Ford Tri-Motor “Tin Goose,” a nearly century-old aircraft, landed at Lee Bird Field on a sunny Monday afternoon. Little fluffy clouds and a slight cross-breeze gave the pilots some good landing and take-off practice.
Pilots in the TriMotor practiced take offs and landings before taxiing to the airport at North Platte-Lee Bird Regional Airport on Monday.
Owned by the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Aircraft designated “NC8407” is a model 4-AT-E. It was the 146th off Ford’s assembly line, and is the 76th model 4-AT-E. It sports three Pratt and Whitney 420 horsepower radial engines.
Starting Thursday, the aircraft will be on display at the North Platte-Lee Bird Regional Airport until Sunday. It is hosted by the local Hershey chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Pilots will be there to talk about the history of the aircraft while other members of the EAA will be there to chat and talk aviation.
As part of a fundraising deal, they are offering rides at the showing, or online at: eaa.org/flights/flightregistration.aspx?ID=2723688. Proceeds go towards funding the EAA’s operations. Flights cost $95 per passenger. Tickets will also be sold at the event.
Flights are scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. on Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The experience will take about 20 minutes, flying around North Platte with about 10 to 12 minute air time.
The plane features corrugated metal panels and wings and exterior cable controls. According to pilot and EAA member Bill Sleeper, the Ford Tri-Motor is known as the first all metal airliner.
NC8407 was built in 1929, and has logged 8,800 hours of flight time over the years.
“It’s got a huge history,” Sleeper said. “It’s been all over North and South America. It’s lived nine lives. It was a crop duster, a smoke-jumper, it’s been in a couple of movies. It’s pretty unique.”
Sleeper said the plane isn’t very nimble, “but it is a real honest airplane.” It’s very solid and stable. It can run on only two engines if one goes out.
Despite its age, barely any original parts remain on the aircraft, as parts age out of their allowed flight hours and are replaced. However, the plane has never been out of service and still sports its original paint pattern with the words “Eastern Air Transport Inc., U.S. Mail CAM No. 19.” on its side, as well as the Ford logo. Eastern Air Transport would later become Eastern Air Lines before its dissolution in 1991.
According to The Henry Ford Museum’s website, thehenryford.com, Ford motor company began its venture into the aviation industry in 1924. They ceased production in 1933 due to market pressure from the Great Depression.