Anthony Fokker: Dutch Innovator, Industrialist and Aviation Enthusiast

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By Phineas Upham

Anthony Fokker was destined to be an accomplished auto mechanic. His father sent him to technical school to learn how to repair cars in 1910, but his interest in aircraft led him to transfer. He started schooling at an institute where he could study air maintenance instead.

That same year, he designed and built his first plane. It was called “The Spider,” and it was an open monoplane. It was short-lived however, as his business partner flew it into a tree and demolished it shortly after construction was completed.

Out of the ashes came a new design, which Fokker named “Spin.” It was with “Spin” that he acquired his license to become a pilot. He used his license for a bit of publicity in 1911, when he flew his plane around the Bavokerk Tower in Haarlem.

During World War I, Germany took over operation of Fokker’s company after he demonstrated how he could assemble a plane and take off within minutes. He became chief director and designer for the German Luftstreitkrafte, building over 700 military planes. One of those planes was the infamous tri-plane flown by the Red Baron.

Although, Fokker’s intentions were never with the military for long term. He successfully smuggled hundreds of designs out of Germany after the German surrender. This led him to the United States, where he manufactured the tri-motor aircraft engine that ruled the air during the 1920s. Fokker eventually sold his plans to General Motors, which the company used to create “General Aviation Corp” in 1931.

About the Author: Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phineas Upham website or LinkedIn page.