Anthony Fokker: The flying Dutchman
What do Admiral Byrd, Knute Rockne and the Red Baron have in common? Anthony Herman Gerard Fokker. They lived or died by his aircraft: Byrd flying across the North Pole in a Fokker Trimotor; Knute Rockne dying in a Fokker F10 when it crashed in a thunderstorm; and the Red Baron becoming the greatest German Ace in World War I, flying, then dying, in a Fokker. Fokker was already a wealthy aviation pioneer when Charles Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic in 1927, just six weeks ahead of Admiral Byrd, who crossed the Atlantic in another Fokker Trimotor. Lindbergh and the developer of the Spirit of St. Louis, Ryan Aircraft, were overnight sensations. They made a fortune. But if Byrd had been first to cross the Atlantic, Fokker's fame and fortune would have soared -- and the Fokker Trimotor would be hanging in the Air and Space Museum in place of the Spirit of St. Louis. Timing is everything, and time is utterly unforgiving.