The goal of the Tri-Motor Heritage Foundation is to preserve the rich history of the Ford Tri-Motor
and its importance to the northern Ohio region. Our mission is to completely restore a Ford Tri-Motor,
model 5-AT-40, to flying condition so that generations to come can appreciate the important role this aircraft
played in the development of Lake Erie Islands region as well as the promotion of commercial passenger aviation.
In 1926, The Stout Metal Aircraft Division of the Ford Motor Company produced the Ford Tri-Motor, the first all-metal passenger airliner in the world. Often referred to as the "Tin Goose" or "Flying Washboard", it was the aircraft specifically created to carry passengers rather the mail, with a seating capacity up to 14 passengers. As the name implies, the airplane was powered by three radial engines, which provided for unsurpassed safety and reliability, while at the same time flying higher and faster than other airplanes of the same time period.
The Ford Tri-Motor formed the backbone of many of the fledgling
air service companies that would become the world’s most
successful airlines. Eastern Airlines, TWA, Continental, and Aero
Mexico are but a few of the airlines that credit there start to
the venerable Ford Tri-Motor. In addition, it was a Ford
Tri-Motor, piloted by Berndt Balehen, which was used in the first
flight over the South Pole in November of 1929.
This project came about when we received an unbelievable offer...if our local group would commit to actually building the Tri-Motor, we would be given the tools, technical training and materials needed to get started. World renowned Ford Tri-Motor restorer, Maurice Hovious of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and local businessman, Ken Benjamin of Port Clinton, Ohio, shared a vision to bring a Ford Tri-Motor back to the Lake Erie Island region. With the dedication of our local EAA Chapter 1247 volunteers, and through the generous donations of our supporters, our goal is to restore this historic aircraft to original, flying condition.
Work began on this restoration in the old Island Airlines hangar on Carl Keller Field in 2004, and continues today inside the Liberty Aviation Museum, at the Erie-Ottawa International Airport. Once complete, the aircraft will be maintained at the museum, provide an historical perspective on air travel between the Lake Erie islands, and will be available for sight-seeing rides in the same area where the aircraft flew between 1936 and 1984. In short, our goal is to build a completely restored and flyable example of this historical (and regionally important) aircraft.