Flight Ops Mark Ford Centennial
with Ford Motor Company's 100th anniversary, EAA's 1929 Ford
Tri-Motor will make a rare visit to Michigan in June. "The public
is invited to experience true living history and the magic of
flight in the world's first mass-produced airliner," said EAA in a
statement to Aero-News Network.
Flight ops will be conducted at Pentastar Aviation FBO, located
at Oakland County (Pontiac) International from June 6-8 and again
June 16-20. From June 9-15, the airplane will be on static display
in preparation for and as part of the Ford Centennial Celebration's
"Taking Flight" display at the Dearborn Proving Grounds.
The Model T Of The Skies
Henry Ford mobilized millions of Americans and created a new
market with his Model T "Tin Lizzie" automobile from 1909 to 1926.
After World War I he recognized the potential for mass air
transportation. Ford's Tri-Motor aircraft, nicknamed "The Tin
Goose," was designed to build another new market, airline travel.
To overcome concerns of engine reliability, Ford specified three
engines and added features for passenger comfort, such as an
enclosed cabin. The first three Tri-Motors built seated the pilot
in an open cockpit, as many pilots doubted a plane could be flown
without direct "feel of the wind".
Ford Motor Company built 199 Tri-Motors from 1926 through 1933.
EAA's model 4-AT-E was number 146 off Ford's innovative assembly
line and first flew on August 21, 1929. It was sold to Pitcairn
Aviation's passenger division, Eastern Air Transport, whose paint
scheme is replicated on EAA's Tri-Motor. This is why our Ford
resides in the Pitcairn hangar at Pioneer Airport. Eastern Air
Transport later became Eastern Airlines.
In 1930, NC8407 was leased to Cubana Airlines, where it
inaugurated air service between Havana and Santiago de Cuba. The
airplane was later flown by the government of the Dominican
EAA's Ford Trimotor returned to the US in 1949 as a barnstormer.
In 1950 it was moved from Miami (FL) to Phoenix (AZ) and refitted
with more powerful engines for use as a crop duster. With two 450
HP engines and one 550 HP engine, it became the most powerful Model
4-AT ever flown. In 1955 it was moved to Idaho and fitted with two
275 gallon tanks and bomb doors for use as a borate bomber in
aerial fire fighting. In 1958, it was further modified for use by
After working for a variety of crop spraying businesses, EAA's
Tri-Motor moved to Lawrence (KS) in 1964, where its new owner flew
barnstorming tours. During this period it had a variety of roles,
including serving as the primary setting for the Jerry Lewis
comedy, "The Family Jewels." In 1973, the aircraft was still in use
for air show rides, including the EAA's Fly-In at Burlington (WI).
While at the 1973 EAA Fly-In, a severe thunderstorm ripped the
plane from its tie-downs, lifted it 50 feet into the air and
smashed it to the ground on its back. EAA subsequently purchased
the wreckage for its Aviation Foundation.
After an arduous, twelve-year restoration process by EAA staff,
volunteers and with assistance from Ford Tri-Motor operators
nationwide, the old Tri-Motor once again took to the air. Its
official debut was at the 1985 EAA convention in Oshkosh. It was
displayed in the AirVenture Museum until 1991 when it returned to
its former role of delighting passengers. Ford Tri-Motor NC8407 is
the flagship of EAA's Pioneer Airport, a part of the AirVenture
Ford Trimotor 4-AT-E Specifications
- Length 49 ft. 10 in.
- Height 12 ft. 8 in.
- Wingspan 74 ft.
- Total Wing Area 785 sq. ft.
- Gross Weight 10,130 lbs.
- Empty Weight 8,013 lbs.
- Engines (three) Pratt & Whitney R985
- Fuel Capacity 234 gal.
- Fuel Consumption 45 gal./hr
- Oil Capacity 24 gal.
- Stall Speed 64 mph
- Normal Cruise 90 mph
- Range 500 miles
- Price At Factory $42,000.