As discussed in an earlier entry (seeAnsett's 1980s Re-equipment Binge) Ansett entered the 1980s in rude health with new ownership and a flamboyant CEO in Peter Abeles. Increasingly Ansett's turboprop needs were serviced by its regional airline associates, which after a brief flirtation with independence where realigned with the new Ansett Southern Cross brand. Airlines of Western Australia became Ansett WA, Airlines of New South Wales : Air N.S.W, Airlines of Northern Australia : Ansett N.T. with only Airlines of South Australia keeping its name. The existing Fokker 27 fleet was largely transferred to the regional affiliates during the 1960/70s but did sometimes see further service with the parent.
Fokker began to look at a replacement for the popular Fokker F27 in 1981 with the F50 programme kicking off in 1983. The Fokker 50 first flew in December 28, 1985. Though looking vaguely similar to the F27 the F50 was heavily updated with new undercarriage, engines, electronic flight information system (EFIS), wing ailerons and tips and new forward passenger door and airstairs. The F50 in the end shared only 10% commonality with the F27.
Fokker was naturally very keen to sell the F50 as a replacement for F27s and the first customers were both F27 operators. These were DLT of Germany and Ansett. Abeles signed the first order for 15 F50s on February 12, 1985 and then at the 1985 Paris Air Show, along with orders for A320s, expanded that purchase to 22 units with many of the aircraft being destined for a joint TNT/News Corp/Leslie Hong leasing company. This was to be US based, named Corsair and presumably would market the F50s locally in the US.
Above: The Fokker 60 was a lengthened variant only sold to the Dutch Air Force prior to Fokker's bankruptcy
Even the British ATP made some sales in the USA and it isn't as though the Fokker 50 was a failure. In the end 213 aircraft were built, but you can only imagine how many would have been made if they'd broken into the USA. It seems Fokker learned from their mistake and aggressively targeted sales of the F100 in the USA resulting in large orders from USAir and American.
The first aircraft (FNA) was actually originally repainted with Air N.S.W titles on the port side only and used on a 14 day 23 airport tour of the Air N.S.W route network. She operated her first service, between Sydney and Dubbo on November 16. In service it sounds like at least initially the Fokker 50s had many technical teething issues with such things as "prop de-ice, EEC's, PEC's, battery chargers, AHRS, MFC's, weather radar (most unreliable rotable in the system), cockpit lighting dimmers" etc. Apparently it gained the nickname the "Euroglider".
I assume these initial issues were ironed out but in 1989 the Australian Pilot's Dispute hit and between August 18, 1989 and mid-January 1990 the civil aviation network in the entire country effectively ground to a halt. Since almost all pilots were involved Ansett's Fokker 50 operations were accordingly hit too. At least one of the F50s (VH-FNG) saw very little usage after the strike and was leased to Austrian Air Services in October 1990. She didn't return to Australia until 1995.
In fact it seems Ansett was keen to remove the F50s with rumours of attempts to sell at least two to Airlines of Tasmania. They continued in service with Air N.S.W however Ansett's regional airlines were undergoing an overhaul and during 1990 Air N.S.W was renamed twice. First to Ansett N.S.W in March and then to Ansett Express in November. The F50s found themselves often used on the Sydney-Canberra-Melbourne shuttle services.
Ansett's F50 operations continued into 1995 with aircraft sometimes leased to Flight West Airlines and then all gradually being leased by Ansett regional affiliate Skywest Airlines. Their Ansett careers were not totally over however and VH-FNI was returned from Skywest in June 1996. She operated the final Ansett F50 service, and indeed the final Ansett turboprop service of all time, on August 30 between Ballina and Sydney. The aircraft continued in service with Skywest operating as an Ansett feeder though several were leased to Skyways of Denmark in the late 1990s. Skywest continued operating four or five of the F50s and survived Ansett itself to eventually become Virgin Australia Regional in 2013. They ended F50 services on February 27, 2016 using VH-FNH fittingly still painted in Skywest colours. By then the F50s had operated in Western Australia since October 1994.
Aussie Airliners Fokker 50
Fokker 50. Dutch Aviation.
Ansett's Golden Years. Aussie Airliners
Ansett & the Fokker Friendship. PPRuNe.org
Farewell Fokker 50: end of 21 years’ service in Western Australia: 27 February 2016. AviationWA
I'm Richard Stretton: a fan of classic airliners and airlines who enjoys exploring their history through my collection of die-cast airliners. If you enjoy the site please donate whatever you can to help keep it running: