Hot Springs residents will have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the magic of flight in the world’s first mass-produced airliner when the “Tin Goose” makes its appearance at Hot Springs Memorial Field Thursday through Sunday. The Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) immaculate 1929 Ford Tri-Motor is currently touring the country offering an opportunity for passengers to travel back to the early days of what was considered luxurious commercial air travel.
The Ford Tri-Motor NC8407, or “Tin Goose,” was first built by the Ford Motor Company in the late 1920s. EAA’s Ford Tri-Motor was constructed in 1929 and has an intriguing history, with roles ranging from service as Cuban airliner to extensive background fighting forest fires while transporting smoke jumpers. Since then it has been hangared at the EAA Museum’s historic Pioneer Airport and only departs to make public appearances and for its touring.
Thirty-minute flights in EAA's 1929 Ford Tri-Motor are $70 per adult in advance (walk-up price is $75), $50 per child 17 and under. Each flight experience is approximately 30 minutes, of which about 15 minutes will be in the air. The Tri-Motor carries up to 10 passengers at a time, and every seat on the aircraft has a window. It is possible to reserve an entire flight of 10 passengers. Passengers are welcome to bring cameras and camcorders on board. An adult must accompany children under the age of 16. Children under the age of 2 can be carried free of charge in an adult's lap.
Access to the airplane is generally easy. Two normal-sized steps are used to enter the cabin. Seats are individual (no double seats) and separated by an aisle. Seatbelt extensions are available. Those with additional questions can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-843-3612.
The Ford Tri-Motor NC8407 was first owned by Pitcairn Aviation, which operated an airline passenger/mail service on the East Coast of the United States called Eastern Air Transport* (EAT). In 1930, the aircraft was sold to Intercontinent Aviation and Ford Tri-Motor NC8407 was first owned by Pitcairn Aviation, which operated an airline passenger/mail service on the East Coast of the United States called Eastern Air Transport* (EAT). In 1930, the aircraft was sold to Intercontinent Aviation and leased to Compania Nacional de Aviacion Curtiss in Havana, Cuba, inaugurating Cuba’s first passenger/airmail service. NC8407 also doubled as a multi-engine trainer for the Transport Pilot Rating at the Curtiss flight school in Havana until 1932 when PanAm bought all of the outstanding stock of the company. The aircraft was sold to Dominicana de Aviacion where it flew for the Dominican Republic from 1946 through 1948. During that time, it was transferred to the Dominican Air Force, Cuerpo de Aviacion Militar, and may have been the “Air Force 1” of the Dominican Republic.
In 1949, NC8407 returned to the United States as a barnstormer, but by 1950 was operating in Phoenix, Arizona, as a crop sprayer. In 1954, the original 300 HP Wright engines were replaced by two R985 Wasp Jr. (450 HP Pratt & Whitney [P&W]) engines on the wings. In December of that year, a 550 HP P&W Wasp S1D1 was installed on its nose, making it the most powerful 4-AT-E to ever fly. In 1955 under the ownership of Aircraft Service Company of Boise, Idaho, the aircraft was first used to fight forest fires. NC8407 was one of two tri-motors converted for use as a “borate bomber;” two 275-gallon tanks with bomb bay doors were added to enable the aircraft to drop fire retardant (borate) onto forest fires. Each aircraft carried approximately 5,000 pounds of borate. In 1957, NC8407 is credited with saving the lives of 11 smoke jumpers who had gotten trapped by an encircling forest fire. By 1958, the aircraft joined the famous Johnson Flying Service of Idaho, Inc., in Cascade, Idaho, and continued fighting forest fires as well as employing smoke jumpers. It was during this period that modifications were made to the airframe; the cabin doorway was modified from its original oval shape to one with a square bottom, which facilitated the entrance and exit of the smoke jumpers along with their packs and gear.
In 1963, the aircraft was operated by LeMasters-Glenn Aerial Spraying of Ottawa, Kansas, as a crop sprayer. Ownership of the aircraft passed to Dale Glenn in 1964 and it was campaigned throughout the Midwestern U.S. giving rides. For a short period, the aircraft was leased to Tall-Mantz Aviation and appeared in the movie “The Family Jewels” starring Jerry Lewis and Sebastian Cabot.
NC8407 was heavily damaged in a wind storm in June of 1973 in Burlington, Wisconsin, when it was torn from its tie downs. The EAA Air Museum Foundation purchased the aircraft in “as is” condition and, over a 12-year period, restored the aircraft to airworthy condition. Except for a short period as a static display in EAA’s AirVenture Museum,
the aircraft has been flown consistently as an ambassador of flight by the EAA Aviation Foundation. During EAA’s ownership, the aircraft appeared in the movie “Public Enemies” starring Johnny Depp (2008), and has had many airborne weddings and matrimonial engagements performed aboard her. For more information about Ford Tri-Motor NC8407, visit FlyTheFord.org.
The Experimental Aircraft Association is a nationwide organization of over 180,000 aircraft enthusiasts. The Ford Tri-Motor is a flying outreach component of the EAA AirVenture Museum based in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.