Anthony Fokker (1890-1939) Dutch plane constructor
Dutchman Anthony Herman Gerard Fokker was born on April 6, 1890 in Kediri on the Indonesian (or Dutch East Indies at the time) island Java. Now admired by many engineers, Fokker himself never finished his studies. He took profit of his father Herman Fokker's wealth, starting his own aviation company in Germany at the age of 20 and building his first plane called De Spin (The Spider).
"Consciously or not, all of his life Anthony Fokker stayed the privileged child to whom it was normal that his social and financial status enabled him to command or buy other people"
Marc Dierikx in his Fokker biography
De Spin's tail could go up and down by pulling the steering wheel. The tail could also tilt. By combining these movements the pilot was able to steer the plane. Still, within a month De Spin crashed into a tree and was destroyed, only clocking some 100-meter flights. His third effort was more successful (it made its famous - yet in the Netherlands - voyage around the St. Bavo church in Haarlem), which was spotted by the German authorities. They took over his company.
Fokker then travelled to Russia to sell airplanes to the Red army but they were not interested. Nevertheless, he met his girlfriend Ljuba Galanschikoff there. She bought one of his planes, making good advertisement by breaking the women's altitude record. Their relationship was doomed 'though, because Anthony could talk about nothing but planes.
On the outbreak of World War I, Anthony Fokker (also known as Anton Fokker) began work on a new single-seated fighter plane. The Netherlands were neutral in this war, but Fokker kept working on his life's work for the Germans, refraining from political issues. He was convinced that it was truly important to develop an aviation system where the pilot could fire a machine-gun while flying the plane. His solution was to synchronize a forward firing gun with the propeller, continuing the earlier work in this area by French pilot Roland Garros.
After the war, he took his materials to Amsterdam and started a new aviation factory. In 1922, he moved to the US (the Americans had captured 142 German Fokkers and wanted more), received an American passport and founded another plane company there in 1923: The Fokker Aircraft Corporation.
In the interbellum the Fokker corporation developed civil and military aircrafts. Fokker died just before World War II on December 23, 1939, leaving behind a company with potential.
The greatest Dutch airplane builder passed away in New York
NEW YORK - DEC. 23, 1939 - After numerous blood transfusions, which couldn't help him anymore, Anthony Herman Gerard Fokker, passed away this morning at half past 9 in the hospital where he was taken care of.
Several weeks ago Fokker had a nose operation. It went off smoothly but an infection caused very serious meningitis. After several days of unconsciousness, Fokker passed away this morning, in the country where he'd spent the last years of his life.
Unknown newspaper (http://flying-oldies.freeservers.com/Fokkerengl.htm)
After the war, the ruined factory in Holland was reconstructed, providing the path of success for the profitable Fokker-27 Friendship and Fokker-28 Fellowship. The Fokker company went bankrupt in 1996.