Propeller Maintenance – More Than Just Four Blades

Jet engines truly took the lead in 1969. The tide could not be turned; the jet engine propelled civil aviation into an entirely new era. The fallout left a single department with a shrinking order book until it too finally closed its doors on 1 April 1969. That was the propeller maintenance department. Reason enough for a small ode to this specialised task.

Oh yes, propellers also required maintenance; precision work that needed a specialised workforce. The propeller maintenance department was once a thriving business. Hardly surprising, since propellers powered the entire KLM fleet until 1960. At the start of the 1920s, KLM didn’t have its own propeller department and maintenance work was carried out in the United Kingdom.



The need to carry out such work on the Fokker fleet internally grew over the years. The only work allowed at the main workshop of the erstwhile Technical Service (E&M today) based at Waalhaven Airport included applying copper fittings to the wooden propellers and perhaps sawing off a damaged tip. Special carpenters carried out this work in Rotterdam, because propellers were originally made of wood.

1924 Fokker F

Metal propeller

The Fokker F.VII was the first aircraft to feature a metal propeller and marked the start of some serious work. Maintaining propellers required precision work. Damaged surfaces had to be ground down and the propeller had to be re-polished to bring out its original aerodynamic form. After additional treatment, the propellers also had to be balanced. The blades were weighed carefully to arrive at a finely-balanced propeller.

1969 Propelleronderhoud

2.5 grams made all the difference

Assembly was also very precise, with a 2.5-gram difference being sufficient to make a propeller ‘unbalanced’, rendering it unusable. A series of tests followed with the blades being fitted in different positions. Measurements were then taken to ensure that no undesirable vibrations resulted. Vibrations had to be avoided at all costs because this could potentially have caused damage to the engine or the aircraft as a whole.

1957 Propeller Viscount

The End

Ultimately, the number of propeller-driven aircraft operated by KLM decreased visibly in the 1960s and it soon became unprofitable to carry out maintenance work internally. Change was key to the future, so the aviation industry soon switched to jet-propelled aircraft. The first was of course the DC-8, followed quickly by the smaller DC-9. Slowly but surely the sound of spinning propellers faded from the scene around the world’s airports. Instead, the brilliant whining sounds of the DC-9 began to fill the airwaves. With effect from 1 April 1969, the propeller-driven aircraft operated at the time by NLM (later KLM Cityhopper) and KLM Aerocarto were sent to the UK again for propeller maintenance, as had been the case 50 years prior. The staff were all reassigned to different positions with KLM and took over maintenance work on aircraft tyres, wheels and brake systems.

Posted by:   Frido Ogier  | 
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I’ve always wondered what the difference between a Propeller and a Jet engine is. I guess the Turbo fans do the same job

I love your blogs.

Frido Ogier

Thanks Stephen, that’s correct. Turbo fans do the same job, but are more suitable for small aircraft.

Kind regards,


Sasja van Rijsewijk

Another great story of the history of KLM. I love reading blogs about it, thanks for sharing

Frido Ogier

Thanks Sasja!

Chack P

Great text as usual!
I love aviation and I love knowing the way it was to explain the way it is now.
Do you know if a master degree in aviation history exist??
I have searched in several universities but I’ve couldn’t find it yet.
Thanks and congrats.

Frido Ogier

Thanks Chack! I don’t think such a specialism does exist, but maybe it’s possible to graduate on such a topic if you would like to at a historical department or a technical university.

Best regards, Frido

Mark Percival

Does KLM still operate any propeller driven aircraft? I live in Romania, and the national airline Tarom still uses them for many internal flights and a few shorter international routes (e.g. to Thessaloniki and Chisinau). I even flew on one of the stretched ATRs to Munich, with a stop in Sibiu a few years ago. They are rather fun- they fly lower than jets, so you get some nice views of the Carpathian mountains, the sound is nice and you feel a bit like being in the 1930s!

Frido Ogier

I can imagine Mark. It’s quite a long time ago I flew with a turboprop aircraft. It was when I was 17 and I flew from Schiphol to Leeds. It was Air UK and I got very sick then :-) It was quite a bumpy flight across the North Sea. A few years ago KLM said goodbye to its last turboprops as the Fokker 50s left the fleet. And then the decade of propeller driven aircraft was closed…

Kind regards,


Lolita M. Balboa

i love your blogs – VERY EDUCATIONAL! Congratulations!!!

Diegel Lutz

wir fliegen jedes jahr 2 x düsseldorf – kapstadt. der tagflug ist ok mit xxl sitzen, wir würden aber gerne den rückflug buisiness-class fliegen. ist das möglich und wie muß
ich das buchen? oder gibt es jetzt auch premium wie bei air france?
mit frdl. gruß v.diegel


Hallo Herr Diegel, Wir bitten Sie sich an die Kollegen vom Servicing zu wenden. Sie können ihre Anfrage ganze einfach hier posten:

Dwight Walker

Love the Hamilton Standard props, still work with them.

Frido Ogier

One of the biggest propeller manufacturers ever! Thanks for sharing, Dwight.

Kind regards,



I am a former aircraft mechanic, worked for years at Fokker and at Nayak.
In my last year at nayak, i worked for the last on the fokker 50’s. Great plane, love the sound of a turbo prop!

I even worked on the Fokker F27. Thats a old school plane !


Hey Ricardo. I love the fact that you are a former A/C Mechanic. I am persuing my studies in the same field. If possible we could get in touch.I surely need your expertise and eexperience to give me a good thrust.

Best regards


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