Quick Facts

Ford 5-AT Tri-Motor

The Tin Goose

Era: Golden Age of Aviation

Part of the Air Zoo Collection

Location: Flight Innovation Center

Introduced in 1926, the Tri-Motors were at the front of commercial aviation. Designed and built with Alclad, an aluminum alloy sandwich with increased durability and corrosion resistance, the first successful all-metal plane took flight. Made for reliability, the Tri-Motor could safely fly on two engines but maintain flight on only one. It was utilized for airmail and cargo transport as well as passenger service. The stable platform put aviation in front of the forward-thinking public.  

Take a flight

Flying from Kalamazoo’s Lindberg Field to Detroit’s Ford Airport would take roughly 90 minutes in a Tri-Motor at a ticket price of $14 (about $200 today). By flying during the day and travelling by railroad at night, a savvy traveler could go from coast-to-coast in 48 hrs.

The Air Zoo’s Tri-Motor

Our 1929 Ford Tri-Motor is a 5-AT, the most successful iteration in the series. Among its adventures, it flew under the commercial colors of Northwest Airways and Alaskan Airlines, served as a U.S. Forest Service smoke-jumper plane with Johnson Flying Service, and appeared in the 1987 American gangster film, The Untouchables.  After restoration efforts in the 1990s by Kalamazoo’s Kal Aero, the plane welcomed passengers once again via the Air Zoo and the EAA until its retirement in 2013. 

 Our Tri-Motor in Alaska, mid-1930s, fitted with skis