Fokker F-28 / F-70 / F-100
Fokker Aircraft, formerly a Deutsche Aerospace division of Daimler-Benz Aerospace, declared bankruptcy on 15 March 1996. Fokker had received its first state bailout in 1987. Fokker's troubles returned with the 1993 recession, when the world's airlines cancelled orders for new aircraft. Fokker amassed crippling debts by building jets using strong guilders and selling them for weak dollars. To maintain production, Fokker leased its planes. Each aircraft remained on Fokker's books, even as its value depreciated with use. As the company's financial fortunes diminished, the value of the planes plunged further. Fokker had been kept alive by Dutch taxpayers since 22 January 1996, when parent Daimler-Benz AG terminated its own cash injections, less than three years after it took a 51 percent stake in the company. Daimler-Benz's aerospace division ammassed a loss of 4.3 billion Deutsche marks ($2.92 billion) in 1995, including a 2.3 billion DM charge to cover potential worst-case losses from its investment in Fokker.
The trustees liquidated the company and no new Fokker jet aircraft were manufactured. Prior to the bankruptcy, the Fokker Aircraft company had three modern aircraft which were considered at the high capacity end of the regional jet spectrum, one of which, in its initial model, was one of the world's first successful jets used by U.S. regional carriers.
Since 1996, four subsidiaries of the former Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker (Fokker Aerostructures, Fokker Elmo, Fokker Services and Fokker Special Products) had operated as part of Stork. These four companies undertook joint activities under the name Fokker Aviation. With effect from February 1st 1999 they began operating under the new name of Stork Aerospace Group. Stork Aerospace Group is one of the five market-oriented groups of Stork and therefore used the Stork house style together with the Fokker trademark of Anthony Fokker's signature.
Fokker developed the 65 passenger Fellowship F-28 small jet aircraft in the mid 1960s, and continued production until 1986. It was a successor to the F-27 propeller aircraft. The jet received FAA certification in March 1969. Like today's regional jets, it was designed with the short-haul regional passenger in mind, able to operate on 4,000-foot runways and cruise at 530 mph with a range of 1,150 miles. It was low to the ground, with a built-in staircase, and waist-high cargo hatches, allowing for quick loading and unloading of passengers and cargo. By 1979 more than 150 F-28s had been sold worldwide, but none to U.S. airlines. With the new opportunities created by deregulation in 1978, two U.S. carriers, Altair and Empire, placed orders for advanced models of the F-28 with U.S. service beginning in 1980. After Altair's bankruptcy, Empire acquired its Fokkers and in 1986, after Empire and Piedmont merged, Piedmont became the world's largest operator of F-28s with 45. These were all incorporated into the US Air fleet in 1989.
The F-100, with a range of 1,300 nm, was launched in 1983 and entered service in the mid 1980s, as the successor to the original F-28 Fellowship. It offers 5-abreast seating for up to 109 passengers in an all coach configuration, or 93-98 seats in a two class configuration. Fokker's largest aircraft, the Fokker 100 is a 100 seat jet airliner based on the F-28 Fellowship, but stretched and thoroughly modernised. Fokker announced it was developing the Fokker 100 simultaneously with the Fokker 50 turboprop in November 1983. The Fokker 100 is based on the basic F-28 airframe, with the most important and obvious change being the stretched fuselage, increasing maximum seating to 122, compared with 85 in the F-28-4000 (on which the 100 is based). Other changes include more economical RollsRoyce Tay turbofans (which, unlike the F-28's Speys, conform to Stage 3 noise limits), revised wing design with greater span and aerodynamic efficiency (Fokker claimed it to be 30% more efficient than the F-28's), a modern EFIS glass flightdeck, redesigned cabin interior plus other systems and numerous equipment changes.
The Fokker 100 was offered in a number of versions including higher gross weight options of the standard airliner, the Fokker 100QC Quick change airliner or freighter with a large forward freight door and the Fokker Executive Jet 100 corporate shuttle or VIP transport, fitted with luxury interiors to customer requirements. It also forms the basis for the shorter Fokker 70.
Both American Airlines and US Airways fly the F-100 as a mainline jet in a 2-cabin format. American, the largest domestic Fokker operator ordered its 75 F-100s in 1989 while US Airways currently operates fewer than 40. The only other U.S. carrier to fly the F-100 is Midway Airlines, which operates 12. While US Airways was seeking in the late 1990s to replace its Fokker fleet, especially its older F-28s, as part of an equipment rationalization program, American had no plans to dispose of its F-100s. In the northwest, Horizon Airlines, primarily on behalf of Alaska Airlines, also operated Fokker jets, but the older F-28 version (acquired from US Airways) in a one-class configuration.
The latest and smallest Fokker jet in the regional market was the F-70, introduced into service in late 1994. A derivative of the F-100, also with five abreast seating, it holds up to 79 passengers in a one class configuration and it has a range of just under 1,100 nm. In the U.S., America West Express used to operate three of these jets, but since eliminating them from their system the only F-70 in domestic operation today is one owned by the Ford Motor Company.
In 1998, Dutch entrepreneur and regional airline executive Jaap Rosen Jacobsen founded Rekkof Restart NV in order to resume production of Fokker 70 and 100 aircraft. Rekkof ("Fokker" in reverse) acquired tooling from Fokker trustees and began negotiating with former suppliers. Rekkof (Fokker spelled backwards) was again one step closer to build the Fokker 70 and 100. The new aircraft will be called Fokker 70NG (new/next generation) and Fokker 100NG, they will have winglets and could be competitive at the 70-100 seat market for at least 20 years.
Following earlier unsuccessful efforts, revival of the 79- and 107-seat Fokker 70 and 100 regional jets could now depend on the development of a "new, more modern engine," according to Rekkof chairman Jaap Rosen Jacobson. Rekkof acquired F70/F100 tooling and design rights after the Dutch manufacturer's 1996 failure. Rekkof had agreed with China Aviation Industry to build new aircraft in Nanchang. Then, Iran's Simogh Air signed a memorandum of understanding to acquire 25 Rolls-Royce Tay 650-powered Fokker 70s starting in 2007. Needing orders for 80 aircraft to re-launch the program, however, Rekkof set a deadline of April 2005 to land a second, preferably European, customer. Then it gave itself until the end of 2005. The Dutch civil aviation authority approved Stork-owned Fokker Services to build the first 40 aircraft, after which it would share the license with Rekkof.
In September 2006 there was talk of production being set up in India. Aerospace engineering firm Cades Digitech Pvt Ltd was in talks with The Netherlands-based Rekkof Aircraft, to manufacture under licence the family of Fokker aircraft in India for the airline market in the country. Bangalore-based Cades, whose customers include Airbus, Boeing and Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., was planning to invest close to $300 million in an assembly plant for producing the family of 75-, 90- and 100-seater aircraft in India. Several other plans to build a 50- to 100-seater regional jet aircraft for the Indian market, including one of HAL with Franco Italian maker ATR, have not taken off in the previous two decades.
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