Tourism Tuesday: Ford Tri-Motor

The Ford Tri–Motor was the world’s first mass–produced airliner.

There are now only 15 of them in existence in the United States.

Rachel Mantyla of Gwinn had never been in a plane until going for a flight in the tri–motor for her birthday.

She says it was amazing to see Marquette from the air and recommends a flight for anyone.

The Experimental Aircraft Association has brought this piece of living history to Sawyer International Airport.

A flight in it is a step back in time to the earliest days of air service, when flying was a luxury.

There’s plenty of interior space and excellent views from huge windows.

EAA Lake Superior Chapter president Ted Kirkpatrick says the Tri-Motor was the primary air carrier in the business back in the 1920s and, since it was built by Ford, it originated downstate in Dearborn.

He says this particular plane has a very colorful history.

In its day, the Ford Tri-Motor was known for high performance; it set many distance and speed records.

EAA volunteer pilot Cody Welch says that at that time, 90 miles an hour was really something.

He says we don’t think much of that today, but in the ’20s, that kind of performance was special.

This particular Tri–Motor served what later became Eastern Air Lines, as well as Cubana Airlines out of Havana, Cuba.

It was later used to fight fires and dust crops.

The plane was even used during the filming of the Jerry Lewis movie “The Family Jewels” in the mid–1960s.

And it had a second, much more recent brush with Hollywood.

During production of the 2009 movie “Public Enemies”, Johnny Depp sat in the same seat that I used during my flight.

The Ford Tri–Motor will only be at Sawyer for one more day — it’ll fly on to Alpena wednesday night.

A flight costs $80 for adults and $40 for kids from 6 to 17.

Children 5 and under are free when accompanied by a guardian.

The plane fills quickly because it’s limited to 9 passengers at a time.

If you want to pre-book a flight, you can do it online here or you can call 1-877-952-5395.

Walk-in customers are also welcome if there’s space.