OshKosh Awesomeness #4 – The Ford Tri-Motor

It’s an aircraft nicknamed “The Tin Goose” but the Henry Ford produced  Tri-Motor which was built for passenger travel.

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Meet “City of Wichita” or Serial #5-AT-8, Registration #N9645 for the ardent avgeek.

This little beauty from 1929 was originally owned by the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in Oregon before being acquired by the Liberty Aviation Museum in Ohio.

“Wichita” was part of the first transcontinental air and rail service which was called the Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT later becoming TWA).

Two Ford Tri-Motors took off on July 7, 1929 on their way to New York to Los Angeles on a route that was set out by Charles Lindbergh and with passengers that included Aviatrix, Amelia Earhart.

The aircraft went via Columbus, Ohio (and a few other places) before landing at Glendale, California showing that it was possible to fly from coast to coast in 48 hours.

The Tri-Motor has been referenced in pop culture appearing in Chapter 1 of Flash Gordon (1936) and got its time on celluloid in 1984’s Indian Jones and the Temple of Doom and The Untouchables (1987).

Tri-Motor stopped production in June, 1933 and out of 199 made, only 18 still exist (8 of which are airworthy).

You can find more pictures of the “City of Wichita” here

A380 History is Made

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An Emirates Airbus A380 landing during the types first regular service through Brsibane.

An Emirates Airbus A380 landing during the types first regular service through Brsibane.

“It’s A380 day!”, I suddenly remember, as my sleep is shattered by a 0330 alarm on my mobile phone. An important visitor’s coming to town and I plan to be there when they arrive.

It’s wet and it’s dark but that doesn’t damped the excitement I feel about going to witness a long standing record being broken.

In 1971, the world’s largest passenger jet came to Brisbane.

And it was that type of Jumbo Jet that brought me and my favourite dinosaur undies to Australia from England a couple of years later. I only mention my dinosaur undies because in those days, kids were allowed to visit the cockpit and show the pilot their favourite undies if they felt the need to.

In 2013, the giant A380 takes the title of world’s largest passenger jet and coincidentally, my 5 year old nephew, Harry, has already had his first flight in one, beating me to the punch!

Harry is actually the same age I was when I first flew in a 747. I wonder what his memories will be of that flight? These days kids can’t visit the cockpit and show the pilots their undies, but they still know how to brag about how they beat their avgeek Uncle to flying in A380 first.

The excitement builds builds as we (Rhi and I) find a good spot to watch the first regular A380 flight to Brisbane arrive. We’re over an hour early but we’re not the first there, not by a long way. There’s already about twenty or thirty people around. All with ladders and large lenses for their cameras. Suddenly I feel small and suffer acute lens envy. This often happens at airshows too.

As I watch the aircraft tracking app on my phone, I can see the aircraft approaching Brisbane. I look up from the phone and look in the direction it tells me it is. Off in the far distance I can see a small dot of light. It seems to hang there for an age before growing wings. I zoom in on it.

Yup. That’s it.

A ripple of “there it is” and pointing erupts from the crowd before it settles into relative silence. It’s getting larger now. All you can hear are excited kids and the shutters of a hundred or so cameras.

It’s getting closer… It’s magnificent. A marvel of flight, a feat of engineering. I can hardly imagine how these things get into the air, let alone stay there and fly half way around the world.

The A380 kisses the runway. Up this close, you can really tell how large this thing is. It’s truly enormous! A 737 in front of it looks like a toy. At 72.75m long, the A380 is almost exactly twice the length of what the first flight by the Wright Brothers was.

With the action over for the time being, most people start to leave. I guess to go to work. Some of the more dedicated avgeeks stay around to watch the take off.

It’s a short turn around, only an hour and a half to wait. We run into a mate of ours, another Dave. Another avgeek. He’s got a ladder. He knows all the flight numbers and what types of aircraft fly the routes. This is great because while I’m on the ladder testing it out, a 747 taxis past headed for Dallas. How small the 747 now looks even thought it’s still pretty big

Sorry 747, there’s a bigger boy in town.

What are your memories of your first flight in a large aircraft? I’d love to know.

Dave