Fans of airplanes will be able to step back 90 years in aviation history this weekend in Lee's Summit.
The Experimental Aircraft Association has brought its Ford Tri-Motor plane to the Lee's Summit Municipal Airport and will offer brief flights around the area to give people a taste of what early airliners had to offer.
"It's really neat to see the way things were done about 90 years ago when this airplane first started flying," said pilot John Hartke. "It's amazing the difference between today and back then — and back then, this was very advanced."
The Ford Tri-Motor, nicknamed the "Tin Goose," might appear unique now with its three engines, but it was a common design back when it was built in the late 1920s and early 1930s. At the time, two engines weren't powerful enough for a passenger aircraft carrying 10 to 12 passengers.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
Henry Ford saw the growing potential for mass air transportation and had the airline built for passenger air travel.
"Essentially, it's the first viable airliner that started the trend," Hartke said.
The Ford Motor Co. built 199 Tri-Motors between 1926 and 1933. The Experimental Aircraft Association’s plane, a model 4-AT-E, was the 146th off the assembly line and first flew in August 1929. It was sold to Eastern Air Transport, which was Pitcairn Aviation's passenger division. That division later became Eastern Airlines.
The association's plane, NC8407, was leased to Cubana Airlines in the 1930s and was later flown by the Dominican Republic government.
In 1949, it returned to the United States, where it flew as a barnstormer, crop duster, aerial firefighting and smoke jumping.
In 1964, the plane moved to Lawrence, where its owner flew barnstorming tours. The plane also served as the primary setting for "The Family Jewels" starring Jerry Lewis.
At an air show in 1973, winds from a severe thunderstorm ripped the plane from its tie-downs, lifted it 50 feet into the air and smashed it to the ground.
The Experimental Aircraft Association spent 12 years restoring the aircraft. It went on display at the EAA Aviation Museum until 1991 when it was returned to passenger flights.
The association will offer flights from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday at the Lee's Summit Municipal Airport, 2751 N.E. Douglas. The cost is $75 to ride in the cabin or $125 for the co-pilot seat. For more information, call 920-379-8348.
"We are used to modern airlines and their conveniences, to go back to the grandaddy of them all is really interesting for folks," Hartke said. "This (plane) seems like such an antique nowadays, but at the time it was the latest technology. It was the 'Concord' of its day for speed, carrying, and capability."