|VFW 614 of Air Alsace at Basle Airport in 1977|
|First flight||14 July 1971|
|Primary users||German Air Force
Touraine Air Transport
The VFW-Fokker 614 (also VFW 614) was a twin-engined jetliner designed and constructed by West German aviation company VFW-Fokker. It holds the distinction of being the first jet-powered passenger liner to be developed and produced in Germany, as well as the first German-built civil aircraft to have been manufactured for decades.
The VFW 614 was originally proposed during the early 1960s as the E.614, which was a concept for a 36-40 seat aircraft by a consortium of West German aircraft companies, who were soon recognised into Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke (VFW). It was originally intended as a DC-3 replacement; its most distinctive feature was that its engines were mounted in pods on pylons above the wing. The VFW 614 was produced in small numbers during the early- to mid-1970s by VFW-Fokker, which had been produced as a result of a merger between VFW and the Dutch aircraft company Fokker. However, the programme was officially cancelled in 1977, the anticipated sales and thus production having not been achieved.
The VFW 614 was originally proposed in 1961 by the Entwicklungsring Nord (ERNO) group, comprising Focke-Wulf, Hamburger Flugzeugbau (HFB) and Weser as the E.614, a 36-40 seat aircraft powered by a pair of American-built Lycoming PLF1B-2 turbofan engines. During this time, the West German industry underwent a substantial reorganisation, resulting in the establishment of Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke (VFW), based at Bremen, Germany. Development of what would become the VFW 614 proceeded under the new combined company. Although Lycoming chose to abandon development of the PLF1, development continued using the Rolls-Royce/SNECMA M45H turbofan engine in its place; the M45H was developed specially to power the VFW 614.
In 1968, the project was given the go-ahead; at this point, 80 percent of the secured backing for the type originated from the West German Government. During 1970, full-scale production of the VFW 614 was approved, by which time VFW had merged with Dutch aircraft manufacturer Fokker, a move which had the distinction of being Europe's first transnational aircraft company. Fokker had wanted to broaden its financial basis and found the VFW 614 to have promise, intending to market the type through Fokker's established civil sales unit and support infrastructure; however, the union has been regarded by some commentators as having been an 'unhappy arrangement' and had only lasted for only ten years before its dissolution. In addition, several risk sharing agreements had been concluded with SIAT in Germany, Fairey and SABCA in Belgium and Shorts in the UK. Final assembly of the aircraft would be done in Bremen.
On 14 July 1971, the first of three prototypes performed its maiden flight. The first flight of the aircraft was also the first time that the engine had been airborne, having not been previously flown on a flying test-bed.
Development of the aircraft was protracted and orders slow to materialise, despite a strong marketing campaign. The situation was not helped by Rolls-Royce's bankruptcy in 1971 which threatened the supply of engines. On 1 February 1972, the programme was damaged by the loss of the first prototype was lost, which was attributed to an instance of elevator flutter; which played a role in further diminishing the order situation. By February 1975, only ten aircraft had been ordered. During April 1975, the first production VFW 614 made its first flight; it was delivered to Denmark's Cimber Air four months later.
The aircraft had an unconventional configuration, with two quiet, smokeless, M45H turbofans mounted on pylons above the wings. This arrangement was used to avoid the structural weight penalties of rear mounted engines and the potential ingestion problems of engines mounted under the wings. This allowed a short and sturdy undercarriage, specially suited for operations from poorly prepared runways. The position of the engine over the wing, compared to under-wing, also shielded people on the ground from intake noise during flyover. This shielding is also present for aft-mounted engines.
With the above-wing installation a continuous trailing-edge flap was used with no unfavourable interaction with the engine flow. The continuous flap gave excellent low speed performance. At high speeds interference between the wing and pylon flow fields caused flow separation which limited the cruise Mn to 0.65. A recent aircraft, the HondaJet, with over-wing installation, uses a supercritical wing with no unfavourable interference effects.
Shortly after the VFW 614's entry to service, it had become clear that sales had fallen far short of expectations. According to author Mark E. Mendenhall, the management within VFW-Fokker was divided and prone to nationalise; while a number of German figures within the company attributed the poor sales performance due to the Dutch sales team having paying the type little heed, even allegedly regarding it as a competitor to Fokker's established product lines for orders and that salesmen had prioritised the promotion of Dutch-designed airliners instead. Reportedly, some Dutch managers did hold a preference for their own aircraft, regarding them as established successes and the VFW 614 as a waste of effort to market; furthermore, Dutch management was alleged by Mendenhall to have interfered with the firm's marketing structure to curtail independence and maintain support on their own aircraft.
Only three airlines and the German Air Force would ultimately operate new VFW 614s. The aircraft was initially prone to engine problems, and it was too expensive for the small regional airlines for whose needs it was designed. Three aircraft were flown but were never delivered; a total of four airframes were broken up prior to completion.
During 1977, the programme was officially cancelled as a result of the lack of sales, and the last unsold aircraft flew in July 1978. Mendenhall reports that there had been a widespread sentiment amongst German employees that they had regarded as being subordinate to Fokker, which had increased over time as the VFW 614's commercial failure had become more and more apparent. By 1981, the majority of commercial aircraft had already been disposed of, partially due to the manufacturer having bought back many of the aircraft that year in order that it could simultaneously terminate support for the type. Thereafter, only the German Air Force aircraft remained in service, the last being retired in 1999. The last airworthy VFW 614 was in use with DLR for the Advanced Technologies Testing Aircraft System (ATTAS) project. After being based with DLR in Braunschweig, Germany for many years, this aircraft (registered D-ADAM) was retired in December 2012, to the Deutsches Museum Flugwerft in Oberschleißheim, Germany.
- Cimber Air received two aircraft.
- West German Air Force received three aircraft.
Specifications (VFW 614)
Data from The Observer's Book of Aircraft, 1976.
- Crew: Two
- Capacity: 40-44 passengers in 4 abreast seating
- Length: 20.60 m (67 ft 7 in)
- Wingspan: 21.50 m (70 ft 6.5 in)
- Height: 7.82 m (25 ft 8 in)
- Wing area: 64.0 m² (689 ft²)
- 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, 33.2kN (7,473 lbf) each
- Maximum speed: 704 km/h (380 knots, 437 mph)
- Cruise speed: km/h (mph)
- Range: 1,195 km (645 nm, 743 mi) with 40 passengers
- Service ceiling: 7,620 m (25,000 ft)
- Rate of climb: 945 m/min (3,100 ft/min)
- Related lists
- Mendenhall 2005, p. 326.
- Mellberg 1995, pp. 94–95.
- Mellberg 1995, p. 95.
- Mendenhall 2005, pp. 325-326.
- Mellberg 1995, pp. 95, 98.
- Field 1974, p. 489.
- "F27 Project – Nederlands Industrieel Erfgoed Vliegend Houden".
- Mellberg 1995, p. 98.
- Chichester-Miles, I (16 August 1973). "Noise shielding—the Hawker Siddeley approach". Flight International. p. 320.
- "Engine/Airframe Interference." G. Krenz, AGARD R-712, Special Course on Subsonic/Transonic Aerodynamic Interference for Aircraft, Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton Ohio, 16–20 May 1983.
- Fujino, Michimasa; Kawamura, Yuichi (1 January 2003). "Wave-Drag Characteristics of an Over-the-Wing Nacelle Business-Jet Configuration". 40 (6): 1177–1184. doi:10.2514/2.7207 – via American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics.
- Jackson 1976, p. 62.
- Mellberg 1995, pp. 98–99.
- Mendenhall 2005, p. 332.
- Green 1976, p. 214.
- Field, Hugh (18 April 1974). "In the Air: Continental commuter". Flight International. p. 489-492.
- Green, William. The Observer's Book of Aircraft. London. Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd., 1976. ISBN 0-7232-1553-7.
- Jackson, Paul A. German Military Aviation 1956-1976. Hinckley, Leicestershire, UK: Midland Counties Publications, 1976. ISBN 0-904597-03-2.
- Mellberg, Bill. "VFW 614:Ahead of its Time". Air International, February 1995, Vol 48 No 2. Stamford, UK:Key Publishing. ISSN 0306-5634. pp. 94–99.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to VFW 614.|