Anthony Fokker (1890-1939) began designing and building aeroplanes in his home country of Holland in 1910. He set up the Fokker aircraft company in Germany in 1912 to take advantage of greater commercial possibilities. During World War I, the Fokker concern manufactured three of the most famous scout (fighter) aircraft of the German air force. In 1919, Fokker moved back to Holland, allegedly shipping several trainloads of parts and aircraft back to the Netherlands amidst the chaos of postwar Germany. With this infrastructure in place, Fokker quickly began selling aircraft based on its wartime machines while designing new planes, especially transports. Fokker became the preeminent maker of transport aircraft in the 1920s and continued into the 1930s, selling to most European countries and to the U.S. and Canada.
Fokker created several innovations during the First World War that the rest of the aviation industry was slow to adopt, giving the company a technological advantage that lasted into the 1930s. Foremost was the use of cantilever wings, which are thick wings built around strong spars and internal truss structures so that they need no bracing. Contemporary World War I aeroplanes had wings that could not support their own weight and flight loads without external struts and bracing wires that usually formed a box-like structure. Fokker’s wings not only were stronger, but their thickness was compensated for by more efficient airfoils. Less important, but also significant, is that Fokker began building his fuselages out of welded metal tubes at a time when almost all manufacturers were using wooden structures.
Anthony Fokker died in 1939, and his company made few World War II warplanes, engaging mostly in production for the Germans who had occupied Holland. German looting and Allied bombing wiped out Fokker’s factories by the end of the war, and it had to start from scratch. In the postwar era it produced a few successful designs, but by the 1990s it seemed to have run out of ideas. It succumbed to bankruptcy in 1996, although a new Fokker company still exists, mainly to service some of the later Fokker transports that remain in service worldwide.
I have often heard Fokker pronounced by airshow announcers and others as if it rhymes with “poker,” apparently to avoid saying something that sounds like an obscenity in English. My Dutch friends assure me that Fokker rhymes with “rocker.”