14th of July 1971
Today's look at aviation history takes us back exactly 50 years, it was on this day in aviation history that the first of three VFW-Fokker 614 prototypes made its first flight. It was the first West German developed Jetliner.
Early on in the sixties of the 20th century a conglomerate of German aircraft companies (assembled in the Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke, VFW from Bremen), under the oversight of the ERNO, came up wit a plan to replace the Douglas DC-3 with a jet powered 36-40 seat aircraft. Initially the program was called the Erno-61-4, later it became the VFW-614. In 1969 the Dutch Aircraft manufacturer Fokker got in to a joint venture with VFW and the project name changed from VFW-614 to VFW-Fokker 614. A unique design, with its engines in pods on top of the wings. Lycoming PLF1B-2 engines were initially planned to power the aircraft but Lycoming stopped the development of the engine. This led to VFW looking for another engine, this became the (specially develloped) Rolls-Royce/SNECMA M45H turbofan engine.
The wing mounted engines resulted in a short and sturdy undercarriage which, together with the reduced FOD ingestion risk resulted in an aircraft capable to operate from less than perfect runways. Also the ground noise signature from the engine inlet when an aircraft overflew built-up areas was greatly reduced by the engine location. Due to airflow issues, resulting from the wing and flap design in combination with the wing-mounted engines resulted in a low maximum speed of only M0.65 for the VFW-Fokker 614.
The aircraft was designed with a two man cockpit which had big windows giving the cerw an excellent outside view. No controls were installed on the side of the flight deck, all necessary controls were located on the overhead panel or the pedestal between the pilots. The program had several setbacks, from the bankruptcy of Rolls Royce in 1971, threatening engine availability to the crash of the first prototype in February 1972, which was caused by elevator flutter.
Development continued and in April 1975 the first production aircraft made its first flight, it would be delivered to Cimbar Air from Denmark four months later. Only 19 VFW-Fokker 614's would be build before production was halted in 1977.
13 aircraft were used by civilian operators
3 aircraft were used by military operators
By 1981 commercial operations had al but stopped, only the German Luftwaffe continued to operate their fleet till 1999. The very last user, the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt (German Aerospace Center) made the last flight with a VFW-Fokker 614 (D-ADAM) in December 2012 for the Advanced Technologies Testing Aircraft System (ATTAS) project.
Some specifications for the VFW-Fokker 614:
Capacity: 40–44 passengers in 4 abreast seating
Length: 20.6 m (67 ft 7 in)
Wingspan: 21.5 m (70 ft 6 in)
Height: 7.82 m (25 ft 8 in)
Wing area: 64 m2 (690 sq ft)
Empty weight: 12,179 kg (26,850 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 19,958 kg (44,000 lb)
Powerplant: 2 × Rolls-Royce/SNECMA M45H Mk. 501 turbofan engines, 33.2 kN (7,500 lbf) thrust each
Maximum speed: 704 km/h (437 mph, 380 kn)
Range: 1,195 km (743 mi, 645 nmi) with 40 passengers
Service ceiling: 7,620 m (25,000 ft)
Rate of climb: 15.75 m/s (3,100 ft/min)