Flights on the Tri-Motor were rained out on Friday because of the horrible overcast weather, but I still looked at in the hangar where it dwarfed the surrounding Cessnas. I don’t know why I didn’t realize it was that big! I got a close look at the cockpit, engines, exterior wires (which look so strange), and very cool art deco detailing in the interior.
You can tour it for free, or take a flight for $70.00. You WILL NOT fly in style like this today on a commercial airliner! Every leather seat is a window seat. With only one on each side, there are no pesky neighbors elbowing you or taking your armrest. It was designed to be like a Pullman train as that was the height of traveling in style at the time it was built, in 1929.
This particular Tri-Motor first served as a passenger airliner and mail service for Eastern Air Transport. Below, you can see a timetable from 1931, with low prices!
(Image from the collection of Björn Larssen and David Zekria at Airline Timetable Images)
Next, in 1930, it ended up in Cuba where it served as Cuba’s first passenger and airmail service. It was also used as a multi-engine trainer in Havana for the Curtiss flight school.
(Image from Craig Morris at Airline Timetable Images)
It spent time in the Dominican Republic with Dominicana de Aviación as a passenger airline and possibly served as “Air Force I” of the Dominican Republic from 1946-1948.
It was back to the USA in 1949 where it was used as a barnstormer, crop sprayer, and a “borate bomber” that would drop fire retardant into forest fires.
This Tri-Motor has appeared in two movies, “The Family Jewels” starring Jerry Lewis and “Public Enemies” starring Johnny Depp. Possibly the most famous appearance of a Tri-Motor on film is in the movie Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. For other appearances of Ford Tri-Motors in film check out the Internet Movie Plane Database. Yes, there is such a thing! You didn’t know you needed it, but there it is!!)
This airplane was seriously damaged when it was torn from its tie-downs in 1973. The EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) Air Museum Foundation purchased the aircraft and restored it over a 12-year period. It appears at airshows and aviation events across the country to introduce others to aviation and encourage them to explore its history.
For more information about the EAA visit: https://www.eaa.org/eaa
For more information on the EAA’s Tri-Motor: https://www.flytheford.org/
To book a flight online: Tri-Motor stops
My intro post on the Tri-Motor with more history, links, and information: Tri-Motor Tour on Waving at Airplanes
You could go Coast to Coast in a Ford Tri-Motor, with part of the journey by Pullman Car, in 48 hours with Transcontinental Air Transport.
To read more and see vintage photos: Mac’s Motor City Garage article