High-winged transport aircraft are valued for their strong short-field performance and this makes them popular as both civilian market and military market transports. The F27 "Friendship", designed, developed and produced by Netherlands-based Fokker, is just one entry into the ever-growing category and serves both markets in the airliner / cargo transport role and military markets in other roles (including maritime reconnaissance). Development of the series began in the early-1950s with a first-flight recorded on November 24th, 1955. Series introduction then followed on November 19th, 1958 leading to production of 586 spanning from 1955 until 1987. The series continues to fly today (2017) and also forms the basis for the Fokker 50 model of similar form and function.
The F27 became part of the European initiative to rebuild after World War 2 (1939-1945). At the time, there was heavy reliance on foreign types, mainly of American origin, throughout the continent so local firms began delving into developing local solutions to meet growing demand in the passenger travel sector. This gave rise to the F27, a sleek and modern offering featuring turboprop engines mounted along the leading edges of its shoulder-mounted wings. The cockpit was stepped and the fuselage of traditional, rounded design. A single vertical tailplane was used with mid-set horizontal planes. The undercarriage was wholly retractable and of a tricycle arrangement.
The initial production model became F27-100 and this carried upwards of forty-four passengers depending on seat configuration and was powered by the Rolls-Royce "Dart" turboprop engine. Then arrived the F27-200 which installed uprated Dark Mk.532 series engines. The F27-300 "Combiplane" followed as a combination passenger / cargo hauler and the F27-300M "Troopship" became the militarized transport version, this for service in the Royal Netherlands Air Force. The F27-400 was another combination offering and these powered by the Dart 7 series turboprop engine and featured a large powered cargo door to facilitate movement of loads to-and-from the aircraft's hold.
The F27-500 of 1957 was given a lengthened fuselage (nearly 5 feet longer) and went back to the Dart Mk.528 series turboprops. Seating amounted to fifty-two passengers. The F27-500M was its militarized model and the F27-500F was completed for Australia, changes included smaller access doors.
The F-27-600 was a combination platform and based on the F27-200 while also given a large cargo door for access. The F27-700 was the F27-100 with a large cargo door installed. The F27-200-MAR became a maritime patroller sans any weapons. The F27 "Maritime Enforcer" became its armed alternative.
The F27 was also produced, under license, in the United States by Fairchild Hiller for a time. These appeared under the "F-27" designation and included the FH-227, a lengthened model developed exclusively by the American company.
Operators of the F27 family are numerous and have included (or continues to include) nations from Algeria, Angola and Bahrain to the UAE, the United Kingdom and Zaire. Military operators span from Algeria, Angola and Argentina to the Philippines, Thailand and the United States. The U.S. Army Parachute Team and the U.S. Navy are two listed, active operators.
The F27 is currently out of production but is recognizes as a European success in the realm of local aircraft design and sales. The follow-up Fokker 50 model, succeeding the F27 line, was introduced in 1987 and has seen production reach 213 units for global use. This line wrapped up manufacture in 1997.