Ford Tri-Motor

WARNING!!! Non RC related content to follow!

However it is still aviation and might inspire a smaller scale project in the future.

The local EAA club in town sponsored the Kalamazoo Air Zoo Ford Tri-Motor stop at the local airport.  They were here for four days showing the plane and giving rides.  I have stopped out to see other aircraft that have come in to town but often the price for a ride in them is just too much to justify.  However this time was different.  The cost for an adult was only $80 and kids under 6 rode for free with a paying adult.  My middle son is still 5 and he loves riding in airplanes so my wife suggested that I take him out to the airport and check it out.

The Ford Tri-Motor

The night before we went to go see the Tri-Motor I told my son that we were going to go somewhere in the morning so I needed him to get up right away and get dressed.  I didn’t want to tell him what we were doing as to keep the surprise.  We woke up to a beautiful morning with sunshine and calm winds.  After a quick breakfast we headed out and on the way I told him where we were going.  He was very excited to go to the airport as he loves planes and really enjoyed the last ride we took in my friends airplane.

We arrived at the airport and made our way out to the tarmac where the Tri-Motor was sitting and got checked in.  I had to sign waivers for both my son and myself.  The cost was $80 for myself and my son rode free with me.  While that might seem like a lot of money to spend it’s a lot cheaper then the $500 is costs to ride on a B-17.  The money is used to help maintain the airplane in flying condition so that others can experience this piece of history as well.  So overall I felt this was some relatively cheap entertainment for my son and I.  I am sure he’ll remember this flight when he is older.

The plane carries 9 passengers plus a pilot and co-pilot.  We arrived in time to be on the second flight.  So we had some time to wait.  However they were more then happy to let us go all around the airplane and even inside for some pictures before the first flight.  There was also a display of older Ford Model T’s and Model A’s out on the ramp so I showed them to my son and talked about how simple cars used to be.  We then watched as the people on the first flight boarded and took off.  It was amazing to see how quickly the plane was airborne.  The pilot taxied out to the mid point of a 6600′ runway and was airborne in what seemed like 500 feet.  While we waited we looked around at a few other planes parked at the airport and just enjoyed the cool late summer morning.

Classic Ford Cars

Soon we heard the rumble of three Pratt and Whitney radial engines heading back towards the airport.  The plane came in slow and gentle.  It taxied back and the people climbed out of the airplane with smiles.  It was soon our turn.  But first FAA requires a short safety briefing to cover things such as seat belts, life preservers ( in case of a water landing) and emergency exits.  Luckily there was no TSA security pat down although they offered them if anyone so chose.  We were the second ones on the plane and got to sit right under the wing and between the two engines out on the wings.  This was exciting to me as I love the sound of the radials.  The pilot did a quick pre-flight check and then started the engines.  The ground crew watched to make sure there were no safety issues with the engines starting and then soon enough we were taxing out to the runway.

Just as with the last flight we taxied out to mid runway and then rolled out with the engines roaring to life.  We gently climbed up to about 1000 feet and headed toward the city.  The ride was smooth as the plane cruised around at about 75 mph.  It was great sitting right under the wing with the engines right outside.  When Henry Ford was designing the aircraft he wanted the passenger cabin to be similar to a train car.  So each person has a big window to look out.  In the window is a small vent that can rotate to the front or back depending on if you want fresh air coming in or having it pull the cabin air out.  While my son was busy looking around at the city below I was happy just watching the plane and how it functioned.  The thick airfoil on the wings gave it plenty of lift while the controls were run with cable on the outside of the plane much like the servo arms and pull pull cables on my models.  The engines roared along creating a bit of noise.  That combined with all the little vents in the windows meant that it was a bit noisy in the cabin but you could talk to the person next to you without completely yelling.

Soon enough it was time to head back to the airport.  We entered the pattern and slowly descended while maneuvering in to line up with the runway.  The speed and decent felt more like we were flying in a Piper Cub then an airliner.  We slowed down to just above 55mph and just as easily as we took of we landed which a nice chirp of the wheels as they met the runway.  We taxied back to the terminal and once the engines were shut down and the door opened we all climbed out.  Just like the last group we all had smiles on our faces.

It’s great to see these antique aircraft still “Barnstorming” around the states.  I’m glad I made the time to go out and see it.  I’m even more glad to have shared this moment with my son.  All too often we hear of another tragic crash of a classic airplane.  Some people would say they are too valuable to keep flying them.  While I love to travel to air museums to see these wonderful flying machines I would much rather still see and hear them flying overhead.

Video from our flight.


A few more photos to enjoy.

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