History of Flight from Around the World
While the people of the Netherlands experimented with hot air balloons in the 18th and 19th centuries, avation attracted little interest in the country until 1907, when a handful of people, convinced that aviation had a bright future, founded the Dutch Aeronautical Society (later the Dutch Royal Aeronautical Society).
The society tried to promote interest in aviation by procuring a number of balloons and gliders in 1909, and its activities stimulated aviation in the early years of the century. The first flying display was, however, organized in 1909 by a private citizen using a two-seat Wright Flyer. Soon, the first Dutch civil aviators began flying in Bleriot, Anoinette, and Curtiss airplanes, and the aviators numbers increased steadily after the first flying school was established in 1910. That same year Dutchmen built their first airplanes. The first was a replica of a Bleriot monoplane, but Dutchmen soon began flying in their own designs.
Army aviation began in July 1913, followed by the Naval air service in 1915. In 1914 the aviation department of the Dutch East Indies Army (KNIL) was founded. The Netherlands was neutral during World War I, so the Dutch armed forces did not benefit from the substantial progress in aviation technology that was made during that period.
Because of the limited interest in aviation before the war, many Dutch aircraft designers went abroad. Frits Koolhoven went to the United Kingdom in 1911. He returned to the Netherlands in 1920 and started his own factory in 1930. His most successful aircraft was the FK51, but his factory was bombed in 1940 by the German Luftwaffe and never restarted. The most famous Dutch entrepreneur was Anthony Fokker. He was educated in Germany, where he built his first airplane in 1910. Fokker produced 7,600 airplanes for Germany during the First World War. Famous aircraft included the Fokker Eindecker, the Fokker D-III, and D-VII. After that war he smuggled 200 aircraft, 500 engines, and other parts to the Netherlands and started his own factory at Sciphol near Amsterdam.
Many famous civil and military aircraft were produced by Fokker's company before World War II. During the war production came more or less to a standstill, but the Dutch government decided that aircraft production in the Netherlands should resume after the war. The government consolidated industrial activities into one company, Fokker. The new Fokker developed a number of military training aircraft (S-11 to S-14). It also engaged in the assembly and license-production of military aircraft (Seafury, Meteor, Hunter, F-104, F-5) and later participated in the co-production of the F-16 Fighting Falcon. The company also developed the successor to the DC-3-the F27 Friendship. After the F27's first flight in 1955, 786 planes were sold, making it the most successful civil turboprop aircraft in the Western world. A much-improved derivative, the Fokker F50, was offered in the 1980s.
The Fokker Company was one of the first to implement cross-border integration by merging with the German VFW Company in the 1970s. However, the merger ended in failure. Fokker gave it another try with DASA in the early 90s, but the Fokker Aircraft Company went bankrupt, even though its products were well liked and backlog orders still existed. The STORK Company bought the surviving Fokker "Aviation" Company, which now employs more than 3,000 people and specializes in the production of major components, electric- and power distribution systems, and advanced aerospace materials as well as maintenance. The Fokker Aviation Group is a partner in several global aircraft projects and-following a government decision in 1997-participates in Airbus projects.
Helicopter design and development also thrived in the Netherlands. In 1922 the British Air Ministry offered a prize of £50,000 for the design and construction of a helicopter and this stimulated the start of the Netherlands Helicopter Society. The first Dutch helicopter was flight tested from 1925 to 1930. Although the helicopter was of modern design, including the use of a tail rotor, it never went beyond the prototype stage. A second Dutch helicopter was developed in the 1950s. After an experimental period, the Netherlands Helicopter Industry was formed in 1955 to develop and manufacture the "Kolibrie" helicopter. This machine featured ramjet engines at the rotortips and self-adjusting blades. This helicopter had excellent flying characteristics, but high fuel consumption and noise levels limited its application and only a small number were produced. The latest development related to helicopters is the acquisition by the Dutch RDM company of Boeing civil helicopters in the United States in 1999. This company is famous for its MD-500 range of helicopters and the "NOTAR" development.
Thanks to the support of the Dutch Royal Aeronautical Society, Albert Plesman founded the Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) one of the first scheduled airlines in the world, in 1919. KLM was one of the first carriers to promote the idea of creating transatlantic mega-carriers by associating with Northwest. This cooperation is currently extended to Alitalia. This group is now one of the four leading mega-carriers in the world and Schiphol Airport has become one of the leading gateways to Europe. All aeronautical activities in the Netherlands are supported by the National Aerospace Laboratory (NLR), which was founded in 1919. NLR provides technological support to the industry, government, and operators.
Originally provided to AIAA for its Evolution of Flight Campaign.
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