Browsing Tag: Ford Tri-Motor

Surprisingly, it's not just about Ford at The Henry Ford. Meet the Fokker.

Surprisingly, it’s not just about Ford at The Henry Ford. Meet the Fokker.

I recently found myself in Detroit for three days thanks to one of Spirit Airlines’ ridiculous airfare sales combined with my favorite Spirit tip: Actually going to the airport to buy tickets. At $38.41 round trip, how could we resist? While I can honestly say DTW was not anywhere near the top of my to-do list, I go where the sales are. All literature regarding tourism in Detroit pointed to one definite venue: The Henry Ford. I knew Ford was influential in many early forms of transportation besides the obvious one, so I gave it a shot. For AvGeek appeal I expected an exhibit on the Tri-Motor. What we got was so much more.

Little Ford, A Vintage Tri Motor, takes to the Sky at OshKosh - Photo: Mal Muir |

Little Ford, a vintage Tri-Motor, takes to the sky at Oshkosh – Photo: Mal Muir |

During my recent visit to Oshkosh, I managed to secure a ticket to fly in the oldest aircraft I have ever stepped onboard.  On a grey and cool Tuesday morning at Oshkosh, I hiked from the main gate over to the Warbird Alley flight line to line up for a scenic flight onboard ’œLittle Ford’, a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor (Model 4-AT-E).

Little Ford (NC8407) was built in 1929 and was frame #146 from the Ford Aircraft factory.  Sold to Eastern Air Transport (later Eastern Airlines), it served for three years before heading over the Straits of Florida to operate for Cubana on its new Santiago de Cuba to Havana route.  Before returning back to the U.S., it served as presidential transport for the Dominican Republic as well.  During the 1950’s, the aircraft was upgraded with higher-horsepower engines, becoming the most powerful 4-AT ever flown.

Ah, flying how it used to be. Although a fun commercial with a great cast of airplanes, I feel it overly beautifies the earlier years of air travel. Sure, it was a big deal at the time since it was so costly and it was still new, but even comparing to 1984’s standards it would have been a bad experience for most people.

For aviation nerds, being able to fly on an old United Airlines Ford Tri-Motor would be an amazing experience. However, for most people it would be horrid. Very loud, lots of vibrations, uncomfy seats, and lots of fuel stops between point A and point B. Your coffee might have been served on a silver platter and given a glass of chocolate milk, but that doesn’t make it worth while.

Even with the “now” portion of the video, which takes place in 1984, it is a lot different than it is in 2011. A first class seat on a current United Airlines Boeing 747 is going to be much more comfortable and probably a bit cheaper. Not to mention all that interesting in-flight entertainment available now.

Sorry, I am not trying to harp too much on this video, I really enjoy it. Who can not like a video with a Ford Tri-Motor, Boeing 747-200, DC-10 and DC-8? I think it just supports the idea that flying used to be so much more glamorous, where I think it is just as glamorous or even a bit more than it used to be (not to even mention safer) — it is all about perspective.