NAPLES, Fla.- Most people probably think of Ford as the name most synonymous with building cars on the assembly line.
But, did you know Ford also produced a commercial airliner?
WINK News was on board a 1920s era Ford Tri-Motor that flew out of the Naples Airport.
Charles “Smokey” Connally was about one of about ten people aboard an airplane that those in the ‘aviation know,’ say defined the course of commercial aviation history.
“Convincing somebody to take a ride in this airplane in 1928, to the coast, would be rather like convincing somebody to buy a ticket on a moon mission now, just a little out there,” said pilot Ashley Messenger.
We met two Tri-Motor pilots in Naples, both on tour with the Experimental Aviation Association which promotes flying.
“I was the last Tri-Motor pilot for the last company that commercially operated Tri-Motor in the world,” said Rick Rusch.
They say the plane is so well built, there has never been an accident attributable to its construction, and that it has a ride all its own.
“How about like a Harley Davidson in the air. It is a rumbling, wonderful old flying machine,” said Messenger.
The Ford Tri-Motor was different in its. Many planes at the time were built with fabric and wood, but this one changed aviation.
The airplane is the very first multi-engine purposely designed passenger airliner in this country to be built completely of metal.
It sat ten comfortably, plus the cockpit. The interior was wrapped in mahogany hardwood, with light fixtures of brass, and three air cooled engines.
Each motor packed about 400 horsepower, enough range to fly 300 miles.
If you decided to take a trip cross country, you’d need to plan on several days, lots of landings and take-offs, and airfare that comparably makes today’s look like bus fare.
“They began to offer that in 1930. In today’s prices, that would cost about $14 grand to get from NY to LA in 48 hours,” said Rusch.
If you’d like to see this piece of aviation history, Tri-Motor planes will be at the Naples Airport through Sunday.