When you think of a 100-year-old Ford, you most likely picture a jalopy puttering along the roads. This story isn’t about the old Tin Lizzie, but the Tin Goose: the Ford Trimotor.
The one visiting Lincoln is nearly a century old; it took its first flight in 1928. It spent the first portion of its life as one leg of a cross-country transport service, and would later barnstorm the Grand Canyon as a tour plane. Now, it buzzes across the country again, a tangible piece of history.
Experimental Aircraft Association member Dennis Crispin knows all about that history and is a fountain of information and trivia on this family of aircraft.
“A whole world of famous people got their first airplane ride on a Ford Trimotor”, he says. “Franklin Roosevelt chartered one when he was running for governor of New York to become the first politician to campaign by air. They captured John Dillinger in Arizona, chartered a Trimotor to fly him back to Chicago, to become the first criminal to be extradited by air.”
Other names are associated with the flying Ford as well: Lindbergh, Earhart, Roosevelt (Eleanor this time), and more. All of them are pieces of that world gone by, brought back into reach the moment you climb aboard.
For those who climbed aboard a century ago, they were among the first to do things that have become commonplace today. The ten-seat Ford Trimotor is credited with creating the first airports, terminals, ticketing systems, and even the first in-flight lavatory. They may be basic amenities now, but basic is just the nature of this plane.
The pilot, Dave Ross, says it’s a very hands-on process. He likens it to driving a big truck without power steering: it will happen, but it takes some effort. He adds, “When it’s windy, it’s kind of like a leaf in the breeze. You can keep it steady, but the pilot’s working a lot harder. When it’s calm you just sort of sit there and fly.”
If this all seems a little familiar, it may be because Lincoln has had a number of old airplanes pass through. Ross Aviation plays host to at least one each year.
Station Manager Sean Nave says, “We really like to support the general aviation community and this is a great way to get out and help with the involvement and get young aviators to come out and see the cool history.”
Not only can you see this history, but you can also touch and fly in it if you like. When’s the last time you did that in a museum?