The Trimotor is the Ford you've never heard of
A rather unusual vehicle for Ford to make
hen you think or hear the legendary name Ford, what probably comes to mind is the F-150, or the Mustang, or even the GT40. One of the last things to come to mind would probably be an airplane.
A brief introduction
Around 94 years ago in 1925, the world-renowned Ford assembly line would be carrying a new type of vehicle for Ford, an airplane. This Ford airplane wasn’t like any other aircraft at the time. It was something the world has never seen. Something only in dreams, until now! The dream of being able to fly was now a reality for almost everyone! That’s right the Ford Trimotor was the airplane that changed aviation forever!
The beginning of commercial aviation
The Ford Trimotor (aka Tin Goose) is a three-engine airplane. Production started in 1925 and touched the skies for the first time on June 11th, 1926. Sadly production came to an end on June 7th, 1933, and a total of 199 Trimotors were built. The Trimotor was designed to be the beginning of commercial aviation but was also used in the military.
The Ford Trimotor was a development of previous designs by William Bushnell Stout, using structural principles copied from the work of Professor Hugo Junkers, and adapted to an airframe very similar to the Fokker F.VII - even using the same airfoil cross-section at the wing root.
Known as the first luxury airliner, the Ford Trimotor redefined world travel and marked the beginning of commercial aviation. To overcome concerns of engine reliability (which at the time was bad for any engine), Ford specified three engines and added features for passenger comfort, such as an enclosed cabin. The first three Trimotors built seated the pilot in an open cockpit, as many pilots doubted a plane could be flown without the direct “feel of the wind.”
As mentioned above, the Ford Trimotor was known as the first luxury airliner. When you think of luxury, you’d probably imagine something with plush leather seats, a spacious cabin, and a quiet smooth flight. Welp you thought wrong. The first Trimotors had seats that looked like baskets, a narrow cabin that did have legroom, and a very noisy ride due to the three engines. If you thought that the ride was smooth, then on most occasions your wrong because the Trimotor usually flew at around 3,000 ft which isn’t the smoothest air.
We can’t talk about a legendary airplane without talking about its specs. The Ford Trimotor has a wingspan of 77ft 10in (23.72m for the non-freedom people). A length of 50ft 3in (15.32 m) and a height of 12ft 8in (3.90 m). The Trimotor has an empty weight of 7,840lb (3,560 kg) and a gross takeoff weight of 10,130lb (4,590 kg). The Trimotor’s performance wouldn’t meet today's standards but is still faster than the airplane that I fly. It has a maximum speed of 150mph (241 km/h) and a cruise speed of 90mph (145 km/h). The Trimotor was originally powered by three 420hp (😉) (313 kW) Pratt & Whitney Wasp, 9-cylinder radial engines. The Ford Trimotor also featured a very unusual wing design which had corrugated skin which gave it additional strength but also increased drag.
The corrugated wing
The Ford Trimotor was a rather successful airplane. Nearly every major airline at the time had a Trimotor and even the military wanted in on this airplane. The Trimotor could carry 8 to 17 passengers plus a two-man crew. The Trimotor played a major role in establishing domestic routes in the United States. Sadly in 1934 the next generation of commercial airplanes came and took over such as the Boeing 247 and Douglas DC-2. But wait there’s more! Many of these legends of the sky are either in a museum or even flying to this day! An organization called EAA has two Trimotors and they fly them all over the country for people to fly on. I have seen one of these two airplanes before, but sadly never got to fly on one.
Ford Trimotor and Beoing 707
The legend lives on
The Ford Trimotor is without a doubt a legend of the sky. It led the way to commercial aviation in which we can’t survive without. The Trimotor also had many revolutionary features for the time and without it, aviation wouldn’t be the same today. Overall, the Trimotor is a legendary airplane, and is great that it is still flying nearly 100 years later.