Ottawa For Chuck LeMaster it was a homecoming.
“It’s unbelievable. I can hardly believe it’s coming back home 50 years later,” said LeMaster, the Ottawa Municipal Airport manager.
The 1929 Ford Tri-Motor was the first of four Tri-motor airplanes owned by LeMaster. He owned the plane from 1959-63 and used it as a crop duster but later found out he could make more money on barn-storming tours.
“I’ve been all over the U.S. and Canada in it,” he said.
After its time with LeMaster, the plane found a career of its own on the silver screen, first appearing in the 1965 Jerry Lewis movie “The Family Jewels,” and most recently in the Johnny Depp and Christian Bale movie, “Public Enemies.”
“It’s got a lot of history,” LeMaster said.
The Ford Motor Company only made 199 of the Tri-motor airplanes, all-metal planes in which passengers rode indoors, Colin Soucy, Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture Museum pilot, said.
The tri-motor, dubbed “the Tin Goose” in its day, often is credited as being the first successful passenger airliner in America by providing passengers an enclosed cabin in which to ride. Its metal frame allowed its backer, Henry Ford, to claim it was the safest.
“Henry Ford insisted the plane have three engines, so it would be able to fly with only two,” Soucy said about Ford’s Tri-motor.
Soucy said he has flown the Tri-motor for 14 years and he has flown it with only two engines running before.
“The middle engine went out, but that’s the one you want to go out, if one does,” he said.
The plane’s old analog instruments also put a little more weight on the pilot’s shoulders.
“This is flying by the seat of your pants,” he said.
Although John Zaricky, Ottawa Ford owner, agreed that a ride in the Tri-motor wasn’t quite the same as a ride in one of the Fords on his car lot, it was well worth it.
“It was excellent,” he said. “If anyone can afford to come out here and do it, they should. It’s a lifetime experience.”