A couple of weeks ago I was heading home to Northfield from the east. I passed by the Stanton airport and a large plane caught my eye. I pulled in to check it out and discovered a beautiful Ford Tri-motor airplane. I have seen many pictures of these airplanes but had never seen one up close…this one was a real beauty.
From what I know, the Ford Tri-motor was built between 1925 and 1933 by Henry Ford. Total production was about 200 so there are not a lot of these planes around. It did not use Ford engines, but was constructed by Ford. The plane…sometimes called a ‘tin goose’….has a ribbed aluminum skin. As the name implies, it uses three radial engines, one nose engine and one under each wing. The interior of the plane was quite spacious for an old-time plane. The seats are made of wicker. I think the configuration could be changed depending upon what the passenger requirements were. This plane had a small bench seat facing the entry door. It also had a small toilet facility for the passengers and crew. It looked like about 8 passengers would fit in the plane, with two pilots up front.
This was a time in our nation when passenger aviation was just getting started. Big airplanes had to have a sizeable runway to take off and land. The Ford Tri-motor could land on a reasonable airstrip…even the grass strip at Stanton. Larger passenger airplanes were in use on both coasts where the planes could take-off and land in the ocean. There was a some type of small float plane at the airport that day. It fired up and taxied over to refuel while I was there. I’d never seen a plane that looked quite like this one, with a boat for a fuselage and the overhead engine.
There was also a very nice red biplane on the Stanton landing strip. I didn’t get information on that plane but it looked to be a fun, open cockpit plane from the early 20th century. It had a Texaco logo on the tail so must have had some link to the petroleum industry.