delara news Delaware Amateur Radio Association, Delaware OH   VOL 37 NUMBER 9


Craig MIller  W8CR

Fly’n Tin

A bit over 20 years since the Wright brothers demonstrated powered flight in a contraption of wire, canvas, wood and a 12 horsepower engine, the passenger airline industry was literally taking off. Airline executives already had visions of jamming it to their customers with high baggage fees, no leg-room and stale peanuts.  All they needed was an airplane big and powerful enough to load willingly paying victims to fulfill their evil schemes.  Henry Ford, the inventor of the traffic jam, had his engineers design an airliner that can be mass produced like his famous Model T.  They immediately went out and copied designs from names like Fokker, Junkers and Stout. It was cleverly called the Ford 4-AT Tri-Motor (that means it has 3 engines, for those of you that went to U of M).   Affectionately nicknamed “The Tin Goose” is was state-of-the-art for its day.  Rugged, dependable and seats 9.  Three big radial engines provided redundancy if one of them decided to fall off.  If you didn’t suffer from hearing damage before flying in one, you will once you land – it’s loud inside.  Believe or not, these were first put in service here at our beloved Port Columbus, John Glenn International Airport.  Passengers in the 1920’s would travel to Columbus from New York by train.  Fly out of Columbus for Oklahoma where a second train would meet another Tri-Motor in New Mexico for the final leg into Los Angeles. The Experimental Aircraft Association sponsored The City of Port Clinton to give joy rides out of Delaware Municipal Airport Jim Moore Field one weekend this summer.  As a side-bar, I first saw this exact airplane at the Evergreen Aviation Museum in beautiful McMinnville, Oregon.  Never heard of it?  Well, where do you think the famous Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose resides?  Yup, McMinnville. Aaron and I headed over on an overcast Saturday and bought two seats.  I should’ve worn a Fedora.  Amazingly we weren’t strip searched by the TSA when we boarded.  You can pick any seat.  The chairs frankly looked like something you’d see in your grandma’s kitchen.  They were comfy and had plenty of leg room!  The interior was trimmed out in varnished wood with period lighting fixtures.   As usual, the flight attendants were giving me the beat down to take my seat and turn off my devices:   A view up front:   View of the port side engine.  You can see the gauges angled forward for the pilot to peak over his shoulder.   Wait!  Flying in an aircraft, rapidly approaching 100 years in age isn’t exciting enough, I just had to bring along an HT to do some aeronautical mobile ham radio.  I made some noisy 2 meter  QSOs with Stan N8BHL, Jordan W8JJB and a third fellow whose call I don’t remember but he was on the way to the airport to take a flight as well.  Before you blow me into the FAA and FCC, I did have the pilot’s permission to operate.   What a neat experience!  Glad Aaron and I were able to jump aboard.  Back then, you had to be very wealthy to ride in one of these.  In today’s dollars, this airplane cost about $900,000 to purchase.  $900k can get you a nice used Beechcraft King Air today, but that one goes A LOT faster.  I found reference for a one-way flight from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles in 1926 was $90 ($1,311 in today’s dollars).  A cross country journey had to be an equivalent of $8,000 or more today. But, of course, they didn’t lose your luggage. Video snippets of the flight: