The Dutch Made Jet: The Story Of The Short Lived Fokker 100

When it comes to regional jets, Bombardier and Embraer are two manufacturers that likely spring to mind for most people. However, for a short time in the late 20th century, Dutch manufacture Fokker was also a key player in this domain. Its largest regional jet was the Fokker 100, of which it produced almost 300 in 11 years. This is its story.

Fokker 100 Getty
The Fokker 100 comfortably outsold the Fokker 70. Photo: Getty Images

Based on a previous design

While the Fokker 100 was a product of the 1980s, its roots date back two decades earlier. This is because the aircraft was a development of the Dutch manufacturer‘s earlier F28 ‘Fellowship’ regional jet. The F28 first flew in May 1967, and entered service just under two years later, in March 1969, with former Norwegian carrier Braathens SAFE.

Fokker entered the regional jet market following the success of its earlier F27 ‘Friendship’ turboprop. The F27’s success inspired the Dutch planemaker to produce a larger and faster aircraft, resulting in the F28. While it didn’t sell as many units as the F27 (241 vs 586), the F28 laid solid foundations for the Amsterdam-based company’s next big thing.

Fokker made various modifications to the original F28 when producing its new 100 series. These included 5.74-meter fuselage, three-meter wingspan, and 1.4-meter horizontal stabilizer stretches, as well as fitting new engines. Rolls-Royce RB.183 Tay turbofans provided power, whereas the F28 had used Rolls-Royce’s earlier Spey model.

Fokker F28 Prototype
The Fokker 100 was a development of the F28 ‘Fellowship,’ whose prototype aircraft can be seen here. Photo: Joost Evers / Anefo via Wikimedia Commons

The larger airframe translated to an increased capacity of 97-122 passengers, depending on the exact configuration. Meanwhile, the largest F28 variants had 79-85 seats. Furthermore, aerodynamic improvements to the wings led to a reported 30% efficiency increase. Pilots benefitted from a digital flight management system and electronic instruments.

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Into service

Fokker officially announced the 100 program in 1983, having received type certification in March that year. This led to the production of two prototype aircraft. The first of these (PH-MKH) undertook the type’s maiden test flight in November 1986. The second prototype aircraft (PH-MKC) followed it into the skies three months later, in February 1987.

Swissair Fokker 100
Swissair’s first Fokker 100 delivery had a real sense of occasion to it. Photo: Rob Croes / Anefo via Wikimedia Commons

The first delivery of a production aircraft eventually took place in February 1988, with Swissair being the recipient. Fokker managed to accrue a solid order book during the type’s early years, with American Airlines even requesting 75 units. At $3.1 billion in 1989, this was not just Fokker’s largest-ever order, but the largest for any Dutch company at the time.

A new variant, and Fokker’s demise

The success of the Fokker 100 prompted the Dutch manufacturer to develop a new variant. Sporting a 4.62-meter shorter fuselage, this aircraft would go on to be known as the Fokker 70. It first flew in April 1993, and entered private service with Ford the following year. Its commercial introduction took place in 1995, when Sempati Air began flying the type.

Fokker 70 Getty
The Fokker 70 sold just 47 units before the company’s collapse. Photo: Getty Images

However, both the original Fokker 100 and the smaller Fokker 70 were unable to be as widely produced as the manufacturer would have liked. While the Fokker 100, in particular, was a commercially strong aircraft, its success was unable to mask years of overall losses at the company. This culminated in Fokker’s bankruptcy in 1996.

Both aircraft remained in production until 1997, the year after Fokker’s collapse. When all was said and done, the Fokker 100 had sold 283 units, outselling its F28 predecessor. Meanwhile, the Fokker 70 was too late to the party, and just 47 examples and a single prototype were produced before its short-lived five-year production cycle was curtailed.

It is interesting to consider how many more units the Fokker 100 might have sold had its production continued. After all, as Simple Flying explored in May, it remains a niche but important regional jet even today. Between 1991 and 2004, American Airlines even deployed the Fokker 100 on mainline services, underlining its significance and capabilities.

American Airlines Fokker 100
Despite being a regional jet, the Fokker 100 featured on America’s mainline routes in the ’90s and 2000s. Photo: Aero Icarus via Flickr

Performance and specifications

So how exactly did the Fokker 100 weigh up when it came to the aircraft’s statistics, specifications, and performance capabilities? In terms of its dimensions, the type measured 35.53 meters in length, and sported a 28.08-meter wingspan. Meanwhile, the Fokker 100 stood at 8.5 meters tall, with 2.01 meters of vertical clearance inside its cabin.

The capacity of the aircraft depended on how each operator chose to configure it. A typical two-class setup (with 2-2 seating in business class and 3-2 in economy) had around 97 seats. Meanwhile, a high-density, all-economy layout could accommodate 122 passengers. American Airlines even flew certain examples with an all-first class, 56-seat setup.

OLT Fokker 100 Cabin
The cabin onboard an Ostfriesische Lufttransport (OLT) Fokker 100. Photo: calvinbasti via Flickr

The range of the Fokker 100 depended on which engines a given aircraft had. The Rolls-Royce Tay Mk 620-15 model enabled 2,450 km (1,323 NM) of range, while aircraft with the Mk 650 turbofans could manage 3,170 km (1,710 NM). In any case, they all had the same Mach 0.77 cruising speed (845 km/h / 456 knots) and service ceiling (35,000 feet).

Still active today

It has now been more than 33 years since the Fokker 100 first entered service. Despite this, a reasonable number remain in service nowadays. Simple Flying took a closer look at this matter exactly a year ago today, and found that, in October 2020, airlines all over the world were still deploying the type. Australia and Iran are particular hotspots.

Slovakian Government Fokker 100 Getty
Countries such as Slovakia have used the Fokker 100 as a government aircraft. Photo: Getty Images

In terms of how many Fokker 100s are left today, data from ch-aviation.com shows that 78 remain active at the time of writing. This is just over a quarter of the total production output for the type, and not an insignificant figure when you consider that it stopped being built 24 years ago, in 1997. So who exactly flies the Fokker 100 nowadays?

Australian regional carrier Alliance Airlines remains the type’s largest operator. It has 23 active and two inactive examples, with an average age of 30 years old. Elsewhere in Australia, Network Aviation and Virgin Australia Regional are also key operators. Iran is a haven for old and rare aircraft, and the country’s largest 100 operator is Aseman Airlines, with six.

What do you make of the Fokker 100? Have you ever flown on one of these rear-engined regional jets? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments!

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