Meet the Fokkers: KLM Founded This Day in History



Wolfsonian Curator Silvia Barisione providing museum staff with a preview tour of KLM materials exhibited in Modern Dutch Design, November 18, 2016June 11, 2017

On this date in 1919, KLM was formally founded, making the company the oldest airline still operating under its original name. As the Netherlands had remained neutral during the First World War, Dutch aeronautics had not developed at the pace that it had among the belligerent nations. To revive Dutch interest and popularize the nation’s role in post-war commercial air travel, aviator and lieutenant Albert Plesman helped organize the Eerste Luchtverkeer Tentoonstelling Amsterdam (ELTA, or the “First Aviation Exhibition Amsterdam”) in the summer of 1919, inviting Great Britain, France, and Italy “to strut their stuff.” The Dutch participants flew in former German Fokker aircraft.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The airshow and races proved so popular, that when eight Dutch businessmen organized an airline company in the aftermath of the exhibition, they named Plesman as the new firm’s administrative director. Queen Wilhelmina lent her support to the venture by bestowing the Koninklijke (“Royal”) predicate to the Luchtvaart Maatschappij (“Airline Company”), which became known by the abbreviated acronym, KLM.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The company’s first flight took place nearly a year later, when Jerry Shaw piloted a leased British four-seat biplane from London to Amsterdam. Flights were scheduled only during fair weather, and were suspended during the 1920 winter season, after which, the company began using their own pilots and Fokker aircraft.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

While royal Dutch mail ships had dominated the sea route from Amsterdam to the Dutch East Indies, KLM launched its first intercontinental flight to the colonies in the Far East in October 1924 with a single-wing Fokker Trimotor manufactured in the Netherlands.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

By September 1929, KLM booked regularly scheduled flights between Amsterdam and Batavia (Jakarta) and Java. Prior to the outbreak of the Second World War, the Amsterdam-Batavia route held the record as the longest-distance scheduled air service in the world.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

~ by "The Chief" on October 6, 2017.

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