Timing is everything and when I attended the Allegiant Air press conference at the Punta Gorda Airport (PGD) last week, I had no idea I’d end up 1,000 feet above Punta Gorda, Port Charlotte and the Peace River later that morning. No, I didn’t go up with the airline. (Which announced it’s added new cities into PGD and the city will be a new base operation.) Turned out a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor plane was offering airplane rides ($80) and I was invited to take one.
Flying in History
This plane has a significant role in tourism history: the Ford Tri-Motor was the airline industry’s first enclosed passenger plane. This meant passengers could travel by air in cold weather conditions.
Manufactured in 1929, it was first used by Eastern Air Transport (many of us are old enough to remember it Eastern Airlines) and then for Cubana Airlines. Eventually it returned to the U.S. and converted to a crop duster and used as a smoke jumper by the Forest Fire service.
Up, Up and Away
Fast forward to 2012. The plane is hangared at EAA’s Pioneer Airport, Oshkosh, Wis., and tours the country offering rides, in addition to offering rides when home. Eight of these planes are in existence with this being the only one still flying. It’s been restored with a reliable 450 mph Pratt & Whitney engine. When it was first introduced in 1929, it flew 90 mph but I’m guessing the current engine gives it a little more umph.
Although scenic and smooth, the 15-minute ride was LOUD. When boarding, someone asked if he could bring his cell phone and the crew said, “Well, you wont’ be able to use it because you won’t be able to hear,” and he was right. See (and listen) to the video below.
Views were incredible. Of course, I live in a beautiful part of Southwest Florida. But seeing all the waterways of Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte reminded me how special it is.
The 1929 Ford Tri-Motor is touring Florida through mid-May. If you have an opportunity to fly in it, do it! Visit www.flytheford.org for the plane’s schedule and additional info.
If the above video doesn’t play, view it on Tout.