-year period from 1939 to 1945-but Swissair quickly connected the continental dots with wings thereafter and, two years later, was designated Switzerland’s national airline.

Transatlantic service, to New York, commenced on May 2 of that year with the delivery of quad-engined DC-4s and the route became a scheduled one in 1949. It was served by larger, longer-range DC-6Bs two years later.

North American service was mirrored by that to its southern counterpart during the early-1950s, with an initial Zurich-Geneva-Lisbon-Dakkar-Receife-Rio de Janeiro-Sao Paulo route inaugurated on May 27, 1954, and extensions were made to Montevideo and Buenos Aires three years later.

Its European network, operated by increasingly advanced equipment, saw service with Convair CV-240s in 1949 and CV-440 Metropolitans in 1956, and stretched wings, literally, carried passengers across the Atlantic on ultra-long-range DC-7Cs. The type not only facilitated an increase in the number of nonstop routes served, but paved the way to a 1957 extension to the Far East, albeit on anything but a direct routing. Departing Zurich, the aircraft touched down in Geneva, Beirut, Karachi, Bombay, Bangkok, and Manila before terminating in Tokyo.

So popular was it, however, that a second route flow, from Zurich to Hong Kong and Tokyo, was quickly introduced.

Wing-mounted propellers soon yielded to nacelle-encased pure-jet engines, initial transcontinental and European equipment respectively including DC-8-30s and SE.210 Caravelles. Mustang-performing Convair CV-990s facilitated expansion to Africa-specifically to Accra in Ghana and Lagos in Nigeria-on May 2, 1962, and its ultimate short- to medium-range European and North African, Caravelle-replacing workhorse became the DC-9, which first appeared in Swissair livery with the 1966 delivery of its original DC-9-15. It was followed by the -30 and -50 and, in the process, the carrier became the third all-jet European operator in 1968.

It entered the widebody era in 1971 with the acquisition of 747-200Bs and the type was supplemented by six intercontinental DC-10-30 trijets.

In 1977, it became the co-launch operator, with Austrian Airlines, of the DC-9-81 (later redesignated MD-81), placing a 15-firm and five-optioned order, and taking delivery of the stretched twin three years later.

Intended as the backbone of its short- and medium-range European and North African fleet, it was too large for the thinner sectors over which its last Stage Two DC-9-30s and -50s were operated, and the SFR 450 million aircraft replacement program for Fokker F.100s, which included reserve engines, spares, and a simulator, gave it an entirely Stage III-compliant fleet.

Accommodating seven fewer passengers than its DC-9-30s, the F.100, in a dual-class, 84-seat configuration, had a 2,200-kilometer range with maximum fuel, payload, and one ton of cargo, and was thus suited to segments outside of its main traffic arteries. Because of its size, it was also used in other capacities, such as providing additional frequency during off-peak (midday) periods and inaugurating new routes that were later operated by larger MD-81s after sufficiently stimulated traffic had merited their size.

Powered by Rolls Royce Tay 620-15 engines, the Fokker F.100 introduced a digital cockpit with electronic and multi-channel displays and incorporated weight-reducing composite material in its construction, and was seen as a quieter, more fuel efficient, and advanced regional jet replacement.

Indeed, the 1,100-hour flight test program had demonstrated that it offered a three-percent lower fuel reduction than predicted-or 15 percent less than that of the DC-9-30 it replaced-and an 82-decibel noise emission-or ten lower than that of the DC-9-30 and 15 lower than that of the DC-9-50.

Swissair’s ten F.100s, running in registration from HB-IVA to -IVK (with -IVJ omitted), were part of a 61-strong, five-type, twin-, tri-, and quad-engined fleet from four European and US manufacturers with an average, 7.8-year age, and it included 24 MD-81s, five A-310-200s, five A-310-300s, 12 MD-11s, and five 747-300s, over and above the Fokkers. As the 16th largest IATA and seventh largest European carrier, Swissair served a 320,594-unduplicated kilometer network, which included 116 destinations in 68 countries on five continents.

In 1993, it had conducted 219,629 flight hours (a 5.8-percent increase over the year-earlier period) and carried over 7.8 million passengers (a 4.7-percent increase) and almost 268,000 tons of cargo and mail (a 9.5-percent increase).

Nosed into Gate Two at Geneva’s Cointrin International Airport beneath the brilliant noon blue on that June 1994 day, aircraft HB-IVH “Stadel,” sporting its dark brown fuselage trim and red tail, was prepared for its 748-mile sector as Flight SR 406 to Copenhagen, the first of several Swissair t-tails being serviced for its midday bank of departures. The others, all MD-81s, were used on Switzerland-Denmark routes during peak times.

Despite its current unique stature, the 84-passenger F.100 vied, at other times, with the 82-passenger Avro International RJ85 operated by subsidiary Crossair.

Sporting a conservative, tan and brown décor, with horizontally-patterned seat upholstery and equally patterned fabrics that covered the sidewalls, lavatory doors, and the overhead storage compartments, Swissair’s dual-class configured F.100s featured a forward, left lavatory and, across form it, a dual-unit galley, and accommodated 28 business class passengers in five four-abreast rows and 56 economy class passengers in ten five-abreast rows. An aft, left, dual-unit galley, with its own service door (and giving it an MD-87 interior appearance), was equipped with three ovens and coffee makers and two full-size carts. Two aisle-opposed lavatories were installed in the extreme tail.

After the flight plan and the standard instrument departure (SID) from Runway 05 had been entered into the flight management system in the cockpit, the engines were started by first pressing the start switch of the number two turbofan and then repeating the process for the number one engine after its N1 revolutions had spooled up to 51 percent.

Disconnected from the towbar after pushback at 1220, the F.100 initiated its taxi roll with a throttle advancement and was instructed to follow a fellow Swissair MD-81-while coincidentally trailed by another Scandinavia-bound twinjet, an SAS DC-9-20-during which the taxi checklist was completed.

Turning on to the runway with the aid of the nose wheel steering tiller, and retaining its flaps in the neutral position because of its light load, aircraft HB-IVH, nudged into initial acceleration, settled into its take off run with a full throttle advancement after positive power had been established, consuming the concrete as its V1 and rotate speeds were achieved.

Retracting its undercarriage after a positive climb rate had been established, the t-tailed regional jet settled into a 2,500-fpm ascent rate over the turquoise, sun-glinted surface of “Lac Lemon” with its prominent, water-cascading “jet d’eau,” surmounting the city of Lausanne.

The black and green edges of the Alps receded below the starboard wingtip and, as the altitude increased, its eternally fleece-white peaks triumphantly rose toward the deep blue tropopause. Scattered, cotton-resembling nimbus islands, seeming to float atop their peaks, created a corrugated plateau.

Like a window into the sky, the electronic flight instrument system provided a full view of the aircraft’s parameters, the primary flight display sporting an artificial horizon, a rate-of-climb bar, and speed and altitude tapes, and the navigation display indicating heading and distance to waypoints.

Lunch, served on china and preceded by cocktails and a small tray of almonds and pretzel sticks, included white meat turkey and encrusted salami slices, dill potato salad, a creamy carrot salad, French cornichons, hot white and wheat rolls, with butter, from the basket, 187-ml bottles of red or white wine, tartlets of pastry cream, pineapple slices, cherries, and whipped cream, coffee, and Swiss chocolates.

Swissair’s monthly, trilingual (French, German, and English) inflight magazine, Swissair Gazette, was available in all seat pockets.

Maintaining the type’s 35,000-foot service ceiling, the Tay 620-15 powered twinjet followed its primarily northerly heading, passing over Freiburg, Karlsruhe, the Rhine Valley, Frankfurt, Kassel, Hanover, and Hamburg in Germany, and then traversing the Baltic Sea toward Denmark.

Copenhagen was reporting overcast skies and almost half the temperature, at 11 degrees Celsius, as Geneva.

Boring into dense cloud with its bulleted nose, the aircraft deployed its ventral airbrake, enabling it to assume a sharp, but controlled descent.

Contacting the tower and beginning its landing checklist, Flight 406 overflew the Navy blue, whitecapped Baltic, the runway pattern of Copenhagen’s Kastrup International Airport passing beyond its left wing.

Cruising over felt-green topography and banking left to its final approach heading, the F.100, now beneath a silver cloud ceiling, extended its double-slotted Fowler flaps through the eight- and 15-degree positions over another gap of water before unleashing its undercarriage into the slipstream and then further deploying its flaps to the 25- and 42-degree positions. Its spoilers were armed. As if attempting to counteract a ballooning parachute, it opened its throttles.

Assuming a decidedly downward pitch, it once again intercepted the coast, the runway inching toward the windshield, as a computerized voice provided 100-foot-interval altitude calls: 500… 400… 300… 200… 100…

As it reduced power to initiate its flare, the now ten-foot-interval calls commenced: 50… 40… 30… 20… 10…

Squatting, like an animal, on its hind leg main wheels, the twinjet snatched the runway with two mushrooming smoke puffs, and deceleration, to 60 knots, permitted transfer of its nose wheel steering back to its tiller.

Contacting Kastrup Ground Control, the aircraft was given taxi instructions, ultimately inching down the ramp guide line to Gate 26, abreast of an identically configured SAS DC-9-20 t-tailed twin at 1430.

6. Fokker F.70:

Although the F.100 was a technological success and fulfilled the sub-150-seat, short- to medium-range niche with an advanced, fuel-efficient design, it had eclipsed the niche that had spawned it-namely, that of a 70- to 80-passenger F.28 replacement-but market studies still revealed the need for such an aircraft.

To fill the gap between its F.50 turboprop and existing F.100, Fokker removed a single, forward and aft plug from the latter’s fuselage, reducing its length by 15.2 feet to produce a new 101-foot, 4 ¾-inch overall length for accommodation of 79 single-class passengers at a 31- to 32-inch seat pitch. One of the two overwing emergency exits was removed and its standard configuration entailed a forward galley and an aft lavatory.

Powered by 13,850 thrust-pound Tay 620 engines, and offering, in parallel, the three standard, intermediate, and high gross weights of the F.100, the aircraft featured the following maximum payloads, take off weights, landing weights, approach speeds (at the maximum landing weight), and ranges (with 79 passengers and baggage): standard weight-20,516 pounds, 81,000 pounds, 75,000 pounds, 136 mph, and 1,243 nautical miles; intermediate weight-22,016 pounds, 84,000 pounds, 79,000 pounds, 139 mph, and 1,628 nautical miles; and high gross weight-24,016 pounds, 88,000 pounds, 81,000 pounds, 140 mph, and 2,117 nautical miles. The latter two weights were coupled with optional fuel tank capacity increases.

Designated the F.70, the aircraft received a launch order for ten from Indonesia’s Sempati Air, sparking the program’s launch in June of 1993 and by April of the following year, orders had increased to 29, along with five options, from Air Littoral (five), British Midland (five), the Ford Motor Company (one), Mesa Airlines (two), the Netherlands government (one), and Pelita (five), over and above the Sempati totals.

First flying on April 2, 1993 after F.100 prototype PH-MKC was modified to this standard, it amassed 436 hours during its 18-month flight test program and was subsequently joined by the first production aircraft, which logged an additional 20 hours in the air. Both Dutch RLD and FAA type certifications were granted on October 14 of the following year. The Ford Motor Company, specifying a corporate version with seating for 48, took delivery of the first F.70 that month, while Sempati Air received the first airline-standard aircraft on March 9, 1995.

7. Fokker F.130:

Intended as the third-and largest-version in Fokker’s regional jet product line for routes requiring capacity beyond that of the initial F.100, the proposed F.130, with a 20.5-foot fuselage stretch and the addition of an aft, port passenger door, would have had a 136-foot, 11 ¾-inch overall length, and would have employed a 4.11-foot wingspan increase attained by means of root plugs. The new span would have been 102 feet.

A 128-passenger mixed-class arrangement would have included 12 four-abreast seats at a 36-inch pitch and 116 seats at a 32-inch pitch. Single-class accommodation would have topped out at 137.

With a 34,430-pound maximum payload, the elongated airliner would have had a gross weight of between 122,000 and 130,000 pounds and a maximum landing weight of 113,000 pounds. Range, with 137 passengers and their baggage, would have been 1,956 miles, although optionally higher weights would have increased this to 2,721 miles.

Whereas the F.70 served as a next-generation replacement for the BAC-11-200 and the DC-9-10, and the F.100 did the same for the BAC-111-500 and the DC-9-30, the F.130 could have served as a DC-9-50 and 737-200 successor.

Although wind tunnel testing commenced in June of 1991, and aerodynamic issues proved no obstacle, commercial ones did. The Fokker F.130 was not to be-nor was Fokker itself, as changing economic conditions and poor US exchange rates forced the venerable aircraft manufacturer that still bore founder Anthony Fokker’s name to declare bankruptcy in March of 1996, effectively ending production of its F.50, F.60, F.70, and F.100 regional airliners.

Of the 283 F.100s built, the last, registered PT-MRW, was delivered to TAM Brazilian Airlines on March 21, 1996. And, despite promising sales prospects for the F.70, which was operated by major carriers such as Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Midland, KLM, and Vietnam Airlines, only 48 rolled off the production line before it was closed down, the last, registered PH-KZK, delivered to KLM Cityhopper on April 18, 1997.

8. Rekkof Restart:

Of the many proposals that attempted to salvage Fokker Aircraft, the Rekkof Restart one– whose founder and managing director, Jaap Rosen Jacobsen, was also head of Belgian regional carrier VLM–seemed the most promising. Financed by a loan from a Swiss trust and taking its name from the backwards-spelling of “Fokker,” the venture, with an intended, 400-person workforce, planned to produce 24 F.70s and F.100s per annum, and, by the end of 1998, had amassed orders, memoranda of understanding, and letters of intent for almost this amount.

Although it had been envisioned that Rolls Royce would continue to produce the engines, subassemblies would now be furnished by other suppliers. Rekkof itself, Eurocopter Deutschland, Pfalz Flugzeugwerke, and Aircraft Services Lemwerder, for instance, would build fuselage sections, and Aerostructures Humble, replacing Shorts of Belfast, would now provide the wing. SABCA of Belgium would manufacture the tail section and the horizontal stabilizer.

Based primarily upon Boeing forecasts, demand for 70-seaters was seen as 1,331 and for 100-seaters 2,164 through 2017. Having already captured 29 percent of the market, Fokker/Rekkof believed it could sell up to 332 F.70s and 432 F.100s, and saw the following advantages of restarting the production line as opposed to designing an all-new aircraft.

Because the design was already established, no new development costs would have been incurred. Compared to the original production line, the Rekkof process would have introduced a 30-percent increase in assembly efficiency, only requiring 400 employees to manufacture the 24 aircraft per year, and, with all the tools and machinery in place, the line could have been reinitiated with little more than an inspection and a flip of the switch, facilitating deliveries by the spring of 2000–or six months before the emergence of potential competitors, such as the Bombardier CRJ-700, the British Aerospace RJX, and the Dornier Do-728JET. (Only the former, in the event, was ever built.)

With the Fokker JetLine’s own advanced features-including its Rolls Royce turbofans, wing, and all-glass cockpit-it was nevertheless considered current to any technological features these aircraft could have introduced, as expressed by Rekkof Aircraft itself. “There is an evident demand for aircraft in the segment 70-90 seats,” it proclaimed. “Furthermore, the current operational fleet of Fokker 70 aircraft is proof that there is no aircraft today that can exceed its overall product qualities.”

But, the longer Rekkof delayed its relaunch due to unfavorable economic conditions, the more those “today” advantages eroded, and changing market requirements soon necessitated larger-capacity designs, prompting it to eventually focus on the unbuilt F.130.

Yet, as the first decade of the 21st century unfolded, so, too, did new competition in the form of the Bombardier CRJ-900 and -1000 and CS100 from Canada, the Embraer E-170 to -195 series from Brazil, and the Antonov An-148 and -158 and the Sukhoi SSJ-100 regional jet from Russia, causing what would have been a still-robust, mostly unfilled market at the dawn of the century to have become a saturated one in 2015, and leaving the resurrected Fokker JetLine nothing more than a faded vision.

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