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3: Ivan starts flying for KLM

Ivan knew that the company he wanted the most to work for was the small KLM - Royal Dutch Airlines, operating from Schiphol, near Amsterdam. At that time KLM had already flown one million kilometres without any accidents. But, unfortunately, the politics in KLM had just been changed so only native Dutch personel was to be hired.
Albert Plesman, 1935

That was the conditions when Ivan showed up in chief Albert Plesman's office to apply for a job. He was almost thrown out, but in the end Plesman agreed to give him a temporary appointment for six months. Six months! It was a lifetime when many early commercial pilots did not last six weeks!

So from the very beginning of 1922, Ivan was a full-time KLM employee. He was introduced to the Fokker F2, carrying 4 passengers and the F3, carrying 5 passengers. They were among the worlds first aircraft designed entirely for civil air transport.

It was May 1922 and KLM was planning to open a line to Paris. Nobody was sure how the French would take this, especially as the company was flying Fokkers - machines designed by the man who had done so much to humble France in the air.
(*see details at bottom of this page)

Fokker F2 - first flight October 1919 - 150 km/h

To Ivan the strain was greatest of all. He was a Russian flying a Dutch machine, but it was developed by Anthony Fokker, who formerly owned a German aircraft factory. He need not have worried. When he flew the first plane in on 4 June he was just as welcome as if he had been a Frenchman born.

By this time Captain Smirnoff's six months' temporary appointment was running out, and he lit a dozen cigarettes in Plesman's waiting-room before obeying the "Come in" sign. Plesman barked: "You thinking of leaving?" "Forget it. I'm busy. Carry on till somebody tells you to stop."

F3 luxurious cabin

On this happy-go-lucky basis Ivan continued his association with the Royal Dutch Airlines for more than a quarter of a century.

Now, when designing new dedicated passenger planes, it had become standard that passengers should have nice indoor surroundings with comfortable armchairs (see the F3 interior). But, at the same time it was still common thinking, that a pilot was to sit in the open air to do his job.

Although the nice and cosy environment offered, there were extremely high noise levels from the engine. For that reason ear plugs were issued for the passengers!

Fokker F3 - first flight 1921 - 160 km/h

Take a closer look on the Fokker F3 above - you will recognize the pilot's wind shield on top of the engine.

The happy KLM family in 1922. From left: (2) Geysendorffer, (7) Smirnoff.

* Anthony Fokker was born 1890 in Java - the Dutch East Indies. In 1894 the family moved to Haarlem in Holland. His father, Herman Fokker, insisted that his son should learn a trade and sent him in the summer of 1910 to a motor mechanics school in Bingen, Germany. But within 24 hours Anthony realized that the school was no good. He wrote a letter to his father where he instead suggested a driving school in Zahlbach, Germany. What he forgot to tell, was that this school also gave instruction on flying and aircraft construction. Now Anthony Fokker constructed his first aeroplane 'de Spin' (the Spider). In 1911 he persuaded his father to allow for a demonstration flight over Haarlem on the Queen's birthday. His father was a member of the local Orange comittee organizing Haarlem's festivities for that day.

Up till 1912 Anthony Fokker had called his little factory 'Fokker Aeroplanbau'. It was located in Johannisthal near Berlin. But on 22 February 1912 he officially entered the Berlin trade register with the name 'Fokker Aviatik GmbH'. Already in 1913 the company began to make a profit and he decided to move the company to Schwerin in Northern Germany. Once again the company was renamed, this time to 'Fokker Flugzeugwerke'. Here he, among others, developed the famous triplane DR1 in which Manfred Von Richthofen (The Red Baron) won his victories during WW1. So the Fokker was a german warmachine throughout WW1 although Anthony Fokker was Dutch. In 1919 he got back his Dutch passport. Still in 1919 he 'smuggled' the whole factory inventory to Holland in 6 transports of 60 car-trains each and founded Holland's first aeroplane factory 'N.V. Nederlandsche Vliegtuigenfabriek' (The Netherlands Aircraft Factory).

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