Story and photos by Mark Wing
After the Tom and Cathy Miles hosted breakfast at the Golden Corral, it was on to the Double Eagle Airport due west from the restaurant. A 1928 Ford Tri-Motor (the world’s first mass-produced airliner) had been making appearances at smaller airports in the western US and was now in Albuquerque. The previous week, it had been in the Phoenix area. This particular Ford Tri-Motor (named the City of Wichita) was delivered to its purchaser, Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) on January 18, 1929. It was part of a fleet that provided coast-to-coast passenger air/rail service beginning in mid-year 1929. In the mid 1930’s the plane was also owned by Grover Ruckstell (yes that Ruckstell, that we can thank for manufacturing the Ruckstell axle), who used it for Grand Canyon Airlines of Arizona. The plane next saw service in Honduras and Mexico where the plane’s corrugated metal skin was replaced with flat metal. The corrugated skin was replaced while in the ownership of Bill Harrah (the famous casino owner and car collector).
In 2013, the plane was purchased by The Liberty Aviation Museum of Port Clinton, Ohio. They, in turn, have loaned it to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Foundation who tour the plane around the country providing rides to the public.
The original Ford engines have been replaced with Pratt and Whitney radial engines and some components, such as the drum brakes and some instrumentation, have been modernized with disc brakes and instrumentation for safety.
Several Tin Lizzie Members took the half hour ride in the plane. The actual flight time was approximately 15 minutes, but it was long enough to get an idea what early air travel must have been like. It was a great event and everyone had a good time.
Thank you Konrad Werner and the folks at the Double Eagle Airport, and Bill and Vaughn for organizing the Ford Tri-Motor event!