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Photos and Video: Up, Up and Over Wisconsin in a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor Airplane

August 1, 2012 at 1:05 PM | by | ()

It has always been said that the state of Ohio is the "birthplace of aviation" (it also happens to the birthplace of your intrepid editor. Coincidence? I think not). Still, head some 40 minutes north of the state line and up into Michigan, and you'll hit a town that serves as the birthplace of the automotive industry.

It's Dearborn, MI, the international home of the Ford Motor Company and former location of Ford Airport, site of many firsts: first U.S. airport hotel, first concrete runway, first U.S. scheduled passenger service, first contracted airmail service, first radio control for a commercial flight and first U.S. passenger terminal. Though the airfield is no more, the planes that earned their wings on it are, somewhat miraculously, still flying.

Around 18 of the 199 Ford Tri-Motors originally produced still have the sun glinting off their corrugated metal wings, the wind through their three radial engines. And two of these 18 were present at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2012, offering rides for $80 per person this past weekend. You know we had to.

For all the boasting that Boeing and Airbus do over the relative silence of their new 787 and A380, there is still something to be said for an airplane engine roar you can feel through your boots. In the air, perpetually performing laps above the OSH airfield, the Tri-Motors sounded like that miserly next-door neighbor who hasn't updated his lawn mower in 20 years and still insists on using it early in the morning. On the ground, it's all sweet sweet guttural engineering purr.

The two planes flying at the fest were different; one painted in army livery and carrying 17, the other in original Eastern Air Lines livery and carrying 9 (11 including pilots). We flew in the latter, sitting in the rearmost seats to maximize enjoyment of both the engines in front and the scenery below. It can never be said that we aren't crafty like that.

At $160 for the two of us, was it worth it? Heck yes. That's the good news. There is no bad news, just even better news...for you. These planes make their way to other air shows around the country, filling their few seats with the similarly aviation-obsessed. Take your kids. Take your mom. Take your hot date. Take your camera cause ain't no "electronic devices must be turned off" 'round here.

Just go and tell 'em we sent ya.

*For more, check out our story (and more photos) of the new museum dedicated to the restoration of these silver birds.

*Disclosure: We traveled to EAA AirVenture for one day as a guest of Southwest Airlines, but all photos, video, Ford Tri-Motor rides and enthusiasm is completely our own.

[Video: Joe Corrigan/Omega Pictures. Photos: Joe Corrigan and Cynthia Drescher]

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