Tri-Motor Tour

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.

Trimotor_To the Left



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.

Cuba Trimotor (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:

For more information on the EAA’s Tri-Motor:

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


Lesson #7, Saturday, July 23, 2016


.9 hours

Preflight and Taxi

Mr. King let me start the preflight without him watching me so much, so I definitely felt more responsible, and like he must not think I’m an idiot to let me start by myself. Then he sat in a chair and wasn’t even looking my direction while I finished it. I felt more efficient during the preflight. I’m getting used to the checklist, so I don’t look up and down so much to find the right place. I also brought a post it to move down the checklist so I don’t have to scan so much looking for my spot. Whoever tied down the plane last really tied it down! There were 2 or 3 knots to undo on each tie-down. Sometime I will have to do a tie-down etc. so I know how to do it.

First, getting out of the hangar, and taxiing. Steering an airplane on the ground seems to me a bit clumsy. I know I’ll feel better about it with more practice, but I can’t wait for that day to come because I feel like I under, then overdo things and swerve around like a drunk driver. So, my rudder skills need work to be smooth.

With the Foggles

I spent some time wearing foggles (glasses that block your view out of the airplane and only allow you to see the instruments) to simulate instrument flight. I really need to work on scanning the instruments. This time, I felt like I did better about checking some of them, but not a consistent scan. I felt like I was really having trouble maintaining my heading and accidentally turning. I feel like I did better on this two weeks ago, and have gotten worse! While this may be partially true, I think Mr. King is pointing out more things to me to help me start taking more responsibility. Right here at the beginning of the flight I was like, whoa, I feel kinda crappy. (It is very possible I have strep throat, but I have so far refused to confirm that with a doctor.)

Turns and Slow Flight

I was happy to take off the foggles and look around again. It was a beautiful sunny day, for sure. We practiced standard rate turns, turns with 30 degrees and 45 degrees of bank. Mr. King said to make sure in instrument flight to do a standard rate turn because you have less probability of screwing it up. We turned around and around to the water tower. We also did slow flight. I’m remembering where the carburetor heat is now and mostly remembering throttle in = more power. I felt like I had gotten over making that mistake because I hadn’t made it in two weeks, and then, oops, made that silly mistake again twice in this lesson!

Power off Stalls

The week before when we did power off stalls I had kind of just pushed the throttle in quickly and was more gradual on it in this lesson, so that was good. I felt like the stall recovery went well, and then I was like Whaaa? And Mr. King said, “What did you do?” very calmly….and I was like OH! Because if you don’t hold the throttle or put on the friction lock, the throttle vibrates back out. Throttle vibrating back out = less power = feels WRONG, so at least I noticed that it felt “off” without being told.  Stalls don’t make me feel sick usually, but when Mr. King demonstrated the power on stall I did feel a little weird. I thought, yup, sick. I didn’t feel like I was going to puke or anything, I just felt like my concentration was off. So when he mentioned doing an emergency descent I suggested that I watch him do it and wait until next time because I feel like crap. He said that was fine and demonstrated the emergency descent. This descent is important because if the plane is on fire or something you want to put it down quickly. Even though you’re nose down and descending quickly I didn’t find this nerve wracking like I thought it might be. So, we landed and all was well. Too bad I got there late, and he had another lesson, so I didn’t get quite the hour.

I’m Safe Checklist and Why I Should Use It

Next time I feel this sick,  I will cancel the lesson, because my concentration was off and it showed in my performance. Mr. King asked me how I felt I did and I sort of snorted. He said, “You did fine, nobody does good when they feel bad. Remember the acronym “I’m safe.” He’s fond of telling me, when I’m beating myself up over some minor mistake that “You haven’t done anything I haven’t seen before.” Mr. King told me on the last lesson and this one that I was starting to do more things before he said anything, and that I seemed to be doing things more naturally.


To read more about “I’m Safe” look at the chapter on “Aeronautical Decision Making” in your Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge, free to download from the FAA. You want Chapter 2 (in the 2016 version) or Chapter 16 in the 2008 version if you want to read more about “I’m Safe.”  (graphic to the right from this chapter)

To Download specific Chapters of Pilot’s Handbook of Aeronautical Knowledge

(The retro I’m Safe graphic is from New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority)



Summary of Lessons: May-July

1st_lesson_collage1st Lesson-Saturday, May 7

I had my first flying lesson and it was really exciting to do something I have been wanting to do for so long! Ryan (my husband) went to my first lesson with me, as starting lessons was my birthday present. I learned how to preflight and use a checklist to make sure you’re not missing anything. One of the many items on the checklist is checking the fuel in each wing. “Never trust a fuel gauge unless it’s on empty.” Apparently, fuel gauges on aircraft can’t be trusted, so you always check it yourself.

1st lesson_in_cockpit.png

Before taxiing out Mr. King made sure I knew what the instruments were and explained what we were going to do. We flew straight and level, did some turns, and Mr. King demonstrated stalls.  It was a beautiful day. Since I hadn’t been in a tiny general aviation aircraft since I was 20 something and went on a free demonstration flight with the EAA Young Eagles to write a newspaper article about them, it was great to see it was as fun was a I remembered. If you’ve never been in a small plane like the Cessna 172, it is nothing like being in an airliner. You’re more aware of how amazing flying is in a little plane and you feel closer to the clouds. I first flew in a small plane like that when I was 14 on a Young Eagles flight. I enjoyed getting to fly the plane myself more than the couple of minutes they let you do so on a Young Eagles flight. Mr. King said, “Well you can think about it and let me know if you want to get started.” Ryan said, “She had already decided before she got here today” and he was right. The 45 minute flight confirmed what I’d always known I wanted to do.


(Being excited about taking lessons didn’t mean I wasn’t a bit nervous!) Ryan took this picture of my death grip reflected in the window. You should have seen him wedged back there in the back seat!


Lessons 2-6, May 14-July 16


My second lesson I got my logbook. The picture above is Mr. Ken King writing in my first two lessons. I don’t know why this was so exciting. I guess it made me feel more official. 🙂 We did mostly the same thing as the first lesson.

My fourth and fifth lessons I did some instrument flying with the foggles. Foggles are glasses that are frosted at the top so you can’t see outside of the plane and are looking at only the instruments to determine if you’re flying straight and level and making coordinated turns or unintentionally climbing/descending/slowing down/speeding up. It isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I get WHY I have to do it. To get your private pilot’s license you have to do 3 hours of instrument training. After you get your private pilot’s license and have accumulated enough hours, you can move on to getting an instrument rating, which is something I would ultimately like to do so I will be a better pilot.

I also did climbs, descents, turns, power off stalls, and maintaining constant airspeed each of these lessons.


Lesson 6 happened to be the day of the monthly fly-in. Lots of very cool planes there and the Young Eagles who flew seemed to enjoy themselves. Young Eagles is a program of the EAA that lets kids ages 9-17 fly free.


You want to learn to fly? WHY?!

You want to learn to fly? WHY?!

You get two main reactions when you tell people you are learning to fly. My least favorite: “Why? Isn’t that expensive?” My favorite; “That’s cool. So tell me . . .”

It might seem an odd time in my life to learn how to fly, or maybe even wasteful/pointless to a lot of people. I’m a 36 year old mom and teacher with a two year old.

But, I’ve wanted to fly since I was 9 years old and saw a lot of grounded aircraft at a tiny airfield with low ceilings and marginal weather. I didn’t see any of them fly until we were boarding the school bus back to 4th grade, but it was magical. They were magical, there on that country airfield. p-51s, A Connie (little did I know how rare that was), a Stearman, and others whose names I would (and wouldn’t) learn, later. I learned about these planes the old-fashioned way, in the pre-internet world of checking out books from the library, and looking in our leather-bound World Books, 1987 edition. I watched Desert Storm unfold a few years later, and learned the names of those planes, too. I sent away for a die-cast Red Baron Stearman from Red Baron pizza boxes and it sat proudly on my bookshelf. My other prized possessions were my dad’s wings from his ROTC solo and his study materials, which 11 year old me actually read.

My aviation experiences were few and far between, unfortunately. I tagged along to a workshop for school teachers about integrating aviation in the classroom with my mom (a second grade teacher who went so I could go) at Columbus Air Force Base and watched T-38s do touch and gos, climbed on one and carefully peered in, peeked into a simulator, watched Pink Floyd’s Learning to Fly video, and visited their meteorology section. The most impressive thing to me there? One of the pilots was a woman! Fast forward to my first flight at Pryor Air Field in Decatur, Alabama at the age of 14. I finally got to fly in an airplane, and it was fabulous! I don’t remember that guy’s name or much about the plane itself, but I remember being allowed to fly it for a few minutes. I didn’t fly again until a trip to Spain in college. I think I’m the only person on those Continental and Iberia Air flights that excited about being in an airplane.

I never stopped wanting to fly. I went to a few airshows and toyed with the idea. I was teaching high school and 7 months pregnant when I went to a Girls in Aviation event, talked to a few people, and it suddenly seemed possible. I began to read aPregoAtFlyIn.pngnd study a little. Then for my birthday, almost two years later, my husband surprised me with “You should go for it.” So, I practice and think through maneuvers with my son’s wooden airplane, and he and I fly the pattern around our coffee table. The pilot of his toy airliner isn’t the man in the captain uniform, but the lady in the pink and red dress. I love to hear him say, “Mama FLY.”

The best time? Maybe not, but when is it the ideal time to do anything?