Paul Comstock THIS WEEK NEWS
Still Flying High: Restored Plane Visits Delaware
June 21, 2018
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  • In 1929, westbound passengers with Transcontinental Air Transport began a coast-to-coast journey with a train ride from New York City to Columbus, before heading to Wichita, Kansas, by airplane.

    One of two planes that made those trips was a Ford Tri-Motor named City of Wichita.

    Almost 90 years later, that plane still is flying.

    It will visit Delaware Municipal Airport, 1075 Pittsburgh Drive, from Aug. 9-12, when local passengers can board for a flight.

    Now owned by Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, and renamed City of Port Clinton, the plane has been leased to the Experimental Aircraft Association for its current tour, said Liberty Aviation archivist Gene Smith.

    Local EAA chapter 1600 President George Mellen said flights will be offered from 2 to 5 p.m Thursday, Aug. 9 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 10-12.

    The flights will cost $50 for children and $70 for adults.

    Smith said Ford Motor Co. produced 199 Tri-Motors, which were distinctive for having three engines and a metal body during an era when many planes still used wooden frames and fabric.

    City of Wichita was produced in 1928, he said.

    “A handful of them are still surviving,” Mellen said. “There aren’t many. … It’s a good event for the public to ride on a plane like that.”

    He said the plane’s interior has been restored to match its original specifications.

    The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum website says Transcontinental Air Transport used airplanes by day and trains by night to carry passengers between New York and Los Angeles.

    The price for such a trip in 1929 was $338.

    Charles Lindbergh was a technical adviser for the company.

    TAT had no contract to carry air mail, and soon found itself in poor financial shape.

    The national Experimental Aircraft Association website says the plane operated with TWA from 1931-35 after a merger involving Transcontinental Air created TWA.

    The plane briefly was used for sightseeing tours before being sold in 1937 to an owner in Honduras.

    Before returning to the United States in 1955, the plane also operated in Mexico and was given a major overhaul when its original corrugated skin was replaced with flat sheet metal.

    The corrugated skin was returned during a seven-year overhaul in the 1960s. Another restoration was conducted in 1996; Liberty Aviation acquired the plane in 2014.