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'Tin Goose' to fly from Midland

by Stuart Frohm ( |

Paying passengers will have a chance in August to take off from Midland Barstow Airport on a 79-year-old "Tin Goose" airliner that transported smokejumpers.

The Ford Tri-Motor, piloted by former Midlander and veteran airline pilot Cody Welch, is to be at the airport Aug. 18-20.

Flights will raise money for an airport-based group and for the national organization of aviation enthusiasts with which the Midland group is affiliated.

The local group is Chapter 1093 of the 170,000-member Experimental Aircraft Association. Some members build and fly airplanes. Others are pilots but don't build aircraft. And others aren't pilots or builders.

Local EAA pilots give some children their first airplane rides -- without charge -- in the Young Eagles Program. Weather permitting, those flights are the second Saturday of every month, from 9 a.m. to noon, with parents' permission.

The local EAA chapter also sponsors a local summer aviation camp for children.

The Ford Tri-Motor's Midland stop is the only Michigan stop on its 2008 schedule, according to Joyce Woods, Chapter 1093's publicity chairperson.

The airplane is the flagship of EAA's Pioneer Airport at Oshkosh, Wis. Some people have ridden in it during the annual EAA airshow -- EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

Details of the Midland flights will be announced later, but it appears the charge per passenger will be $40 for EAA members, $50 for non-members or $100 for one of the limited chances to ride in the co-pilot's seat.

The airplane carries nine passengers at a time, and each seat has a window.

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National EAA publicity information says an adult must accompany children under the age of 16, and children under age 2 can be carried free of charge in an adult's lap.

Anyone is interested in sponsoring the Midland event can contact Chapter 1093 President John Abbott at (989) 631-5244.

"The Tin Goose" was the nickname given to the Ford Tri-Motor type of airplane built by Henry Ford. His Model T automobile was called the Tin Lizzie.

According to national EAA information:

* Ford specified three engines to overcome concerns of engine reliability.

* Volunteers and EAA staff -- helped by Ford Tri-Motor operators nationwide -- restored the airplane in a 12-year process after it was wrecked in a 1973 thunderstorm.

* Originally, it was flown by Pitcairn Aviation's passenger division, Eastern Air Transport, which later became Eastern Airlines.

The airplane later was leased to Cubana Airlines, where it inaugurated air service between Havana and Santiago de Cuba; was flown by the government of the Dominican Republic; and was a barnstormer, cropduster and aerial firefighter. It also was used in a Jerry Lewis comedy movie, "The Family Jewels."

The airplane originally cost $42,000. It was the 146th of the 199 such aircraft Ford built from 1926 through 1933.