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Typenumber Fokker Universal
Type of aircraft
Country U.S.
Crew 1
Number of passengers 4
Wingspan 14.55 m
Lenght 10.82 m
Height 2.44 m
Enginetype Wright Wirlwind J5
220 hp
Cruise speed 160 km/h
Max take-off weight 1728 kg
Empty weight 1116 kg
Fokker Universal (U.S.)

This first American Fokker design by Noorduyn was the Universal, which proved to be a commercial succes

A special Universal with a Pratt & Whitney Wasp engine and richly endowed with advertisements

The undercarriage of the Universal could easily be replaced by floats or skies. This made this aircraft particularly popular in Canada and the U.S.

The undercarriage of the Universal could easily be replaced by floats or skies. This made this aircraft particularly popular in Canada and the U.S.

A canadian Universal

Succesfull 'Jack of all trades'

In 1926, the Fokker factory in America was visited by a young airmail pilot who had the idea of making a non-stop flight over the Atlantic Ocean.

For this ambitious undertaking he wanted to use a Fokker aircraft: the Universal.

Although on many occasions Fokker aircraft had gained a reputation for pioneering flights, the American Fokker staff were not really enthusiastic about the plans of this potential customer.

They were probably not so much worried about his fate as concerned about their company's reputation. They found the flight too risky and the pilot did not get an aircraft.

A year later this determined pioneer made his Atlantic crossing from New York to Paris not with a Fokker Universal but with a Ryan NYP aircraft specially modified for the flight. He was immediately world famous.

His name- Charles Lindbergh! Although Lindbergh's transatlantic flight had not been made with a Fokker Universal, the aircraft was still a success in every respect. The Model 4 Universal was a versatile 'Jack of all trades' that was suitably baptized the 'Universal'.

It was the first Fokker commercial aircraft to be designed and built completely in the United States.

The earlier American Models 1, 2 and 3 were military aircraft or developments thereof.

Long history

The activities of Fokker in the United States had a long history. The first Fokker aircraft came to the United States during the First World War. They were military aircraft captured by the Allied Forces.

After the war, another 150 machines followed, having been acquired under the terms of the surrender. Among these were some aircraft that were only part-built, although the German defense ministry had already fully paid for them. Anthony Fokker felt, correctly, that the numbers of aircraft being built in the United States in the years after the war were small compared with Western Europe. To Fokker this suggested that the U.S. market offered possibilities.

In addition, he wanted to exploit his fame as a designer of superior military aircraft. However, because of the work Fokker had done for the Germans during the war, his name often had a negative connotation and had to be more or less disguised. To survey the possibilities in the 'States, he first visited the country in October 1920.

This was during the days when the F.II was in full production and the prototype F.III was being built. In the following months he established the Netherlands Aircraft Manufacturing Company of America in New York. The new company was headed by Bob Noorduyn and his young associate Fritz Cremer who would, however, soon be saying 'farewell' to aviation. In its early years the American company was nothing more than a sales office for Dutch-built aircraft.


In 1923, Fokker established a factory under the name of the Atlantic Aircraft Corporation based at Teterboro Airport in the State of New jersey. Fokker used the buildings that had served the WittemanLewis Aircraft Manufacturing Company that had gone bankrupt. The inducement to establish production facilities in America was the encouragement that Fokker had received from the American General Billy Mitchell who was worried about the shortcomings of the U.S. aircraft industry. Mitchell felt that if his own country was lacking in this field, then renowned foreigners should be persuaded to the job.

He helped Fokker to win his first big contract: the rebuilding of 135 military de Havilland D.H.4 biplanes. Fokker replaced the wooden fuselage of these aircraft with a proven steel tube construction of his own. After foundation of the factory at Teterboro, there was a company restructuring in 1925 which resulted in the sales office being renamed the Fokker Aircraft Corporation of which the Atlantic Aircraft Corporation was a daughter company.

Initially, apart from rebuilding the D.H.4s, the Atlantic corporation was engaged only in assembling aircraft manufactured in the Netherlands, including versions of the EVIT. These were shipped as kits of parts to America. It was not long, however, before Teterboro began building its own aircraft designs. Aircraft built at Tetrerboro were mostly identified as 'Atlantic'.

This helped keep the name Tokker' out of the limelight.


The 'intellectual fathers' of the Universal design were R. B. C. 'Bob' Noorduyn, as already mentioned, and designer A. Francis Archer. In view of Noorduyri's both earlier and later work, there can be little doubt that he took an important part in the design work.

Midway through the 'twenties, it was difficult for aircraft builders to forecast the future needs of American aviation. It was not at all clear what type of aircraft had the best sales potential. In those days America was way behind in passenger air transportation compared with Europe. The American government acted to stimulate interest, but the volume of commercial aviation remained limited. The lack of suitable passenger aircraft acted as brake on the development of airlines for a commercially-healthy air travel system. Compared to Europe, old-fashioned standards - open cockpits, foot stoves, leather coats, ear muffs - persisted in American aircraft to the mid-twenties.

An important role was played by specialized airmail transport. Undertaken mostly with modified ex-military aircraft, this was under the control of the government until 1925. Even so, it was not at all clear in what direction passenger transport might develop in America.


It was under these circumstances that Noorduyn had to answer the question as to what the most important role of the Universal might be: passenger transportation or the carriage of mail and freight.

Noorduyn decided on a compromise: a freighter with windows that made the aircraft useable for passenger flights as well. Among the versions was one with both standard seating arrangements plus provision - such as tie-down rings not normally found in passenger aircraft - for carrying light freight. In accordance with established Fokker tradition in Europe, the Universal was a high wing monoplane with a single engine, a wooden wing and a fuselage of steel tube and fabric. The use of wing-support struts was noteworthy as it was already outmoded in Europe.

The pilot was positioned rather high in the front fuselage, just ahead of the wing. He sat in an open cockpit, protected by a rather small windshield. Some Universals were later to be equipped with an enclosed cockpit. The engine was initially a 200 hp Wright Whirlwind J4 that had already carved a good reputation for itself in military aviation. More powerful Whirlwind versions were installed later. The Universal, described on factory drawings as Model 4, did not get an 'F' number.


In October 1925, the Universal was shown to the public for the first time at the National Air Races at Mitchell Field near New York. The exact date of the first flight is not known, but it must have been shortly before this event. The Press showed considerable interest because of the Ford Reliability Tour held a short time before, and praised the new aircraft and its possibilities for carrying mail and freight.

The first orders came from Colonial Air Transport who were going to use the Fokker for carrying mail between New York and Boston.

To build the first Universal, personnel were brought over from Amsterdam. The Dutch influence was also shown in the color scheme which was identical with what was normal in the Netherlands. The first Universal was a real prototype, not intended for sale. After the launch order from Colonial Air Transport, orders came in at a regular pace, reflecting the quiet pace at which air traffic in America developed in those days.

Among the customers there were also operators in Canada who sometimes required the Universals to be equipped with skis or floats.


These aircraft were mainly put into service during the 'gold rush' for transporting prospectors and their tools and supplies to the goldfields.

The Universal also flew in Nicaragua, England, Kenya, Costa Rica, Honduras and Cuba - and in Australia the aircraft made its inaugural flight with Ansett Airways on 17 February 1936. Fokker was always anxious to meet the special wishes of his customers.

Therefore, variations of the Universal flew with wheel covers, a slightly larger wing, or a more powerful engine. By way of an experiment, one Universal had a nose wheel which was something of an innovation for those days.

Although the Atlantic crossing by Lindbergh did not take place with a Universal, the flight did have a beneficial effect on Fokkers orderbook The performance of America's aviation pioneer enormously stimulated aviation transport in his country and the public began to gain confidence in aviation.

This undoubtedly helped the total of Universals built reach some 45 aircraft.


One Universal was specially prepared for an historic flight. A certain Nat Browne bought the aircraft to fly non-stop from Seattle to Tokyo. Attractive prize money had been offered for the first person to do this. However, Browne had first to solve some problems. His biggest difficulty was that the Universal could not take enough fuel for such a long flight. A practical solution this problem seemed to be refuelling in the air from another aircraft.

For this, Browne chose a Fokker C.IV. Inflight refuelling was still in its infancy, but technically it was already possible. Browne was going t0 fly the Universal himself, and a helper on board would catch the fuel hose trailing from the C.VI. After topping up the tanks, his companion became nothing more than a weight penalty and would therefore leave the aircraft by parachute.

Browne tried to make the Universal lighter in every possible way.



For instance he replaced the wing struts with cables because in flight, he reasoned, these would have to make only tension forces. However, the idea did not turn out so well. The Universal was already heavily laden with fuel, and to gain speed easily during take-off, Browne accelerated the aircraft down an artificial slope.

The wing was filled with fuel and when level ground was reached, it deflected downwards but fortunately did not break. In the air, Browne's cables held the wing in just the right position. With the refuelling, Browne had bad luck. The filling hose hit the Universal's rudder and the aircraft became almost uncontrollable.

The already-weakened wing, while trying to provide lift, had a difficult time. When it appeared to be close to failure, both crew members decided to use their parachutes. They reached the ground safely, but it was the end of the Universal and its flight to Tokyo.