A.Weyl Fokker: The Creative Years (Putnam)
In July 1913 Fokker had the opportunity of studying closely one of the most advanced monoplane designs of the time. The French pilot Leon Letort landed unexpectedly at Johannisthal. He had flown non-stop from Paris on a Morane-Saulnier monoplane. The distance of 920 km. (570 miles) had been covered in 8 3/4 hours; the Morane’s 80-h.p. Le Rhone rotary engine had consumed 155 litres (34 gallons) of petrol and 49 litres (10-8 gallons) of oil; Letort still had 80 litres (17-7 gallons) of petrol left when he landed.
The light and graceful monoplane created a sensation at Johannisthal; it had put up a performance that no contemporary German aeroplane could equal. The Morane-Saulnier was a revelation to Fokker: he saw for the first time what a well-designed light monoplane with a good engine could do. He was even more impressed by the implicit confidence that Letort had in his engine. Between the time of his landing on July 13, 1913, to that of his return flight to Paris on July 27, the French pilot gave not the slightest attention to his aircraft. This afforded a good opportunity, missed by few interested people, of studying the aeroplane at close quarters.
But Fokker already knew a good deal about the Morane-Saulnier monoplane. The celebrated Swiss pilot Edmonde Audemars, who had made the first flight from Paris to Berlin in 1912, wanted to be the first man to fly from Berlin to Paris. For this flight, made in 1913, Audemars had chosen a Morane-Saulnier Type H monoplane in which he installed an 80-h.p. Gnome in place of the usual 50-h.p. engine; the aircraft was a single-seater with a span of 8-5 metres (27 ft. 10 1/2 in.). The Morane-Saulnier was sent by road from Vienna (where Audemars had been flying) to Johannisthal. Audemars knew his compatriot Schneider well, and had his aircraft housed in the L.V.G. sheds for assembly.
Fokker used his connexions among the L.V.G. mechanics to good purpose, and contrived to get into the L.V.G. sheds after working hours. It appears that he took with him someone who could make sketches. By chance, Schneider found Fokker there and sent him packing, but not before he had secured valuable technical details of the Morane-Saulnier. Audemars learned of this incident and told Raymond Saulnier, the designer of the monoplane, about it during the Paris Aero Salon of 1913. When Audemars met Fokker twenty years later he reminded him of the incident. Fokker merely grinned and said that all was fair in war ... the Morane-Saulnier was, after all, the best aircraft of its day ... it had interested him and he had wanted to study it. . . .
The appearance of Letort’s and Audemars’ Morane-Saulnier monoplanes at Johannisthal influenced German aircraft development. Various attempts were made to copy the design or to reproduce its main features. These attempts were probably helped by the publication in Flugsport of a technical description of the Morane-Saulnier. Few such descriptions were published; the leading French aviation journals of the day seemed to overlook the progressive features of the aircraft.
Fokker’s aeronautical education was further advanced in October 1913 by another Frenchman flying another French aeroplane. The man was Adolphe Pegoud, his aircraft a Bleriot monoplane, and his aerobatic performances made a profound impression on Fokker. Fokker realized the capabilities of a manoeuvrable, robust aeroplane. He also realized that his own moderately steep turns and zooms could no longer be described as daring artistic flying. Like many of the German pilots who saw Pegoud’s performance, Fokker resolved to imitate the Frenchman’s feats as soon as he could obtain a suitable aeroplane. Some of the Johannisthal pilots immediately placed orders for Bleriot monoplanes.
The failure of the M.2 led Fokker to conclude that streamlining did not pay: it increased weight and complicated construction. If slab-sided fuselages were good enough for the fast L.V.G. monoplane and for the Jeannin aircraft, they would do for him too. The next Fokker, basically similar to the M.2, therefore, had an unfaired fuselage with a rectangular cross-section.
The new monoplane was the Fokker M.3, and it was built at Johannisthal. In structural design its fuselage was generally similar to the Jeannin fuselage but was welded by Platz. A short top decking was added about the cockpits. The 95-h.p. Mercedes engine was fitted with one of the new Windhoff overhead radiators. This was light, compact, and less affected by the vibrations of the engine, being mounted directly on it; it was considerably better than the heavy, leaky side radiators of the M.2, but restricted the forward view from the cockpits.
The wings, tail unit and undercarriage were generally similar to those of the M.2, and the main lift bracing was again anchored to the undercarriage skids. The leaf-shaped, balanced rudder had ribs of light steel tubing.
The M.3 was the last type to have Fokker’s two-control system: the rudder was actuated not by a rudder bar but by the control column. The stick had two convenient hand grips to accommodate both hands, and this feature was retained on all subsequent Fokker aeroplanes.
The Fokker M.3 was first flown on September 26, 1913, at Johannisthal. Fokker flew it during the autumn week of flying at Johannisthal but had little success with it. It is doubtful whether he ever submitted it for trial by the Army.
A second machine, designated M.3A, was built. It was powered by the 70 h.p. Renault salved from the crashed W.1, and had a divided rudder. The mainplane was mounted lower than that of the M.3: on the M.3A the rear-spar anchorage passed wholly below the fuselage.
The M.3 was sent to Schwerin for use as a trainer but survived only until November 1913, when P. Weidner crashed it in a heavy landing while instructing. Fokker managed to sell the M.3A to a wealthy Russian named Worobieff. It seems that the purchaser never flew the aircraft, however - a fortunate omission on Worobieff’s part, for the machine was dangerous. At the beginning of the war, Ernst Ditzuleit was given the M.3A for training purposes and found it abominable. When flying straight it was laterally unstable, rocking from one wing to the other. In turns it refused to bank properly, and skidded. The gliding angle was tolerable but the aircraft would float for some distance before settling down somewhat abruptly. The M.3A was not successful as a trainer. Finally, and to everyone’s relief, Ditzuleit crashed it on September 7, 1914.
J.Herris Fokker Aircraft of WWI. Vol.1: Spinne - M.10 & Watercraft (A Centennial Perspective on Great War Airplanes 51)
The next Fokker design was the M.3, also intended for the Army. Six M.3 aircraft (A.113-118/13, work numbers 28-33) were ordered on 14 June 1913 but the prototype did not meet the requirements for take-off and landing run and the order was cancelled. The M.3 was then used at Fokker's flying school.
Fokker M.3 Specifications
Engine: 95 hp Mercedes