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Historic Ford aircraft takes to the skies

Flights available this weekend in Savannah

POSTED: November 8, 2013 4:08 p.m.
Jeff Whitten/

Ford Tri-Motor pilot Bill Thacker, a commercial airline pilot who flies the 1929 plane as a volunteer with the Experimental Aircraft Association, talks with a reporter prior to Thursday’s media flight at the Savannah airport.

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Everyone knows Henry Ford built cars. Most know Ford built what eventually became modern day Richmond Hill.
It turns out he also built a pretty good airplane.
The 1929 Ford Tri-Motor, the first commercial airliner in the world, is on display this weekend at the Savannah airport and giving rides to those interested in the distant past of air travel.
Thursday, the historic aircraft gave a lift to a handful of media types and others as the Savannah chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association looked to drum up interest in the Tri-Motor and provide a little financial support to the EAA, both nationally and locally.
“Our club brings people together so we can support aviation here locally,” said EAA chapter president Keith Gay, who is, not surprisingly, a pilot.
“When you get an opportunity to bring something like this into town, you do it. How many people have seen a Ford Tri-Motor other than in a picture? You just don’t get to see this kind of stuff every day.”
The publicity is apparently working. Prior to Thursday’s flight it was announced there was a record number of pre-bookings.
And then it was time to fly.
The flight took about 20 minutes, as airline pilot Bill Thacker — he flies 767s for a living, the Ford Tri-Motor as a volunteer — first taxied the metal plane down the runway and into the air and then made a large, sweeping circle around the Savannah skies.
The Tri-Motor, which once flew movie stars in an age where flying was for celebrities and the well-heeled, got to an altitude of about 1,000 feet. Its top speed was about 80 mph.
And it was fun.
“Who wouldn’t want to do this,” Thacker asked after landing, a wide smile on his face.

For more information, go to or call 920-379-8348.

Read more in the Nov. 9 edition of the News.

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