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50 Year Old Jet: What Was The VFW 614?

The 1970s saw various new jetliner designs take to the skies. These included the likes of Concorde and the Boeing 747, but also a lesser-known, rear-engined model from Germany. July 2021 marked the 50th anniversary of the VFW-Fokker 614 making its first flight. Let’s take a look at the story of this aircraft, known in short as simply the VFW 614.

The VFW 614 also saw limited military service with the German Air Force. Photo: Pete Webber via Flickr

A short-lived program

The story of the VFW 614 actually dates back 60 years, as far as 1961. At this time, a group of West German aircraft manufacturers known as Entwicklungsring Nord (ERNO) proposed the construction of a 36-40 seat airliner called the E.614. Amid a period of re-organization, this group became the Vereinigte Flugtechnische Werke (VFW).

By 1970, with backing from the West German government, the project had the green light. Also by this time, VFW had merged with Dutch manufacturer Fokker to create VFW Fokker. As such, the new aircraft’s full name became the VFW-Fokker 614. The plane, which was influenced by the Douglas DC-3, made its first light on July 14th, 1971.

The VFW 614, which also went down in history as one of the shortest airliners of all time at just 20.6 meters long, then entered commercial service in August 1975. However, VFW-Fokker elected to cancel the program just two years later, in 1977. This was due to low sales, a factor that primarily arose due to Lufthansa’s lack of interest in the type.

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VFW 614
Touraine Air Transport operated half of all delivered VFW 614s. Photo: Daniel Tanner via Wikimedia Commons

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Who flew the VFW 614?

Despite lofty ambitions of producing 300-400 VFW 614s for customers based as far afield as the US, low sales plagued the project. VFW-Fokker ultimately produced just 19 examples of its rear-engined twinjet, of which it only delivered 16 to customers. It also reportedly had to break up a further four airframes before even managing to complete them.

Of the four customers that received brand-new VFW 614s, French carrier Touraine Air Transport was the largest operator, with eight examples. Elsewhere in France, Air Alsace purchased three VFW 614s. The final commercial customer was Danish carrier Cimber Air, which flew just two examples. The German Air Force operated the other three VFW 614s.

Active until 2012

Although production of the VFW 614 was a short-lived affair, with just 19 examples built, the type had a long service life. Although its commercial career was over by the early 1980s, the German Air Force continued to fly its VFW 614s until 1999.

VFW 614 Wingtip Vortices
The DLR used its VFW 614, among other roles, to visualize wingtip vortices. Photo: DLR via Wikimedia Commons

Once the Luftwaffe had retired these aircraft, just one example remained active. This particular aircraft, registered as D-ADAM, belonged to the Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt / DLR (‘German Aerospace Center’), and had an interesting role.

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Specifically, the DLR based its sole VFW 614 in Braunschweig to use as part of its Advanced Technologies Testing Aircraft System (ATTAS) program. As seen in the image above, part of its role saw the D-ADAM used to give visual indications of wingtip vortices. The DLR retired the plane in 2012, and it is now preserved in Oberschleißheim, Germany.

Did you know about the story of the VFW-Fokker 614? Have you ever flown on this rare classic jetliner? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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