Rare passenger airplane coming to Albert Lea

Published 8:00 am Sunday, July 7, 2013

One of the two remaining Ford passenger airplanes in the country that people can ride in will be in Albert Lea next weekend for tours. Rides can also be purchased.

The 1929 Ford Tri-Motor, owned by the Experimental Airplane Association, seats nine passengers and will be flown into town Wednesday afternoon by Albert Lea Municipal Airport Manager Jim Hanson from the Anoka County Airport in north Minneapolis.

The airliner will be available for public viewing in Albert Lea Thursday through Sunday.

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Hanson, who flew the Ford 50 years ago, said city officials have been invited to go aboard the plane on Saturday, and after landing there will be a ceremonial grand opening of the airport, which has gone through several upgrades, including a new runway. City officials have invited 1st District U.S. Rep. Tim Walz to attend.

The time of the ceremony has not yet been determined.

Hanson said the Ford Tri-Motor started the first transcontinental airline flight and has been flown by aviators Admiral Richard Byrd, Bernt Balchen, Howard Hughes, Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh.

Nicknamed “The Tin Goose” because of its corrugated aluminum skin, the Tri-Motor undergoes a FAA-certified inspection program and has been updated with more modern engines.

Rides will be $75 per person, or $70 if reserved in advance. Rides in the co-pilot seat are $125. There is no charge to view the aircraft from the ground.

Rides will be available from 2 to 5 p.m. Thursday, and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The rides are 15 to 20 minutes long; however, longer rides can be arranged at higher prices.

The airport office can be reached at 373-0608.

Ford Tri-Motor by the numbers

$30,000: Original cost

90: Cruise speed in miles per hour

550: Range in miles

12,500: Maximum takeoff weight in pounds

9: Maximum passengers

— Information from Albert Lea Municipal Airport Manager Jim Hanson