The Liberty Aviation Museum offers historic flights in the Ford Tri-Motor | Rare Techy


A propeller on one of the Ford Tri-Motor’s three engines spins over the Port Clinton landscape. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)


The Liberty Aviation Museum recently took visitors on historic trips around Port Clinton as they offered “City of Wichita / Port Clinton” tours aboard a 1928 Ford Tri-Motor. The plane was part of the Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT) airline, which offered the first high-speed coast-to-coast travel in cooperation with the railroad system. In the mix of this new era of aviation were famous aviators Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart who worked for TAT.

On July 7, 1929, TAT’s inaugural trip began as passengers boarded the train at New York’s Pennsylvania Station. The train traveled to Columbus, where passengers transferred to a Ford Tri-Motor for the next leg of the trip. Forty-eight hours after leaving New York, the passengers arrived in Los Angeles. TAT had now halved cross-country travel time.

Modern passengers got a taste of this historic journey when they recently boarded the City of Wichita / City of Port Clinton at the Liberty Aviation Museum. Like TAT’s first Ford Tri-Motor passengers, museum riders entered a narrow, wood-paneled corridor where every seat was a window seat. During the flight, they looked out over the Port Clinton landscape through curtained windows set under single reading lights. Passengers on the 1929 flight were also able to use personal electric cigarette lighters with accompanying ashtrays.

The Liberty Aviation Museum recently offered flights in the “City of Wichita / City of Port Clinton” 1928 Ford Tri-Motor. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

Passengers in Port Clinton early Friday morning waited a long time in the plane before takeoff as volunteer pilot John Maxfield readied the plane and its three engines for flight.

“We wake it up more than we launch it,” Maxfield said. “It has three engines with three different personalities.”

Among the passengers on Friday’s flight were museum volunteer Stewart Fowler of North Olmsted and his granddaughter Christina Pawlowski of Avon Lake.

“I loved it, every second of it,” Pawlowski said.

Stewart, who paid a premium for the privilege of riding Maxfield in the cockpit, said he was surprised by how comfortable the flight was for passengers.

Volunteer pilot John Maxfield checks on his passengers before the first flight takes off on Friday morning. Riders enjoyed an extended wait on the track as Maxfield allowed the plane’s three engines to warm up for flight. (Photo by Sheri Trusty)

“It was awesome. I was really surprised how smooth it was,” Fowler said.

Maxfield is a commercial pilot who has been volunteering for about 10 years. Stepping into the cockpit of a Ford Tri-Motor is different from flying a jet, he said.

“They are completely, diametrically opposed,” Maxfield said. “It’s the difference between sitting in a brand new limousine and a Model T where everything is manual.”

Maxfield said the City of Wichita/City of Port Clinton was eliminated from TAT when faster and bigger planes came along. That plane went south of the border and flew to other airlines and was then brought back to the United States and recovered,” he said.


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