The VFW-Fokker 614 (also VFW 614) was a twin-engined jetliner designed and built in West Germany. It was produced in small numbers by VFW-Fokker in the early- to mid-1970s, and originally intended as a DC-3 replacement. Its most distinctive feature was that its engines were mounted in pods on pylons above, rather than below, the wing.
Design and development
The VFW 614 is often described as being ahead of its time. It was a brave but in the end unsuccessful attempt to build and market a small capacity regional jet, a market sector that has developed only recently with the strong sales of aircraft such as the Canadair CRJs and Embraer ERJs.
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 two Lycoming PLF1B-2 turbofans. West German industry was subsequently reorganised and Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke (VFW) was established at Bremen. Development of what was now the VFW 614 continued.
In 1968, the project was given the go-ahead, with 80 percent of the backing coming from the West German Government. Full scale production was approved in 1970, by which time VFW had merged with Fokker (a somewhat unhappy arrangement which lasted for only ten years). Also 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.
The first of three prototypes flew on July 14, 1971. The aircraft was revealed to be of unconventional configuration, with two quiet, smoke-free, but untested 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, and allowed a short and sturdy undercarriage, specially suited for operations from poorly prepared runways.
Development of the aircraft was protracted and orders slow to materialise, despite a strong marketing campaign. The orders situation was not helped by Rolls-Royce's bankruptcy in 1971 which threatened the supply of engines. Also, a prototype was lost in February 1972 due to elevator flutter, worsening the order situation. By February 1975 only 10 had been ordered. The first production VFW-614 flew in April 1975 and was delivered to Denmark's Cimber airlines 4 months later.
Only three airlines and the Luftwaffe operated new VFW 614s. Three aircraft were flown but never delivered, and four airframes were broken-up before completion. The program was officially cancelled in 1977, and the last unsold aircraft flew in July 1978. Most aircraft had been disposed of by 1981, with the manufacturer buying the aircraft and simultaneously ending support of the aircraft. Thereafter, only the Luftwaffe aircraft remained in service, being disposed of in 1999. The last in service VFW 614 is in use with DLR for the Advanced Technologies Testing Aircraft System (ATTAS)-Project.
There is a VFW 614 on display in the Deutsches Museum in Munich, another on the visitor's terrace at Bremen Airport, another on display at the Technikmuseum Speyer and a fourth being used as a training aid for Lufthansa Resource Technical Training in Saint Athan ,South Wales.
Specifications (VFW 614)
Data from The Observer's Book of Aircraft, 1976.
Published - July 2009
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