Clarkston residents Loraine Hall, 82, and husband Tom Hall, 81, a former flight instructor, have their photo taken in front of a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor airplane at Oakland County International Airport. (Gary Malerba/Special To The Detroit News)
Scott Kenerson lives near Oakland County International Airport and loves listening to planes taking off and landing.
But he took a trip back into aviation history Sunday afternoon when he boarded a nine-seat, 1929 aircraft with three other passengers, a pilot and a volunteer.
The flight aboard the Ford Tri-Motor was part of a four-day tour organized by the Experimental Aircraft Association of Oshkosh, Wis., featuring the world’s first mass-produced airliner.
“I’ve flown out of this airport before, but I’ve never flown on anything this old,” said Kenerson. “As soon as you hear the sound of the plane from a distance, you know what it is.”
The flight lasted about 15 minutes, lifting those aboard the vintage plane toward a clear blue sky filled with clouds. Adult guests paid $70 for tickets in advance and $75 at the gate.
David Farquharson’s ticket was a birthday gift from brother-in-law Martin Filiatrault, 57, a pilot and volunteer with the EAA. Filiatrault, who took off in the plane earlier in the week, watched his wife and brother-in-law go up in it Sunday.
“I’ve only ever flown commercial planes, and the last plane like this I saw was at the Henry Ford Museum,” said Farquharson, 50, of Southfield. “I was a little nervous, but I’ll be fine.”
His sister, Amy Filiatrault, 54, of Clarkston, looked forward to the flight. “I think it’s great that people have access to this level of flight because it introduces more people to private aviation,” she said.
Pilot John Maxfield pointed out unique features inside the aircraft, including its two rows of seats that face the center of the plane.
“The space between seats was the same as it is in first-class cabins today,” he said. “But flight back then was not for ordinary citizens, because they couldn’t afford it. A ticket may have cost about $500, which would equal several thousand dollars today.”
There was no air conditioning or heating, but each window had a small circular opening that allowed fresh air inside the cabin.
Henry Ford produced his first Tri-Motor in 1925 and made 199 of them until 1933. This particular Tri-Motor, No. 146, was built in 1929 for Eastern Air Transport, which became Eastern Airlines.
After a thunderstorm flipped and nearly destroyed the airplane in 1973, EAA founder Paul Poberezny purchased the aircraft, which underwent a 12-year restoration.