Common Ground 513 – Historic Ford Tri-Motor Airplane
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Common Ground 513 – Historic Ford Tri-Motor Airplane

August 29, 2019


Lakeland Public Television presents
Common Ground brought to you by
the Minnesota Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund
and the citizens of Minnesota. ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Welcome to this episode of Common Ground. We are going on
air tour of Bemidji in a
historic airplane, the Ford Tri-Motor. ? ? ? ? I’m John Maxfield. I’m a volunteer pilot with the
EAA based in Osh Kosh, WI. We have brought
a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor to the Bemidji Airport
to give rides to local public. This is our 1929 Ford Tri-Motor
built in Dearborn, MI. It’s serial number 69 of 199
that were built between 1927 and 1932. This as
far as we’re concerned is the airplane that started
the modern day airline
industry. Henry Ford sold the airplane
on safety and reliability. All metal construction versus
fabric and wood back in the
’20’s. Three engines instead of one.
Two pilots He was a firm believer in air travel and to
make a profit he thought he
could do both. promote aviation and make some
money. He did it with the Ford Tri-
Motor. And don’t forget comfort.
This airplane is fully
enclosed. Prior to that the pilots sat out in the wind. PPThe passengers would sit out inppthe wind. in the early bi-planes.
This airplane came with a lavatory and with a flight
attendant as we know it. A stewardess at the time, that would serve
meals and they were registered
nurses. That’s what started the airline business.
This aircraft was very
revolutionary. Again it started the modern day
airline industry. It wasn’t
long lived as a first line airliner.
It served it’s purpose to get the industry going. It operated out
of for the most part farmers
fields. It had excellent capabilities
for doing that. But hauling
people in a reliable fashion.
Shortly after the Ford was introduced, other airplanes came along
that now required runways but
were bigger faster a little bit more
comfortable. Primarily the Douglas DC 3. Probably the biggest
contribution to aviation was that this airplane was designed
and built entirely out of aluminum. Prior airplanes had
wooden wings maybe steel
tubing. fabric covering. Materials that
were a little more fragile. Materials that were a little
more prone to failure over
time. There was a lot of proof of concept taking
place in here. All these new
materials. And the idea of reliable travel
moving people to and from. So although it might not be physical
there were a lot of ideas,
there was a lot of paradigm that were started with the
Ford Tri-Motor. Cause remember back in the day there were now expressways.
And it took maybe a month to go from East Coast to west coast
in a car with how many
breakdowns. at slow speeds on unimproved roads
things like that. With the
invention of the Ford Tri-Motor you
could leave New York City for example on a train and go to
Columbus Ohio in the morning.
Get on to a Ford Tri Motor and fly all day
and get on another train travel that night get on a different
Ford Tri-Motor in the mountain
west and fly into Los Angles. It cut
your time across the country significantly. So here
again just another way of changing air travel. But this is the airplane that
started it all. And Henry Ford
also started infrastructure
for the airlines. Such as paved runways, airport hotels.
That still exist in Dearborn,
MI at the original Ford airport. The Dearborn Inn PPoperated today by the MarriottppCorporation. was one of the first airport hotels.
This very airplane this one. This is the airplane that started PPEastern Airlines. This is theppairplane. It started Eastern Air Transport
which grew into Eastern
Airlines. And from there went to Cuba
to start Cuban Airlines. From there the airplane traveled to the PPDominican Republic where itppserved for there chief executive. It was Air Force 1 ppfor the Dominican Republic. if you will. From then it
came back to the US It came back to the US was used
for crop dusting and smoke
jumping. That’s probably one of the
more interesting roles it
played. It took skydivers, took them out into PPthe fires so they could battleppit. And one of the unusual parts
about this airplane as you go
around to the side. You notice the door is square
on the bottom. All the other
Ford Tri-Motors are round at the top and round
on the bottom. Taking from the nautical history, the nautical ppheritage like a boat hatch. This one is specially modified
to have a square bottom. To aid in the smoke jumpers getting out.
We are the only ones to have that from Johnson Flying Service. ppAnd because it takes off and lands in short distances after the fire is out. PPThis airplane could go intoppshort mountain airstrips and bring the
fire jumpers back out. After it’s stint there it was used for what we arePPdoing today, barnstormingppgoing from town to town. Letting people experience what
it was like to fly an airplane
in 1929-1930. As well as being a movie star. ppA movie star yes. It’s got two films to it’s credit now.
The family jewels with Jerry Lewis and more
recently Johnny Depp. Johnny Depp in Public Enemy.
That was filmed portions of it were filmed in Osh Kosh andPPit was just kind of neatpphaving him around. being around the airplane.
Come out and go for a ride. We’re just happy to be here. Love to
share the airplane with
everybody. Love to see the smiles. Guarantee if you take
a ride the smile will be
bigger when you exit the airplane
then when you got on it. antique engine turning over antique engine running Well one of the three works. engine 2 starting 2 engines running 2 engines running 3rd engine turning over 3 engines running 3 engines running 3 engines acclerating 3 engines acclerating engines acclerating engines acclerating engines acclerating engines acclerating engines running engines running engines running engines running distant engines humming distant engines humming distant engines humming distant engines humming engines running engines running engines running engines running engines running Cameraman: What’s it like flying over BemidjPPas a pilot? Pilot: Oh it’s appnice upper midwest town pure America. Well we saw the university
there at the point. engines running engines running engines running engines running engines running engines running Well we saw the new Hilton hotel under construction. muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise Saw the tents set up for
the 4th of July celebration. Just the beautiful lakes. and rivers in the area. muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise muted engine noise tires scraping on runway Thanks for riding with us.
No Thank You. It was great. Welcome back to 2013.
I just want a picture of this. Actually I didn’t think that transportation in 1920’s
and 30’s would be as
comfortable as this is. Relatively quiet
too. I do have to laugh how this
cabling how that runs everything.
Yeah and on the outside of the
airplane. We can’t see the cables on
modern day airlines or airplanes the cables are hidden
in the structure behind panels. and you don’t see it.
Back in 1929 very big thick they put the cables on the outside so any cargo PPthat you put on the inside ofppthe plane wouldn’t affect the controlability.
Do the new airlines actually have cables or is it
all electronic? Air Bus is all electronic fly
by wire. But other companies still build
with cable, actuating
hydraulics. Actuators or some combination
of both. Do you see how sophisticated
added these details? Yeah I
see that. We use that as much for weather
as anything. Keep an eye weather. Because the airplane is such PPan artifact, we put it in apphanger whenever the weather is bad,
overnight. This was very enjoyable.
Well thank you for coming
along. Watch your head and your camera.
And it’s one of the few
airplanes you can leave your cell phone on.
If you can hear it ring you can
answer it. I was always interested in
airplanes. And the 6th grade teacher at
our school took us to Wold Chamberlain Field
in Minneapolis. And when we got there
they had a Ford Tri-Motor there. And I borrowed $1.50
from her to get a ride in that Ford Tri-Motor. And that
was my first airplane ride that had to be about 1934. Something like that. Since then
I’ve been flying all my life I was a Navy pilot. It was called a
Bosca Corsky King Fischer. And you flew in that?
Yea I flew in it. What position did you occupy?
I was an enlisted pilot. Oh an enlisted pilot they’re
rare. My rating was AAP 1st class. Pilot first class.
Oh wow. When I was in the navy I flew in an airplane
that had an enlisted pilot
too. I flew Kingfischer.
It’s a sea plane. I flew it off of a cruiser, catapult off the
cruiser. in South America was where I
flew. Cameraman: Were you looking for submarines? PPThat’s right we were lookingppfor submarines and we were looking for.
We were also looking for Japanese and German freighters. shipping freighters
which we found frequently. So after I got out I went to work for
Piper Aircraft for 20 years. I worked for them
and I belonged to the Experimental Aircraft
Association for 30 years. So today my daughter says
I’m going to take you to see the Ford Tri-Motor.
Well okay so here I am. The EAA is the
Experimental Aircraft
Association, based in Osh Kosh WI.
Started in 1953 Initially by people who wanted
to build their own airplanes
but it has grown in popularity to the point that
includes anyone interested in
aviation. The EAA mission is
to include people in aviation and grow aviation
through education outreach programs and tours
like the Ford Tri-Motor and the B17. My name
is Tom Omlid. I’m Vice President of the local chapter
of the EAA. That’s the
Experimental Aircraft Association. We meet
in Bemidji here at the airport. the second Thursday of every month
at 7pm in the airport lobby. And it’s open to the general public.
Anybody who has interest in
aviation we welcome them to come
and attend a meeting. EAA is a organization of
aviation enthusiasts, people that love
to be around airplanes.
It’s not just pilots It’s not just airplane owners,
anyone that wants to be involved.
It began as a small group of people that wanted to
build their own experimental aircraft and it grew from there.
It’s opened up many different avenues
of enthusiasts along the way. The general public
really don’t have an idea of what it takes to become
involved with general aviation. So the EAA has made big
steps by promoting this Ford Tri-Motor here. Bringing
it into smaller communities like Bemidji. So that they
can see a piece of history flying here. EAA national
headquarters is in Osh Kosh, WI of course.
They have numerous programs like this that do tours
around the country like this all summer long to
promote general aviation to the
public. One of our big things that we
are trying to promote aviation
in is the youth. So we have
a young eagles program that is designed to bring
aviation to young people. That have an interest. So we
give young eagle flights out here. We have scheduled ones that
we generally set them up with
the high schools or the elementary
school whichever. They range in ages from 7 -18.
Our chapter is concentrated on involving children,
young people in this aviation thing. We’ve reached
out to area schools in this science/math classes and
the shop/tech classes and so
on. Had those teachers
and those instructors get a hold of the students
they think would enjoy aviation. Then we concentrate
on them and getting them
involved in the young eagles program. Once theyPPsign on and become a youngppeagle they have a free membership
in EAA until they turn 18. They get all of there
ground school costs covered. And they get their first
introductory lesson covered by the EAA. So they are doing a
lot to promote general aviation. Because
it suffered a loss in the last 25 -30 years. Well what it
does in the community is gives these young people
a purpose. And it gives them a very lively interest
in a fun activity. You know it’s not just a video game.
It’s not electronic stimulation. They are actually getting
out here and going for a ride. They get to see their
home from above. The young eagles pilots are very accommodating
to these kids. They want to
know where they live. Let’s go find your house. And they will takeppthem out and find their house. It gives them a really good sense
of what flying really is. And so as far as what it gives the community. PPIt gives the young people appchance because there are so many distractions
these days on our young people that they need a
positive point to look at. It gives them perspective.
To understand our past, to not repeat it.
To promote the development and technology for the future. It’s a building block. Oh I think it is important because it kind of PPstirs the people up and getsppthem interested in aviation. There is not too
many people interested in
aviation these days.
engines running Engines running
Aviation has pretty well supplied
the culture up in here. In the early days a lot of these places a lot of these places
were only accessible by float
plane. or by ski plane in the winter time.
General aviation has got a real
core base of people in northern Minnesota. ppThere is a lot of small private strips out in
the bush out here you might
say. There is a lot of good hearted people that take
part in this general aviation population in Minnesota engines running engines running A big thing that people
get afraid of in aviation is the cost.
What does it cost to own an airplane? What does it cost PPfor me to go and learn how toppfly? Here in Bemidji,
we are fortunate to have Bemidji Aviation Services over here.
And they have revitalized there
flight training program. They’ve got
several instructors. They are giving ground schools. The simple
thing to do is to call Bemidji
Aviation. here at the airplane and learn
about what it takes to become a pilot. The other
thing is safety. Okay people are always afraid,
oh these small planes one engine and what happens
if something goes wrong. Every
time a pilot takes his plane out.
He does a complete safety inspection of that aircraft.
There is a checklist for every
aircraft. That pilot goes through numerous
items and he checks every one of them every time
he takes that plane out. Which is a lot more safer than what mostPPpeople do when they go hop inpptheir car and just go barreling down the road.
We check the fuel, we check the
oil. We check the tires. We check all of the PPoperating cables. We check allppof our radios all the electronics.
Every time you fly. So they’re a lot more safer than your
car you might say. The only
thing on the news is the negative part
somebody crashed an airplane. They don’t tell any other of
the story. Which is typical you don’t like to hear all the PPbad things and so on. But a lotppof times there is a lot of things that
lead up to an accident. So on a personal stand point
I believe that the safety factor is very high in general
aviation. If somebody wants to
become involved with the EAA They can go to their
website which is EAA.org and find out about membership
there. On a local basis if they want to become
involved with our chapter they just need to show up on the
second Thursday of every
month. And show up for a meeting. We have meetings
here at the airport and we
also have them out over at a local grass strip,
the old Moberg Seaplane Base. During the summer
we have meetings over there. There is a lot of ways
to become involved. It might be interesting to know
that this airplane is rare. There is arguably 20 of them
in museums around the world. There is arguably
6-7 that are flying. But there is only 1 or 2
that you can buy a ride in. Extremely rare. We are proud
and privileged to be able to bring it to Bemidji
and everywhere else. You go these wonderful museums,
we have one that is associated
with this airplane. The Henry Ford
in Dearborn, MI. You can see a beautiful Ford Tri-Motorppthere its collecting dust. Here we bring the history to you, you PPactually get to experience itppand not just look at it. So that is one of the neat things
to bring that kind of history
to people. And the EAA in Osh Kosh
makes aviation available to everyone.
Young people old people regardless
of your level of interest or what type of aviation your interested in.
There is educational programs for young people.
There are summer camps for young people to learn
math science technology and just life values through
aviation. We are the leaders in recreational aviation. engines running engines running engines running engines running engines running engines running engines running engines running engines running in distance engines running in distance engines running in distance engines running in distance engines running in distance engines acclerating engines acclerating engines acclerating engines acclerating engines acclerating engines running fading engine noise fading engine noise Thank you so much for joining us on this tour. Join me
again next time for another
episode of Common Ground. If you have an idea
for a Common Ground piece that pertains to north central Minnesota. ppEmail us at [email protected] or call us 218-333-3022. To view any episode of Common
Ground on line visit us at lptv.org ? ? ? ? ? ? To order individual segments or entire episodes of Common Ground
please call 218-333-3020. ? ? Common Ground is brought to you by thePPMinnesota Arts and CulturalppHeritage Fund with money from the vote of the
people on the 4th of November
2008.

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  1. 12:00 I have to point out that aircraft are now fly-by-wire; and before that, hydraulics had replaced cables.

  2. awesome! way out here in california, 38 and happy to have stumbled across this video. Talk about history. And I will now go investigate the EAA. So great to listen to the older ex-pilot as well. we need to listen more to these people from the past. Excelsior!

  3. My dad (yes, my dad) use to fly the Trimotors in the late 20s, into the 30s. He flew early airmail in the mid to late 20s (Jenny's)… first Detroit/Chicago, via stops throughout Michigan. Then, up/down the west coast (Ryans, Junkers, Fokkers), Seattle/San Fran and Sacramento/San Fran/San Diego. Made three jumps due to engine failure/out of gas, and two crashes, both of which he (obviously) survived. Then, early passenger/freight (TriMotors) in the Midwest and the West Coast. Of course, all this happened long before I was around. He was 20 years older than my mother, and I was last of three to be born. I’ve flown in the 4-AT a couple of times, here in Florida. Never gets old. Also, flew in a 4-AT to Put-in-Bay and the lake islands when I was a youth growing up in Toledo, OH. Want to fly on the 5-AT. I’m thrilled to see so much interest in the golden age of aviation that my dad was a part of. Too many things get passed up in the supersonic world of today.

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