URBANA, Ill. (WTHI) - Last year, travel experts estimate over 672 million folks used either planes or jets for travel within the US. It's quite a jump from the 1930's, when planes hauled around 400-thousand Americans across the country. Thursday, News 10 went for a ride in the airplane that started the commercial flight boom, the Ford Tri Motor, a museum in the sky.
Its sounds are unique; the high pitched roaring of the engine, the pistons spitting, and finally the propeller spinning. All are the sounds of early aviation; replaced by turbines and sleek designs.
"This is a 1929 Ford Tri Motor. It was built by the Ford motor company. This particular airplane launched Eastern Airlines and this type of airplane launched the airline industry," Rand Siegfried, the pilot of the Tri Motor said.
Siegfried is the pilot of the plane nicknamed the "Tin Goose." It has an aluminum exterior, vintage controls, and spacious interior, all marvels of 1930's mechanical ingenuity and comfort.
"It looks like a train car, little wood, the painting, just like a train car why? People were comfortable with it," Siegfried explained.
Over 80 years later, the Ford Tri Motor that launched Eastern Air Lines is still running and on display for at the Frasca airport in Urbana, Illinois.
But these days, passengers have a very different destination. Once the plane takes off, their headed back in time.
"The sights out the window, the sights in side the smells, the sounds are all '29," he said of the flight.
High above the modern sprawl, the Tin Goose glides through the sky, with Siegfried at the helm.
Its operating controls resemble a Model T more than a jet and with a mind of their own.
"I think of it as a gracious old lady. She'll do anything you want. As long as it's what she wants to do," he smiled saying.
On her descent back down, a gentle landing bump jolts you back to the 21st century. It's a vehicle from the dawn of aviation, with a new purpose today.
"It's both a comforting and a comfortable airplane. Everybody goes in they come back smiling. They've been on a fun airplane ride, but they've also been in a time machine," he ended saying.
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