Sky Talk

Throwback Thursday: A 1929 Tin Goose

This is a throwback photo of a throwback plane.

In 1963, American Airlines refurbished a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor and gave it to the Smithsonian Institute. But before the plane made it to Washington D.C., the airline decided to take it on a tour of the U.S., stopping in Fort Worth on its way.

Here’s the story that was published on May 19, 1963 with the photo.

Tri-Motor of Yesteryear Rumbles Aloft in Exhibition

A silvery three-engine airplane chugged over Fort Worth Saturday afternoon, giving sky-watching residents a glimpse of aviation history.

The airplane was the famed Ford Tri-Motor, one of the most popular commercial airliners during aviation’s infancy.

The 1929 model Tin Goose, throbbing through the sky at a speed only 10 m.p.h. faster than the Dallas/Fort Worth turnpike speed limit, is touring the country before being presented to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington by American Airlines.

Airline officials found the abandoned airplane near Oaxaca, Mexico, where it apparently had crashed.

A family of Mexicans was living in the fuselage, and had jammed a stovepipe through the top off the cabin.

Despite its age, the gleaming corrugated aluminum airplane winged smoothly over the area.

The Tri-Motor, the same type that carried Adm. Richard E. Byrd on one of his Antarctic expeditions in 1929, is primitive by current luxury jet travel standards.

But in the late 1920s and early 1930s, it was plush.

The 13-passenger plane (six seats on one side, seven on the other) is so narrow passengers had to walk sideways to move along the aisle.

The cockpit reflects the days when air traffic was thin. Front visibility, over the Tri-Motor’s nose engine is poor.

Pilot Gordon Pierce, ordinarily a DC-6 and DC-7 pilot for American Airlines, feels he is returning to his barnstorming days when he herds the Tri-Motor around.

“I barnstormed in one of these in the mid-1930s,” he said..

The lack of power systems makes flying the old plane manual labor, Pierce said, “You have to use your muscle.”

Inside the ship the three engines are loud.

On takeoff roll, the combination of low speed required to break ground and the throbbing motors is disquieting. The tail lifts almost immediately, but the main wheels seem to roll interminably.

The fact that a few Tri-Motors still are being flown in Central and South America testifies to its ruggedness.

One touch - faithfully restored - illustrates the pioneering days of aviation.

A small placard outside the open cockpit reads: “Members of crews are instructed not to accept gratuities.”