Although the first military jets became operational towards the end of the Second World War, it was not until the late fifties that jet engines were sufficiently developed to be used as a reliable and economical propulsion system for civil airliners.
At first, jet airliners were used mainly for long distance routes.
During the sixties, smaller jet airliners were developed for shorter routes. Boeing designed the 727 and 737, Douglas the DC-9, BAC in England the 1-11 - and Sud Aviation in France the Caravelle.
Of these second generation jet airliners, the Fokker F28 was the smallest design.
When Fokker started its feasibility study for the new jet, it was envisaged as a 44-seater with two seats on either side of the aisle. Calculations soon made it clear however that 60 seats was the minimum capacity for economic operation.
This assessment was supported by several leading airlines who were interested in this type of aircraft. Market research also made it clear that airlines preferred a 2-plus-3 seating arrangement rather than 2-plus-2 as originally planned. The new design was to be a successor to the F27 Friendship, or complementary to it depending on the network and routes. Its designation, not unexpectedly, was F28. First official announcement that Fokker was working on the new design was made on 28 April 1962 during the Hannover Air Show.
Drawings issued to the press on that occasion showed the F28 with a straight wing. This was because the aircraft was intended to be operated from runways which until then had not handled anything larger than an F27 or Dakota. Selected powerplants were two Rolls-Royce RB 183-1 Spey junior turbofans of 8,650 lb (3,924 kg) thrust each.
Thrust reversers were planned but never installed. Early design drawings also show two wheels in tandem for the main gear, a configuration which was later dropped in favor of the more conventional side-by-side two wheel configuration. First flight was optimistically planned for early 1965 with deliveries following in early 1967.
As with the F27, Fokker had to ask for Dutch government support for the F28 project. The money the government had earlier put into the F27 program had meanwhile proven to be a profitable investment.
For the F28, development costs were estimated at Dfl 225 million, and in February 1965 agreement was reached with the government for financial support amounting to Dfl 103 million. This investment was to be controlled by the Nederlands Instituut voor Vliegtuigontwikkeling en Ruirmevaart (NIVR), the Netherlands institute for Aircraft Development. All costs necessary for starting F28 series production were to be financed by Fokker.
As Fokker's own contribution was almost beyond the resources of such a relatively small company, the board of management invited other European aircraft manufacturers to participate in the project on a risk-sharing basis.
Talks were held with Hawker Siddeley, Sud Aviation and Hamburger Flugzeugbau. When the government decided to support the project, Fokker had only a few partners such as Rolls-Royce, Dowty Rotol, Sundstrand and Westinghouse. However in the course of 1964, Fokker succeeded in setting up a European consortium. Hamburger Flugzeugbau (HFB) and the Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke (VFW) in Bremen decided to become risk-sharing partners and so did Short Brothers & Harland in Belfast.
The German and British governments also made Dfl 122 million available. HFB, which was part of the Blohm & Voss group, became responsible for development and production of the fuselage structure from the wing to the rear pressure bulkhead as well as the engine nacelles and associated assemblies. VFW built the rear fuselage, the empennage and the fuselage section in front of the wing. Shorts was to produce the wing. In 1969, Fokker and VFW merged.
The name of the Dutch part of this combination was Fokker-VFW and the German part, VFW-Fokker. This merger was not as successful as had been hoped and was terminated in 1980.
Meanwhile Mr. H. C. van Meerten who at that time was chief designer, was made a member of the Fokker board of management. His successor became Dr. J. H. Greidanus. Another change was the naming of the F28. A competition held by the Fokker company newspaper resulted in the choice of 'Fellowship'.
At completion of its design, the F28 Fellowship was a low-wing twinjet for short haul routes, with seating for 65 passengers in a two-plus-three arrangement. The aircraft was powered by a pair of Rolls-Royce Spey junior engines which, in other applications, had already proven to be highly reliable. Powerplant installation was in the style of the Caravelle with one engine on either side of the rear fuselage - as was also employed by the Douglas DC-9 and BAC 1-11.
The advantage of this layout compared with installing the engines on the wing, was a reduction in the asymmetrical forces in the event of an engine failure. Other advantages were a 'clean' wing and reduced likelihood of the engines swallowing foreign objects during ground run-up or take-off. By using a T-tail the horizontal stabilizer and elevator were not affected by the jet efflux. Naturally, experience with the construction of the F27 was used in the F28, the most prominent aspect being the large-scale application of Redux metal-to-metal bonding.
The originally envisaged straight wing had been dropped in favor of a moderately swept design, and thrust reversers were substituted for by a split-tail speedbrake at the aft end of the fuselage, a feature which also proved very effective for control during final approach. While the pneumatic system on the F27 had worked quite well for such duties as operating the undercarriage, on the F28 it was replaced by an hydraulic system. Market research had shown that most potential customers preferred this.
In the rear fuselage an auxiliary power unit (APU) was installed to provide electricity and air conditioning while on the ground, and to start the engines.
Just prior to the start of production, several test articles were built involving components both large and small. These would never leave the ground and were intended solely for testing, sometimes to destruction. Shortly after, construction of the first three F28s was begun. Numbers one and two were to be prototypes and number three was to be the first aircraft for a customer. Not entirely unexpectedly, manufacture of these aircraft was not without its share of problems.
The results of the static testing called for quite a number of changes and although these improved the aircraft, they were also a threat to the planning. Frans Wevers who was in charge of prototype construction, had rather more worries than sleeping hours for quite some time. A lot of overtime was necessary, in fact work went on non-stop during the final few months ahead of first flight. A special committee called NORA (from 'noodraad', Dutch for emergency committee), was on permanent standby to solve whatever problems arose.
At half past four in the morning of 9 May 1967, Fokker test pilots Jas Moll and Abe van der Schraaf together with flight engineer Kees Dik, boarded the first F28. Registration of the aircraft was PH-JHG, the last three letters being the initials of the chief designer, Dr. J.H. Greidanus. While the sun was slowly appearing over the horizon, the crew did their pre-flight checks. At 5.19 hours the F28 became airborne for the first time. After a flight of 75 minutes in a crystal clear sky, all planned tests were completed and the aircaft landed again at Schiphol.
On 3 August 1967 the second prototype, registered PH-WEV after Frans Wever, was airborne for the first time, again with Jas Moll in command. This flight lasted an hour and a half during which Mach 0.77 and an altitude of 27,000 ft were reached. The third F28, PH-MOL, after its test pilot, flew for the first time on 20 October 1967. The complete flight test program occupied 615 hours plus an additional 165 hours for certification.
In order to avoid the capricious Dutch weather, part of the test program from March 1968 on was performed from Torrejon in Spain. The next aircraft, for Luft Transport Unternehmen (LTU), flew 150 hours on crew training and route proving. The latter task was completed in just 12 days during which 12 flying hours were logged each day to check the behavior of the aircraft under conditions of high utilization. On 24 February 1969 the Dutch airworthiness authority issued the F28 certificate of airworthiness and exactly one month later the American FAA did the same.
Flying hours were logged somewhat faster than sales. The German charter company LTU, on 17 November 1965 became the first operator to order an F28 - and also took an option on a second aircraft. LTU was an old customer of Fokker having flown F27s on holiday charters to the Mediterranean since 1961.
After its first F28, LTU placed no further orders for almost two years. The next contract for the Fokker fanjet was signed following the first flight of the second prototype. Ludvig Braathen of Braathens SAFE in Norway wanted five Fellowships as successors to the F27s on his domestic network.
Meanwhile Fokker was trying to sell the F28 to American commuter airlines while also endeavoring to have the aircraft built under license in the U.S. There were high hopes for a good number of sales because several airlines were looking for a replacement to their aging Vickers Viscounts and Convairliners.
On 1 February 1967 Fokker signed a contract with Fairchild-Hiller for licensed production of a shortened version of the F28. Under the designation FH-228, this was specially adapted to American requirements. The FH-228 was to be built in the Fairchild factory in Hagerstown, Maryland where until then F27s had been license-produced.
The American version of the F28 was to accommodate 50 passengers and be powered by a new Rolls-Royce turbofan, the three-shaft Trent of 9,733 lb (4,415 kg) thrust. The agreement with Fairchild-Hiller stated that Fairchild would have the right to sell both the FH-228 and the F28 within the north and south American continents - and Fokker would market both types throughout the rest of the world. Initially, Fokker and its European partners would deliver components for 50 aircraft to be assembled by Fairchild. When the number of sales warranted it, a new contract would be made for additional F28s.
Unfortunately, reality was not as rosy as the license agreement. In March 1968 Fairchild informed Fokker that its estimate of the sales potential for the FH-228 in America was almost nil. Effectively this implied the likely failure of the aircraft to penetrate the U.S. market. Fairchild did however order ten F28s and promised to try to sell them within its market area. In the end however, only three were sold: one as an executive aircraft to Eastex, and two to the Canadian airline Transair (later part of Pacific Western and now part of Canadian Airlines).
The remaining seven aircraft were later sold by Fokker on behalf of Fairchild.
The first series-produced aircraft for Braathens SAFE was officially handed over on 3 March 1969, followed by the second on 27 March. The aircraft ordered by LTU was initially leased to the airline. Early in its operations it suffered a landing mishap requiring its starboard wing to be replaced.
After repair of the aircraft, the German airworthiness authority on 2 April 1969 issued its certificate of airworthiness for the F28. On the same day, LTU flew the aircraft on its Disseldorf-Palma de Mallorca route for the first time. At the time of the foregoing deliveries, the orderbook showed sales of: LTU 2; Braathens SAFE 5; Itavia 2, Ansett (for MMA, McRobertson Miller Airlines) 2; and Martinair 1 - plus ten for FairchildHiller. Although this was not a fat orderbook, the situation was not especially embarrassing for Fokker.
The company was accustomed to small-scale production and orders coming-in in ones, twos and threes, usually with a considerable number of customer requirements. A good example of this was the next customer, Iberia. As well as using the F28 for passenger transportation, the airline also intended to use it for cargo-carrying purposes. For this, Fokker developed a pallet-loading system for this particular customer's aircraft with the small passenger entrance door rather than a wide freight door.
In July 1971 the Indonesian airline Garuda placed its first of several orders for the F28. For many years to come, Garuda was to have the largest F28 fleet of any operator - and when later its early F28s proved too small, it replaced them with stretched F28s.
Another major customer placing several repeat orders was Linjeflyg of Sweden. Its initial order, on 30 September 1971, was for three F28s to replace its Convairliners, and eventually the airline had a fleet of 20 including the very last F28 to be built.
Deregulation of air travel in the United States resulted in a large increase in demand for small airliners and some exciting sales prospects opened up for Fokker. Empire Airlines and Altair both ordered F28s and although Altair soon went bankrupt, its aircraft went to Empire which within a few years accumulated a fleet of 17 F28s.
In 1986 Piedmont Airlines, which already had 20 ex-Garuda aircraft, bought Empire. It then ordered a further eight F28s from Fokker, bringing its total to 45. This made Piedmont, later USAir, the biggest operator of F28s. In Holland, four F28s were delivered to NLM Cityhopper in late 1978 and early 1979.
A replacement was later ordered when one of the aircraft crashed in extremely turbulent weather. Martinair had one F28 and leased a second, PH-MOL, from Fokker. Over the years, this aircraft was leased to several other operators. Martinair also undertook the operation and maintenance of the Dutch government's F28, which in February 1972 became successor to the government's earlier F27.
This F28 was fitted as a VIP aircraft, a version which was sold to a number of other customers. One of these VIP F28s - belonging to the Argentine president - became the first jet to land at the South Pole when it touched down near Marambio, on 28 July 1973. A 3,300 ft strip surrounded by dangerously close cliffs, was laid out using stones and ice. The wind, which blew continuously, kept the strip free of snow so that no special provisions were needed for the undercarriage. A perfect landing was performed at an air temperature of 23'C below zero.
Two hours later the engines, now also well below zero, started if somewhat slowly. The trip was a rehearsal for a flight to the Pole by the Argentine President and some of his ministers on 10 August. The President thus became the first head of state ever to set foot in Antactica.
The weather was not very cooperative however and shortly after landing a heavy blizzard started. This encouraged use of a short break in the storm to make a rather earlier than planned departure.
The first production version of the F28 was the Mk. 1000 carrying 65 passengers. Later, other versions became available. For routes requiring more capacity, Fokker developed the stretched Mk. 2000 with 79 seats. Apart from its stretched fuselage, this aircraft was otherwise identical to the Mk 1000.
The original prototype PH-JHG was converted to Mk. 2000 configuration and served as prototype for this version. It first flew as a Mk. 2000 on 28 April 1971. Later on PH-JHG again served as prototype, this time for the Mk. 6000 which had an increased span plus leading edge slats.
It was equipped with the more powerful but less noisy Spey Mk. 555-15 engines. The Mk. 5000 aircraft, which was never built, was to have had leading edge slats and the original unstretched fuselage. It was designed to carry a heavier payload than the Mk. 1000. Both the Mk. 5000 and the later Mk. 6000 of which two were sold, were intended for short runway operation.
After flying for Fokker for some time and being leased to operators, the Mk. 6000s were eventually converted to Mk. 2000 and sold to Air Mauritania. In 1974 the Argentine government ordered five Mk. 1000s as freighters. Designated Mk. 1000C (C for cargo), these aircraft had a large 8 ft 2 in x 6 ft 2 in cargo door in the forward fuselage just aft of the passenger entrance door.
A specially-reinforced floor replaced the standard floor, and a 'ball mat' was fitted near the cargo door to facilitate on-and-off loading. Most successful of the later F28 versions was the Mk. 4000 which made its first flight in October 1976. This was basically a Mk. 2000 embodying a number of improvements including seating capacity for 85 passengers. Powerplants were Spey Mk. 555-15Hs equipped with noise suppressors. The increased-span wing was reinforced to allow a higher take-off weight and the cockpit and cabin interior were brought up to the latest standards.
First customer was Linjeflyg. As its home base at Bromma was situated within a densely-populated area, the airline was shopping for new aircraft with a low noise level. The F28 Mk. 4000 met these requirements and Linjeflyg ordered ten. The short fuselage version of the Mk. 4000 was the Mk. 3000, the first of which was sold to the Ghana government in VIP configuration.
Several projected versions of the F28 never progressed beyond the drawing board. One of them was the Mk. 6600 which was intended for the Japanese domestic network as a replacement for the NAMC YS-11 turboprop. Seating capacity was 100 and take-off weight was similar to that of the Mk. 6000. Another interesting project was the F28 COD (carrier on-board delivery) as a successor to the U.S. Navy's Grumman C-2A Greyhound for airborne supply missions to aircraft carriers. Basically the F28 COD was a Mk. 5000 with slatted wings.
Carrier operation of course required a much stronger undercarriage, and fuselage reinforcements and different engines were needed. The same F28 COD was also offered as an aerial tanker. In this venture Fokker cooperated with Lockeed Aircraft Services when making its proposal to the U.S. Navy, but in the end an improved version of the Greyhound was selected. With eventually 241 F28s sold, F28 sales were rather dwarfed by those of the F27.
This was largely due to competition from Boeing and Douglas with the 737 and DC-9. These aircraft were somewhat larger than the F28 and therefore better met the growth expectations of airlines. Later on, the British Aerospace 146 proved a stiff competitor, being specially designed for short-field operation.
Production of the F28 was terminated in 1984 to enable the assembly line to be converted for the Fokker 100.