The first-ever mass-produced airliner is coming to the North Platte Regional Airport and will give passenger rides to the public on Friday-Saturday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
The 1928 Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT-B, serial No. 8, flew its first flight on Dec. 1, 1928.
The airliner, the City of Wichita, inaugurated westbound transcontinental commercial air service on July 7, 1929, with a sister ship, the City of Columbus.
It was sold to Transcontinental Air Transport (TAT, the logo that graces the aircraft’s fuselage today) in January 1929, where it became NC9645.
In April 1931, the aircraft was owned by Transcontinental and Western Air (TWA), and it helped develop TWA’s route system.
The craft has a cruising speed of 120 mph, a ceiling of 18,500 feet and a range of 560 miles.
The cost of flights is $72 for adults and $52 for children 17 & under.
The airliner is presented by the Experimental Aircraft Association based in Oshkosh, Wisc. The EAA embodies the spirit of aviation through the world’s most engaged community of aviation enthusiasts, the group says.
More of the history of the historic airliner from the EEA:
In July 1935, NC9645 was sold to G. Ruckstill and entered the fleet at Grand Canyon Airlines. From there, the Tin Goose was sold to Boulder Dam Tours in February 1937, flown for sightseeing air tours.
The Ford was registered AN-AAS with Transportes Aereos del Continente Americano (simply known as TACA Airlines) in Honduras in December 1937, and flew in Nicaragua until 1946 when it was purchased by an unknown operator in Compeche, Mexico, and reregistered as XA-FUB.
The registration changed again in 1950 to XA-NET while under the ownership of another individual in Compeche.
In 1951, the aircraft was overhauled and repaired for No. 8, including removal of the corrugated skin, which was replaced with flat sheet metal.
The change earned the aircraft nickname “the smooth-skin Ford.”
The Tri-Motor was sold to another private owner in July 1953 and was damaged in an accident in January 1954, after which it was put in storage.
Eugene Frank of Caldwell, Idaho acquired the aircraft in 1955, moving it back to the U.S. and reregistering it as N58996. It remained in storage until July 1964, when it was purchased by Nevada’s William F. Harrah of Harrah’s Hotel and Casinos.
Harrah returned the plane’s registration to NC9645 and began an extensive, 7-year renovation, bringing the aircraft back to airworthy status and restoring the corrugated skin.
The former smooth-skin Ford had its first post-restoration flight in 1971 and flew in Reno several times before being moved to static display as part of Harrah’s impressive automobile collection.
After Harrah’s death, parts of his collection, including NC9645, were auctioned in June 1986 to high bidder Gary Norton of Athol, Idaho. In February 1990, the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum in McMinnville, Ore. acquired the aircraft. It remained in storage there until 1996 when another restoration of the aircraft started, returning it to flying condition once again.
In 2014, Ed Patrick and the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, Ohio acquired the aircraft. Volunteers ferried the aircraft across the country to its new home after further maintenance to ensure the aircraft was tour-ready,
Liberty entered into a lease agreement with EAA, working together to showcase the historic aircraft around the country.
EAA’s 210,000 members and 900 local chapters enjoy the fun and camaraderie of sharing their passion for flying, building and restoring recreational aircraft.