In the early 1960s, British European Airways issued a specification for a high-speed jet-powered regional airliner. Fokker, who had built a great name with their turboprop F-27, decided to oblige. Fokker’s North American customers heavily influenced the project. They wanted a rugged, easy to operate aircraft and above all else they emphasized simplicity. The initial design was for a 65 seat jet airliner capable of flying 1650km. In an early example of European cooperation between Fokker, the German Messerschmitt and Shorts Brothers of the UK, the F-28 was born.
Simplicity was the key to the new aircraft. The aircraft had engines mounted at the rear of the fuselage, a T-tail as well as low mounted wings that shielded the engines from damage. The F-28’s wing allowed for cruise speeds well in excess of its turboprop rivals, but however, was still capable of generating a lot of lift at slow speeds. This allowed it to fly to 85% of airports served by the turboprop F-27. Unusually, the F-28 had no hydraulic system to power undercarriage and nose wheel steering, relying instead on a reliable pneumatic one. Powered by 2 Rolls Royce Spey Turbojets capable of 9,850lb of thrust, it was perfect for hot and high airfields.
Its first flight was in 1967 and type certification took place in 1969. The F-28 was built in a number of guises, culminating with the most successful -4000 in 1976. It had seating for up to 85 passengers, quieter, more efficient engines, a new flight deck and a wider cabin. Many airlines around the world operated the F-28 and it became a favourite of Air Forces for VIP transport. Until recently, the F-28 was still used by the Argentine Air Force as a passenger jet, transporting customers safely around South America.
A Beloved Failure
In the end, only 241 F-28s were produced which could be considered to be a failure. The Boeing 737 and DC9 ultimately killed the F28, however, it was well-loved by passengers and crews alike. It also proved very popular in areas of the world where traditional airliners would struggle to operate in. The F28 was revolutionary in its own right, with its simple and rugged reliability, certainly an aircraft that deserved greater success.