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Ford Trimotor: The Civilian and Military Transport Aircraft

The aircraft for today is designated as Ford Trimotor which is also known by its nickname the Tin Goose.  The Ford Trimotor is the 3-engine aircraft that is built for transportation. The production of the Ford Trimotor was started way back in 1925 by the companies of Henry Ford and the final product was unveiled back on 7th June 1933.

To this day, nearly 199 of these Ford Trimotor transport aircraft have been manufactured in their variant forms which were used by both the military and the civilian operators alike.

Origin of Ford Trimotor:-

The origin of the Ford Trimotor arises from the works of 2 aviation engineers and designers named Hugo Junkers and William Stout back in the early 1920s. They both work on the project with a team that was formed and funded by Henry Ford himself. This era gave rise to an aircraft that was designated as Stout 3-AT whose first prototype flight occurred back in 1926.

Afterward, more work was carried out on the aircraft’s design which allowed for it to evolve having a metal skinning with sue of aluminum alloys which was the idea of the German aviation pioneer Hugo Junkers; known for his designs of aircraft both during the World War I era and the post World War I era.

The series production of the Ford Trimotor was carried out back in 1929 and nearly 1999 of such aircraft were manufactured. These aircraft not only served the civilian markets of many world countries but also the militaries as well namely the United States Navy, The United States Army Air Corps and the Royal Canadian Air Force. Due to numerous legal battles fought by Ford, the Ford Trimotor was prohibited for sale in Europe.

Powerplant and Performance:-

The Ford Trimotor was powered by 3 of the Pratt & Whitney Wasp C 9-cylinder radial piston engines. Each of these engines generated power of 420 HP which allowed for the aircraft to have a cruising speed of 105 mph while the maximum speed was about 150 mph. the aircraft is able to maintain a ferry range of 570 miles at a service ceiling of about 18600 feet with the climbing rate being about 920 feet per minute.

Ford Trimotor flew by Amelia Earheart:-

The Ford Trimotor holds a significant place among the aircraft of the late 1920s and the 1930s as it was a strengthened and reliable mount in that era; suitable for both the civilian and military operators. One of the Ford Trimotor models was designated as Ford 4-AT which was used by America, Canada, and Mexico for their military uses. In its other notable accomplishments, this same aircraft was used for flight by renowned pilots like Charles Linderberg and the first female pilot Amelia Earhart.

The first flight made over the South Pole:-

The prestige of making the first geographic flight over the South Pole is also in lap of the Ford Trimotor; the news of which made the Trimotor a trademark in the aviation market.  Back on 27trh & 28th November of 1929, a chief pilot named Bernt Balcchen and the Navigator named Richard E. Byrd along with 2 other members; a copilot and a photographer made that South Pole flight. Richard Byrd named that Ford Trimotor as Floyd Bennett.

This Ford Trimotor was among the three of the aircraft that were taken on this expedition.

The first Cow to be Milked aboard an aircraft:-

The Ford Trimotor holds various titles for being the first aircraft of doing something and the same was the case for this fact. One of the Ford Trimotor aircraft was used for transportation of the cow; the first transportation of its sorts in the world. The name of the cow was Elm Farm Ollie which was not only the first cow to fly on an airplane but also the first cow to be milked on the plane mid-flight.

Ford Trimotor used as a Tanker on a Trans-Polar flight’s rescue mission:-

The Ford Trimotor had impressive short-range capabilities which made it a suitable candidate to be a search and rescue aircraft to be used for finding the flyers of the crashed trans-polar flight back in 1937. For this purpose, a movie stunt flyer named Jimmie Mattern flew the specially modified aircraft named Lockheed Electra along with his colleague named Garland Lincoln, who was flying a Ford Trimotor. This Ford Trimotor was modified to be equipped with a cabin that could hold 450 gallons of oil and 1800 gallons of avgas. The idea was to sue this modified Ford Trimotor as the tanker aircraft for the Lockheed Electra.

The test of mid-flight fueling proved successful and the pilots on their planes started the expedition. However, the Ford Trimotor ran out of its fuel and ended up crashing in the bad weather over Yukon Territory, Canada back on 16th August 1937. The Ford Trimotor was left on that very frozen tundra.

Used during Battle of Bataan:-

One of the notable services carried out by a Ford Trimotor in the military conflict was during the 1942’s Battle of Bataan, where it was used as the evacuation aircraft. A Ford Trimotor would daily haul 24 people from the war zone for a 500-mile trip twice a day. This aircraft was eventually found out by a Japanese aircraft and was destroyed during one such mission.

Civilian and Military Operators:-

The aircraft was produced in limited numbers but its operators are both in the civilian and military markets. The civilian operators of the Ford Trimotor are as follows.

  • Colombia
  • Canada
  • Cuba
  • Czechoslovakia
  • Dominican Republic
  • Mexico
  • United States
  • Venezuela

As for the military operators of the Ford Trimotor, they are as follows.

  • United States
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • Spain
  • Colombia
  • United Kingdom

Current Status:-

As of today, there are only 18 Ford Trimotor aircraft that are in fly worthy conditions while others have been entered in the museums as showpieces.

The EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) uses 2 of the flyable Ford Trimotor aircraft for sightseeing tours.

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