MIAMI — On February 9, Airways was invited to ride along on board the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA)’s 1929 Ford 4-A-T-E Trimotor, NC8407. The airplane, affectionately known as the “Tin Goose”, was displayed in the EAA Airventure Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, at EAA headquarters, until 1991, when it resumed pleasure flights in accordance with the EAA’s mission of encouraging aviation through an amazing flight experience.
During the Summer months, NC8407 can be found at her home base in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, at the EAA AirVenture, and flies local riders during the airshow. The rest of the year, she is either on tour or in maintenance.
NC8407 has quite the colored history. She first flew on August 21, 1929, and was delivered to Pitcairn Aviation, which later that year became known as Eastern Air Lines. She was the first airplane to ever bear the name “Eastern”. In 1930, the Ship 8407 was leased to Cubana de Aviacion (CU/CUB), flying between Havana (HAV) and Santiago de Cuba (SCU).
After flying for the government of the Dominican Republic, she flew for several crop dusting and other general aviation companies in the United States. In 1973, she was damaged during a thunderstorm. Ripped from her tie downs, the EAA purchased the wreckage. After a 12 year restoration, NC8407 took to the skies proudly once again in 1985 at the EAA Fly-In.
Our flight would be under the command of Captain Todd Mather, a retired airline captain, and line check airman.
Captain Mather is also an EAA Instructor and Check Airman for the Trimotor. Gusty winds prevailed with Runway 27L in use at Miami Executive Airport (TMB). We departed shortly after 1400 local time for a short flight around the local area. The three Pratt & Whitney R-985 engines roared to life as we thundered down the runway with a full complement of passengers.
Climbing to 1,500 feet initially, we started a southerly turn, followed by a downwind turn towards the east. Eastbound, we flew over the coast before turing back towards the airport. The Trimotor is incredibly stable in cruise, and passengers of the 1920’s and those of today would find it comparative in comfort to a modern airliner, with the exception of the noise level — but Avgeeks love that!
The cabin is slightly warm but still comfortable. Turning back towards TMB, some general aviation traffic was sequenced for arrival first, so we had to circle, allowing for a little extra time flying the Tin Goose. At about 1420, we landed on Runway 27L, with Captain Mather gently manipulating the controls all the way down. He explained that the Trimotor is a very simple airplane. Everything essentially happens at 80 knots – Takeoff, cruise, and descent.
All of the passengers were absolutely thrilled with the experience.
This flight was the first flight of a three-day exposition at TMB, where the Trimotor would fly many flights over the weekend with passengers eager to experience a 1920’s airline flight experience.
The EAA was founded in 1953 and currently has 195,000 active members with almost 900 local chapters, all fundamental parts of encouraging aviation in the form of restoring, flying, and maintaining airplanes. The Trimotor is an amazing experience for all flyers, a unique time capsule to what flying was like in the roaring twenties.
With participation from members throughout many chapters in keeping this one of a kind aircraft flying, NC8407 embodies the spirit of aviation that the EAA seeks to encourage.
Anyone can ride the Trimotor, either on its tours throughout the country at select EAA Chapters, or annually at Oshkosh, during the EAA AirVenture. Details can be found at https://www.eaa.org/en/eaa/flight-experiences/fly-the-ford-eaa-ford-tri-motor-airplane-tour/ford-tri-motor-flight-experience.