The story of the Ford Trimotor began with William Bushnell Stout, an aeronautical engineer who had previously designed several aircraft using principles similar to those of Professor Hugo Junkers, the noted German aircraft designer.
In the early 1920s a group of 19 investors led by Henry Ford invested in the Stout Metal Airplane Company. Mr. Stout was a bold and imaginative salesman and when short of money for his ompany sent a form letter to leading manufacturers of the time asking for $1,000 and adding: “For your one thousand dollars you will get one definite promise: You will never get your money back.”
His boldness paid off – Stout raised $20,000, including $1,000 each from Edsel and Henry Ford.
In 1925, Ford bought Stout and its aircraft designs. The single engine Stout design was turned into a multi-engine design called the Stout 3-AT with three Curtiss-Wright air-cooled radial engines. After a prototype was built and test-flown with poor results a suspicious fire destroyed all of the previous designs.
Soon thereafter the Ford Trimotor “4-AT” and “5-AT” models emerged.
A Beautiful Restoration
The restoration of this Ford Trimotor has been completed with authentic markings for TAT as a tribute to the historic first air-rail route across the United States by Transcontinental Air Transport in 1929.
But in January of 2009 the Ford Trimotor aircraft was auctioned off, and here is a copy of the auction listing:
1929 Ford 4-AT-E Ford Tri-Motor
Here’s a rare opportunity to own a 1929 Ford 4-AT-E Tri-Motor restored to an extraordinarily high standard. This is arguably the most original and perfect example of this historically important aircraft, and it remains a national treasure in its own right.
This Ford Tri-Motor, registered NC9612 (also use N9612 for internet research), has a unique history. In 1929 it was delivered as a new passenger plane to Mamer Flying Service in Spokane, Washington. It was later sold to K-T Flying Service of Honolulu and was at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Brought back to the mainland in 1946 by a private owner, it was leased by TWA for their 1949 20th anniversary celebration. It then went to an agricultural operator in Idaho and was modified as a sprayer and also as one of the pioneer forest fire fighting air tankers. Johnson Flying Service in Montana flew it for several years to drop Smoke Jumpers and supplies to fire fighters. Since 1969 this Ford Trimotor has been privately owned and hangar stored by Dolph Overton and was part of his Wings and Wheels museum collection. It is currently owned by the Overton Family Trust, which was created by Mr. Overton to fund the plane’s restoration and facilitate its sale.
This was a no concession, no compromise restoration in which the airframe was reworked, a new interior installed and the exterior completely re-skinned, with most work being performed under the supervision of Master Restorer Bob Woods of Woods Aviation in Goldsboro, NC. The wings were reworked and re-skinned by Hov-Aire in Vicksburg, Michigan. The landing gear, including the unique Johnson bar braking system, is complete and original. The original straight-laced wire wheels have tires that were re-sculpted to replicate the correct profile and tread pattern of the period. The wood paneling of the interior has been skillfully recreated. There are no modern avionics or communications gear – just what came with the plane when it was delivered from the Ford factory in January of 1929. Exhaustive efforts were made to ensure originality in every detail with assistance from Tim O’Callaghan of the Henry Ford Museum and American Aircraft Historian Bill Larkins, author of “The Ford Tri-Motor” book. Also assisting were Retired Eastern Airlines Captain Bob Beitel and Retired Admiral Witte Freeman of the Virginia Aviation Museum. Total airframe time is 3110 hours. Total time on the three Wright Whirlwind engines and the propellers is just 56 hours SMOH. This plane has no accident history.
The restoration has been completed with authentic markings for TAT as a tribute to the historic first air-rail route across the United States by Transcontinental Air Transport in 1929. This is the second time that this Ford Trimotor plane has been used for this purpose, as TWA painted it in a similar fashion for their 20th anniversary national tour in 1949.
In November, 2005 the Tri-Motor was flown from Goldsboro, NC to Richmond, VA where (until recently) it was on public display at the Virginia Aviation Museum. It has also graced the cover of the March, 2006 issue of Trade-A-Plane. Currently hangared at Goldsboro-Wayne Municipal Airport in central North Carolina, it is available for viewing and inspection December 6th & 7th, or at other times by appointment.
The pictures below will give you a sense of how intensely meticulous the restoration has been. Seeing the plane up close speaks volumes to the many ‘labors of love’ by all the craftsmen who participated in its restoration. NC9612 has a majestic presence that is undeniable, and to see it on the ground or in the air is an unforgettable experience. It will be sold at the January 17th, 2009 Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale, Arizona. Please consider becoming the next owner of this important player in aviation history.
Images Of A Ford Trimotor
A dear friend of mine by the name of Maurice Hovious restored a number of these Ford Trimotor aircraft as part of an extraordinary career in aviation.
The Ford Trimotor
In the meantime keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
Please share “The City Of Richmond Ford TriMotor” with your friends using the buttons below. Thanks!
ps: Don’t forget to sign up for updates via email for “All Things Aviation” here!