Vintage 1920’s Plane Still Soaring

Posted at: 07/11/2013 9:31 PM
Updated at: 07/11/2013 10:14 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- This weekend, aviation enthusiasts will have a rare opportunity to board a plane first flown in the 1920’s.

The Experimental Aircraft Association is offering to fly folks around Albert Lea in a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor airplane.

Less than 200 were made, and only two still make regular flights.

Experts say it's a machine that represents a revolution in aviation technology.

“It was the first all-metal aircraft manufactured in the United States where the passengers rode indoors, before that everything was open cockpit and biplanes,” said pilot Colin Soucy, who took up a load of passengers on Thursday. “If you can imagine going between say Albert Lea and Minneapolis in the wintertime, it just wasn't going to happen."

The Tri-Motor can reach a top speed of about 90 miles-per-hour, and while that might not seem very fast by today's standards, back when they were first made, it was a revolutionary step forward.

The faster speed meant a trip from Minneapolis to Chicago could be completed in a matter of hours instead of days.

Some pilots would engage in what they called 'barnstorming' where pilots would fly from town to town offering rides to locals.

In the 1920’s and 30’s, only about five percent of the population had actually ridden in an airplane.

“People dressed to come in the airplane,” said Jim Hanson, manager of the Albert Lea Municipal Airport. “They'd be dressed up in their finest to go back and have an airplane ride, something that they would brag about to their neighbors."

Hanson, who is in the Minnesota Aviation Hall of Fame, flew the exact same plane nearly 50 years ago, and now he said he's excited about giving people the chance to go back and experience flight the same way people did way back in the 1920’s.

“When you look back at how primitive the airplanes were back then, our trainer airplanes were faster that this airplane, even 50 years ago,” Hanson said.

“On the other hand, the airplane is anything but solid, my gosh. You look at it, it's been soldiering on here now for 80 years. How good is that?"