Fokker F.28 Fellowship

Netherlands’ first jet powered airliner

The Fokker F.28 Fellowship was the first jet powered airliner build by the Netherlands and is the forerunner of modern regional jetliners.

Start of the Turkish Jet Age

From 1959 onwards, major airports in Turkey were overhauled to be able to accommodate jet-engined aircraft. In 1965, Turkish Airlines started a search for a jet aircraft to expand its fleet, with four type being initially considered for evaluation: BAC One-Eleven, Hawker Siddeley Trident, McDonnell Douglas DC-9 and Sud Aviation Caravelle VI. The Caravelle was quickly ruled out as one aircraft had crashed in Ankara a few years prior, while a Trident was wet leased from British European Airways for a brief period, but was found to be insufficient. The Soviets offered to Tupolev Tu-134 as well to the airline, but the THY management decided to order the McDonnell Douglas DC-9 in 1966.

Turkish Airlines initially leased a Douglas DC-9-15, registered as TC-JAA ‘Topkapı’, which became the first jet-engined aircraft of Turkish Airlines. The aircraft was due to stay until the newly bought Douglas DC-9-32s were delivered. Initially, the idea was to have the plane registered as TC-NAZ, but this was later changed, with the “J” in the registration denoting that it was a jet-engined aircraft. This practice was used in later aircraft as well.

The airline leased on Douglas DC-7 from Sweden for a single year to meet the increasing passenger demand. In 1971, the Vickers Viscounts were removed from the fleet, while three Boeing 707s were leased to meet the increasing demand.

Feederline Project

The development of regional aviation in Turkey has been on the agenda since the 1970s. Regional airline studies interestingly coincided with military-oriented plans at that time. The Cyprus issue, which started between Turkey and Greece in the 1950s, turned into a crisis in the 1960s. When necessary, the rapid transfer of military units between points within Turkey had emerged as a great need. Because one of the most important obstacles in front of the State of the Republic of Turkey, which thought to organize an operation in Cyprus at the point where the blade was pointing, was that its army did not have the equipment to cope with such an operation. For this reason, a great development effort was started, both in military and civilian aspects. One of the most important roles on the civilian side was Turkish Airlines. Well, but how?

Probably one of the foremost considerations in a Cyprus operation was the transport of troops. For this, high-capacity aircraft were needed. Thus, in 1972, three McDonnell Douglas DC-10 aircraft for 345 people were ordered, a decision that was not in line with the passenger transport potential of THY at that time. When necessary, it was thought that these planes would be used as military transport aircraft for airborne troops by removing their seats. However, in the Cyprus operations carried out in 1974, the use of these DC-10 type aircraft was no longer necessary.

Although DC-10s were not used in the Cyprus operations, it was revealed how important it was to quickly transfer military units between points within Turkey. In the mid-1970s, the Regional Airline Project called ‘Feederline’ was started, both for this purpose and to feed THY’s international routes. Despite reaching the stage of selection of the aircraft type, this project could not be implemented due to various reasons.

Flying Coffins

Between 1972 and 1973, five Fokker F.28 Fellowships were added to the fleet, which replaced the Fokker F.27 Friendships, making the fleet fully consist of jet-engined aircraft. Another Fokker F.28 Fellowship was leased and returned to Fokker after 42 days of service. The type was bought due to some short runways in Turkey were not able to accommodate the larger jets used by Turkish Airlines. The Fokker F.27s were sold back to the Netherlands to pay for the new aircraft.

The Fokker F.28 Fellowships got a negative reputation when three aircraft declared hull losses after accidents in 1974, 1974 and 1979. The airline had leased three de Havilland Canada Dash 7 by 1984, to replace the crashed Fokker F.28 Fellowships, but were returned to their lessors after the contracts ended in 1986, marking the definitive end of propeller operations of the airline. In 1987, the Douglas DC-10, Fokker F.28 Fellowships, as well as two Boeing 707 were transferred to the newly formed subsidiary Boğaziçi Hava Taşımacılığı (BHT) to standardize the fleet of Turkish Airlines. The airline sold its two Fokker F.28 Fellowships however, before being operated by BHT. Both aircraft crashed later as Air Ontario Flight 1363 and Iran Aseman Airlines Flight 746.