A.Weyl Fokker: The Creative Years (Putnam)
At the end of 1912 it was clear to Fokker that he could expect no orders from the Prussian Army. He therefore turned his attention to the needs of the Reichsmarine, the Imperial Germany Navy. The Navy wanted aircraft. In 1912 they had organized a seaplane competition at Heiligendamm, but excessively difficult technical conditions were imposed and no worthwhile result was achieved. Official designs for flying-boats were constructed by selected manufacturers: the Albatros works built a flyingboat designed by the naval constructor H. Wahl, and other officially-sponsored flying-boats were built by the D.F.W. and Rumpler concerns.
Fokker was so impressed by the official desire to secure seaplanes that he decided to produce one of his own. His interest had been stimulated by the flying-boat that Goedecker had entered for the Heiligendamm competition. De Waal had flown the Goedecker boat.
Some mystery and intrigue and a hint of espionage attended Fokker’s first seaplane venture. One of his pupils had been one Felix Schulz, who described himself as a captain in the merchant navy but was in reality a regular officer of the Imperial Navy, employed on discreet missions by the naval intelligence department. Schulz spent some weeks in England, during which time he “learned to fly” at the Avro school at Shoreham, displaying a remarkable degree of skill for a “novice”. He may well have been the mysterious German naval “Lieutenant X” reported by the Press to have tested the Avro 503 seaplane at Southampton in August 1913 before its purchase by the German Navy.
It has been said on the one hand that Schulz was a spy, on the other that he was merely an agent for the German government in arranging the purchase of British seaplanes.1 Whatever he was, Schulz contrived to acquire for Fokker the drawings of a new British seaplane. Unfortunately the identity of the British machine remains unknown. Fokker in his autobiography unhesitatingly describes Schulz not merely as a German spy but a British spy as well. (This had not troubled Fokker when he asked Schulz to act as his agent in England with a view to interesting the British Admiralty in Fokker aircraft.) Schulz was never able to refute or confirm Fokker’s statement: he was killed in a crash at Johannisthal on September 26, 1913.
It is probable that the general design of the unidentified British seaplane had little influence on the first Fokker seaplane, for the aircraft that appeared on the River Dahme near Coepenick on February 9, 1913, bore no resemblance to any contemporary British aircraft.
The Fokker W.1 was a flying-boat. It is not known who designed it or who made it; it simply appeared. Neither Palm nor Goedecker had any hand in its design, and Fokker himself could not have designed it. No components were made in Fokker’s workshop; Goedecker neither supplied materials nor made parts. Fokker, as usual, offered no explanations, but he let it be known that construction began on January 2, 1913. A contemporary advertisement announced confidently but prematurely that the Fokker-Aeroplanbau could supply Fokker Seaplanes ... without giving further details.
The W.1 was an unequal-span biplane, quite unlike the Spider landplanes. The hull might have been made by one of the many boat wharves along the waters near Berlin, but the maker of the wings has never been identified. One cannot exclude the possibility that the German Admiralty may have been responsible for the aircraft and may have financed its construction, but it seems that the truth about the Fokker W.1’s origin will never be known.
The only part of the flying-boat that bore any semblance of a relationship to its landplane predecessors was the upper wing: it had pronounced sweep-back and dihedral, and was without any form of lateral control. There was no other common feature. Both mainplanes had two wooden spars and double-surface fabric covering; the upper spanned about 54 ft., the lower about 23 ft. The upper centre section was left open; the 70-h.p. Renault engine was installed as a pusher on the rearward extensions of the two parallel ash beams to which the upper wings were attached. The lower wing was attached directly to the upper longerons of the hull, and had a small plywood float under each wing tip.
The shallow hull was a wooden structure and had obviously been made by a boat builder. The basic framework of longerons and bulkheads was planked with narrow strips of cedar; there was a single step just forward of the centre of gravity. The step was adjustable, consisting of a piece of strong fabric held stretched by spring-loaded levers. It was a device for which Fokker held a patent (D.R.P. 267071), although it is unlikely that he was the actual inventor. The patent was for self-adjusting elastically deforming planing bottoms for floats and hulls; it was claimed that the device would soften the impact of alighting and would give broader planing surfaces.
There was no fixed tailplane: the elevator was supported above the stern of the hull by a braced framework of steel tubes. The balanced rudder was in two parts, one above, the other below, the elevator.
As required by the Reichsmarineamt, the engine could be started from the cockpit. A crank handle behind the passenger’s seat turned a shaft that was connected by chain and sprockets to the engine. With the 70-h.p. Renault the Fokker W.1 was underpowered, and Fokker intended to fit to a second version the 100-h.p. twelve-cylinder engine that he later wrongly attributed to the W.1 itself.
Fokker may have suspected that the centre of gravity was too far aft, for he took a mechanic and 130 lb. of ballast on board for the flight trials. A few low hops showed that the W.1 was in fact tail heavy, and some modifications were made. Fokker then attempted a flight. With the engine running full out the aircraft was not unmanageably tail heavy, but it was not apparent that the elevator was too small, for the slipstream kept it effective. As soon as Fokker throttled back the tail dropped alarmingly and the machine stalled in spite of Fokker’s full use of the elevator. He opened the throttle fully to regain control and attempted a landing, trying to make a series of stalled descents with stick fully forward and cautious use of the throttle. His efforts were unavailing, however: the final stall was too low; the bows caved in when the hull struck the water, and Fokker was thrown clear. His mechanic had more difficulty in getting away from the wreckage and narrowly escaped decapitation by the propeller when he surfaced - the engine was still running.
The crash was a blow to Fokker’s pride and a disappointment, for he had entered the W.l in the great international Monaco seaplane competition and it would have been the only German entrant. In March 1913 Fokker announced that a new flying-boat was under construction for the Monaco competition, but there is no evidence that work was ever started on a successor to W.1. In the following month the firm announced that “owing to urgent commitments on military orders” it was too busy to take part in the Monaco contest. And that was that.
There was some truth in Fokker’s statement that his firm’s preoccupation with orders for Army aircraft prevented the continuation of the flying-boat experiments. Rather unexpectedly the Prussian War Ministry ordered two more Spiders, one with a 100-h.p. Argus, the other with the new 95-h.p. six-cylinder Mercedes engine.
J.Herris Fokker Aircraft of WWI. Vol.1: Spinne - M.10 & Watercraft (A Centennial Perspective on Great War Airplanes 51)
The Fokker W.1 (W for Wasser = water) was a small flying boat with one rotary engine mounted as a pusher. Construction started on January 2, 1913. The W.1 was a sesquiplane, a biplane whose upper wings were much longer than the lower. The hull was a streamlined wooden structure probably built by a skilled boat builder.
The rectangular planform lower wings were attached to the upper hull longerons without sweepback or dihedral. Both wings were of wooden structure covered with fabric on both sides. Wing warping was used for roll control. The engine was intended to be a 100 hp Renault but Fokker fitted a 70 hp Renault that he had at hand.
Its first flight was 9 February 1913. The flying boat was tail heavy and Fokker carried a mechanic and ballast to correct the problem. This was not sufficient and some adjustments were made to the airframe to correct the center of gravity. Nevertheless, the flying boat was still tail heavy and on a subsequent test flight Fokker was unable to control the aircraft and crashed it from low altitude, ending its career.
Jane's All The World Aircraft 1913
FOKKER. Monoplanes. Fokker-Aeroplanbau, G.m.b.H., 18 Parkstrasse, Johannisthal bei Berlin.
1912-13. 1912-13. 1912-13. 1913.
A. B. C. Hydro-
Length......feet(m.) 29? (9) 29? (9) 29? (9) 31 (9.50)
Span........feet(m.) 42? (13.2) 42? (13.2) 42? (13.2) 2? (16.20)
Area....sq.feet(m?.) 280 (26) 280 (26) 280 (26) ...
...total, lbs.(kgs.) 970 (440) 1146 (520) 1190 (540) ...
...useful, bs.(kgs.) ... ... ... ...
Motor..........h.p. 70 Argus or 100 Argus 70 Renault 100 Renault
Dixi or Mercedes
....max, m.p.h.(km.) 52 (83) 60 (96) 53 (85) 59 (95)
....min, m.p.h.(km.) 43 (70) ... ... ...
Endurance.......hrs. 5-8 5-8 4-6 4
during 1912. 6 5 2 ...
Remarks.--The Fokker is a machine of Dutch origin. (See DUTCH).