Cruising through the sky at 90 mph might not seem like a very fast-moving flight, but in a time far before technological advancements such as hover boards, smartphones and the internet, traveling from Denison to Dallas in thirty minutes via a commercial aircraft was revolutionary. And even after years of personally experiencing modern aviation, there is still a thrill to be felt while voyaging 1,000 feet over the Texoma area in the 1929 Ford Tri-Motor, an opportunity that I had the pleasure of participating in on Thursday, Nov. 2 thanks to the Grayson County chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA).
As a fairly frequent traveler, my experience with flying has been more of the packaged pretzels and in-flight films variation. That was why I jumped on board at the chance to experience a bit of history and rekindle the nostalgia and wonder of flying that the current age of technology has rendered mostly obsolete. Nowadays, travelers pull on sweats, yoga pants and Uggs when heading to airports, as flying has become mostly a routine hassle, but try to imagine the days when travelers would deck themselves out in their finest suits, jewels and overcoats as they let themselves be carried into the air.
The Ford Tri-Motor is the world’s first mass produced airliner, weighing in at 10,130 pounds. Its ceiling is 16,500 feet, with a wing span of 74 feet 8 inches and a length of 49 feet 10 inches. With a cruising speed of 107 mph and a range of 570 miles, this used to be the fastest and most efficient way to travel around. The chance to fly in the plane was offered to the public as an opportunity to keep the wonder of flying alive close to 90 years later.
“It’s an opportunity for us to introduce the aviation of yesterday to some of today’s generation,” EAA Grayson County Chapter President John Horn said. “It’s great for pilots young and old and plane enthusiasts young and old.”
As reported by the Herald Democrat, EAA member and pilot Ed Rusch said the Ford Tri-Motor was the result of a business deal between Bill Stout of the Stout Metal Aircraft Company and the Ford Motor Company. Rusch said the aircraft first hit the production line in 1926 and went from single-propeller and open-air-cockpit designs to the three-engine model that motored down the NTRA runway. The Ford Motor Company built less than 200 of the aircraft and only six remain operational today. The aircraft that I flew in — the NC8407, which is currently owned by the EAA — was the 146th off the assembly line.
“I’m not thinking about work and, for me, that’s why I do it,” Horn said. “ I think about the beauty that can only be seen from the air.”
The NC8407, experienced heavy damages after a massive and unexpected wind storm in June, 1973 in Burlington, Wisconsin that picked up the plane and smashed it back to the ground after it was torn from its tiedowns. The EAA Air Museum Foundation purchased the plane from the insurance company in its damaged condition, and embarked on a 12-year period of restoration that required a lot of volunteer effort and donations. The fact that restoration was even an option —albeit a lengthy one —is a testament to the durability of the aircraft.
“During EAA’s ownership, the aircraft (the NC8407) appeared in the movie ‘Public Enemies’ starring Johnny Depp, and has had many airborne weddings and matrimonial engagements performed aboard her,” a pamplet for the plane reads.
I experienced my flight at the North Texas Regional Airport in Denison, where a weekend full of air tours were being hosted for the public, but the plane travels all over the country to keep the wonder of aviation alive for citizens interested in taking a vintage flight. There are no age restrictions to travel, with passengers from 6 months old to 90 years safely making the flight. The trip lasts roughly 30 minutes, with a moderate amount of noise and mild amount of bumps depending on the wind.
For more information, please visit www.eaa.org and www.flytheford.org. To become a member of the EAA, join today at www.eaa.org/join to share in a community that is passionate about aviation.
Emma Polini is the managing editor of the Van Alstyne Leader, Anna-Melissa Tribune and Prosper Press. What do you want in your paper? Email her at email@example.com to let her know.