By Portfolio Editor Roz Hamlett
The Fokker Aircraft Corporation of America built the Fokker F-32 in 1929 in their Teterboro, N.J. factory. It was the first four-engine commercial aircraft built in America and the largest land plane in the world. It had a capacity of 32 seated passengers and 16 sleeping passengers. From wingtip to wingtip, the massive craft had a wing area of 1,350 square feet. Its length was 69 feet, 10 inches, with a wingspan of 99 feet and height of 16 feet, 6 inches. Its high cost – $110,000 – made the aircraft a hard sell from the beginning, especially during the Depression.
Its biggest problem, however, was the design. The airplane was underpowered for its size, made worse by its unusual back-to-back engine configuration. The front engine had two-bladed props; the rear had three.
The prototype of the F-32 crashed Nov. 27, 1929, during a three-engine takeoff for certification from Roosevelt Field en route to Teterboro Airport. One of the two port engines was stopped on purpose, but the other engine failed shortly after takeoff. No one was killed, but the aircraft was destroyed. While climbing, the aircraft stalled and then crashed into a house on Long Island. Remarkably, a baby inside the house survived.
As the Great Depression worsened, the F-32s were phased out by the end of 1930. Western Air Express was its only purchaser, buying two of them, which flew between West Coast destinations. They were replaced by the Boeing 247 and the Douglas DC-3.