aviation at the start
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Aerial Reconnaissance
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the Fokker scourge
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Aircraft of WW1
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The Fokker scourge

Anthony Fokker's first aircraft was a monoplane he called "Die Spinne" ("The Spider").

Anthony Fokker was born in Java on April 6, 1890, to Dutch parents. He learned the basics of aeronautics at a technical school in Mainz and built his first plane in 1910. By 1913, he had established a small factory and a successful flight school at Schwerin, one hundred miles (16 1km) northwest of Berlin. He was to become one of the most interesting and controversial figures in the history of aviation. Fokker’s career in aeronautics lasted until his death in New York City on December 23, 1939.

Fokker was accused of copying the designs of others; in fact, he was an admirer of Morane- Saulnier planes and based many of his aircraft on their lines. His Oberursel engine in his planes was a virtual copy of the French Gnome engine. He was accused of fabricating tall tales, such as the story he told about taking the propeller off Garros’ captured plane and single-handedly concocting the mechanism of his landmark Eindekker (single wing) E.I in a marathon forty-eight- our session of frantic engineering.

 Max Immelmann is pictured here in front of the Fokker E.I Eindekker, a plane that was not particularly fast or manoeuvrable, but had the distinction of having the first synchronized machine gun and propeller. In Immelmann’s hands, the Eindekker outclassed anything in the sky.

The fact was that he and engineer Heinrich Luebbe had already designed a mechanism that successfully synchronized the propeller with the firing of a machine gun, and had ins. Fokker produced forty different types of aircraft during the war (all designed by a team led by his chief engineer, Reinhold Platz), and after the war produced the planes that formed the basis of the commercial aviation industry of the 1920s and 1930s. talled it on one of his aircraft. His mechanism had nothing whatever to do with the Garros-Saulnier device, and Fokker promoted the tall tale to hide the fact that he had also offered his invention to the Allies (who turned him down)

The first Fokker E.Is reached the front in the summer of 1915, and two fliers in particular showed a facility in handling the new system: Oswald Boelcke, a flier whose exploits as a reconnaissance aviator in an Albatross spotter plane had already earned him the Iron Cross; and Max Immelmann, known as “The Eagle of Lille,” after the town in northern France over which he often prowled.

He was a husky, athletic man who could barely fit in the E.I’s pilot’s seat. These two men formed the core of the squadron Jagdstaffel (fighter-squadron) Nr. 2 (contracted to Jasta 2), and became the most celebrated aces in the last six months of 1915, during which the Fokker planes had unchallenged control of the skies.

Boelcke and Immelmann often flew together displaying an uncanny coordination. Yet they were very different people. Immelmann was a  lonely moody  and given to fits of anger, brooding and undisciplined. He sometimes used acrobatic turns to outflank an enemy flier. One such manoeuvre, a combination loop and half-roll that gives the pilot a quick second pass at a target, is called the “Immelmann turn” (though he never mentioned the manoeuvre in any of his letters and the turn was already a staple among stunt fliers before the war). 

Boelcke was a teacher before the war and, though he thought of himself as a lone knight, he also understood the importance of coordinated and disciplined attack. He was an outgoing leader of men, a bon vivant who often took young women for rides in his airplane and who enjoyed the finer things. Boelcke shared his knowledge and experience, and trained many of the fliers who were to become aces later in the war. Yet, Boelcke and Immelmann were like-minded in their beliefs about how the Fokker planes should be used.

Anthony Fokker looked even younger than twenty-five, his age when he rose to the top of Germany’s military aircraft program—and he was not German. The executives and engineers at Albatross had to swallow hard taking orders from the young upstart. But the key to Fokker’s success was that he sought the advice and friendship of the aces who flew the planes, including Oswald Boelcke a master flier and tactician of the World War l

They took an aggressive approach, ignoring directives that forbade them from chasing Allied planes across battle lines. For their leadership in clearing the skies of Allied planes, Boelcke and Immelmann were awarded the Ordre Pour le Merite, a medal that became known as the Blue Max (after Lmmelmann), Germany’s highest military honour, established by Frederick the Great in 1740 (when French was the language of the court) and previously awarded only to generals responsible for winning wars. By the end of the war, eighty-one fliers were awarded the Blue Max (much to the consternation of the highest ranking generals or the far fewer prewar recipients still living at the time), making the flier the most glorified soldier since the Middle Ages. Boelcke and Lmmelmann died during in-flight accidents in 1916, and both received funerals fit for a Wagnerian hero.

Few aircraft of the World War I period have received the attention given the Fokker Dr.I triplane. Often linked with the career of the highest scoring ace of that war, Germany's Rittmeister Manfred von Richthofen, the nimble Dr. I earned a reputation as one of the best "dogfighters" of the war.

By the summer of 1915, German control of the skies allowed its ground forces to fend off every Allied offensive and to mount the assault on Verdun in February 1916, exacting a great toll in Allied casualties and throwing the Allies into disarray. Continued Allied efforts to duplicate the Fokker firing mechanism proved difficult, and by the time better-performing Allied planes came off the production lines, the German aces had accumulated valuable combat experience—and an invaluable psychological edge.

The Fokker D.VII was unquestionably the best all-round German fighter of WWI.

Realizing Fokker’s potential, the German government naturalized him in 1916 and forbade him to leave the country. For the rest of the war, he continued designing some of the most dangerous combat airplanes of the war, including the Dr.1 Dreidecker (made famous by Manfred von Richtofen, the "Red Baron") and the D.VII, the first airplane specifically designed for aerial combat. When the war ended, the D.VII was the only weapon the Treaty of Versailles specifically ordered to be destroyed.

Manfred von Richtofen after a mission