The community will get a chance to experience riding on a plane designed nearly a century ago — when flying was more of an adventure than a primary mode of transportation — when a vintage Ford Trimotor makes a tour stop in Owensboro next week.
The rare 1928 Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT airliner, will be at MidAmerica Jet from May 13-16. Flights will be offered from 2-5 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. Tickets can be purchased in advance here.
“We’re extremely excited to get that in here,” said Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport Director Tristan Durbin. “It should be a great way to attract interest in aviation and vintage aircraft. It’s going to be a pretty unique experience.”
The 12-seater has a cruise speed of 122 mph and stall speed of 66 mph. It can climb 1,050 feet per minute with a ceiling of 18,500 feet. The plan weighs 13,500 pounds and has a wingspan of 77 feet, 6 inches.
The plane is operated by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It is owned by Liberty Aviation Museum of Port Clinton, Ohio, and operated under a lease agreement with EAA for the national tours.
The local airport has partnered with the Hancock County chapter of the EAA to put on the event.
About the plane
Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford, who had already changed America through his automobiles, also had a vision for moving people through flight. He saw a time when people would travel across America in airplanes at speed surpassing the fastest railroad.
Although fewer than 200 of the Ford TriMotors were built over a seven-year period before it was overtaken by newer technology, it showed that passenger flights were possible on a grander scale than ever imagined.
The Ford Tri-Motor appearing locally was No. 8 of the aircraft’s run, coming off the line in December 1928. It was sold to Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) in January 1929 where it became NC9645 and was named City of Wichita. It inaugurated westbound transcontinental commercial air service on July 7, 1929, with sister ship City of Columbus.
After various services and private owners, the plane was damaged in an accident in January 1954, after which it was put in storage.
After multiple restoration to return to flying condition, the aircraft was acquired in 2014 by Ed Patrick and the Liberty Aviation Museum.
After further maintenance to ensure the aircraft was tour-ready, Liberty entered into a lease agreement with EAA, working together to showcase the historic aircraft around the country.
The full history of the plane can be found here.
The airplane then had its own adventure flying as a tour aircraft over the Grand Canyon and Boulder Dam in 1937, then as an airliner in Honduras and various service in Mexico through the 1940s. After a lengthy period in storage during the 1950s and early ’60s, the Tri-Motor was purchased in 1964 by William Harrah of Harrah’s Hotel and Casinos fame, who restored the aircraft and had it flown beginning in 1971 before displaying it with his renowned automobile collection in Reno, Nevada.