Reliving A 1929 Eastern Airlines Flight

Photo by Alexf

Photo by Alexf


I flew in an airplane older than I today.

In 1929, a Ford Tri-Motor went into service for Eastern Air Transport, which became Eastern Airlines. That 85-year-old airliner is flying at Columbus Metropolitan Airport in Columbus, Georgia through May 4th. For $70 in advance, $75 walk-in, and $50 for children, you can catch a ride..

Eastern only used it for a year because newer, faster transports became available. It was sold in 1930 to Cubana Airlines and became Air Force One in the Domincan Republic.

Ford Motor Company maufactured 199 of them from 1925 to 1933.  More than a hundred airlines in the world have used them.

The vintage “Tin Goose” is owned by the EAA, Experimental Aircraft Association Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, home of one of the world’s biggest air shows. The Columbus chapter of the EAA brought the plane to Columbus with the help of sponsors such as the Columbus division of Pratt and Whitney. The three motors on the Ford Tri-Motor are all Pratt and Whitney engines.

Some members of the 13th Air Attack Company joined us on the “media flight.” They had to park their highly sophisticated attack helicopters at the Columbus airport to wait out some bad weather between Columbus and Savannah, their home post. They were returning from a training mission.

That old bird takes flight fast. The pilot, Ed Rusch, told me that it lifted off the runway today in only 500 feet. It doesn’t fly fast, crusing at about 85 miles-per- hour. If you give it full power, it can actually get up to a little more than 100 mph, depending on the wind. Commercial jets cruise at about 500 mph.

I asked a pilot when I flew in one at Wings and Wheels Air Museum in South Carolina in the 1970s what it is like to fly one. He said, “It’s like flying a barn.” Ed Rusch is quoted as saying that it’s like a boat. He said that you turn the rudder to the left or right and eventually it will start to turn.

It’s a fun experience. You can’t help but reflect on the fact that this was, in the late 20s, state of the art. Franklin D. Roosevelt flew in one to campaign for president in 1932. It was the first time an airplane was used for that purpose. In 1929, Commander Richard E. Byrd made the first flight above the Geographic South Pole in one. In 1965, Jerry Lewis “flew” the one we flew in today in the movie “The Family Jewels.”

Bottom line: flying in one is a hoot. I’ve done it twice and loved it both times.


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One Response to “Reliving A 1929 Eastern Airlines Flight”

  1. Gail Stafford Says:

    Articles like this are why you should never stop your blogs. They are a joy to read and I, for one, love reading them.

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