When I first heard the Hastings chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association was bringing in a 1928 Ford Tri-Motor plane for public flights, the thought of going up in a 91-year-old plane was not too enticing.
I pictured an open biplane doing loop-de-loops and spelling out “I love you Linda” in smoke.
This was before I had seen a photo of the plane nicknamed “Tin Goose,” or before speaking with Aaron Schardt, a member of both Hastings EAA Chapter 544 and the Hastings Airport Advisory Board.
The Ford Tri-Motor was the original airliner and Aaron said it was the height of luxury for its day.
“It’s back when everybody dressed up to get on the airplane and go somewhere,’ he said. “It was a big deal.”
Hastings EAA Chapter 544, along with the Hastings Airport Association and the city of Hastings, is playing host to an open house and fly-in breakfast Saturday morning at the airport. The event is open to the public and includes public a close-up look at the airport, aircraft flying-in and rides on the Ford Tri-Motor.
Public flights take place 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Ford Tri-Motor tour stops are hosted by volunteers who are passionate about sharing the Ford Tri-Motor’s stories.
Revenues from the Ford Tri-Motor tour help cover maintenance and operations costs for the aircraft and to keep the “Tin Goose” flying for many years to come.
This weekend’s are meant to highlight recent improvements at the Hastings Municipal Airport, including the hiring of Luke Meyers and Hastings Air to be the airport’s fixed base operator and service the local aviation community.
Tribune photographer Laura Beahm and I were privileged enough to be two of the 10 passengers on the Ford Tri-Motor’s first flight in Hastings.
With the Ford Tri-Motor having just flown into Hastings from North Platte and the maintenance pilot Steve Lambrick said the plane gets on a regular basis, I felt safe.
Still, when I saw city engineer Dave Wacker standing in the crowd of people watching us taxi down the runway, I wondered if that would be the last time I would see Dave and his woolly mustache.
The Ford Tri-Motor was much smaller than any plane I’d ever been in.
My stomach was in knots a couple times as the plane banked around turns.
Still, the seats were incredibly comfortable and roomy. There were even vents providing each passenger adequate air.
From 1,000 feet up, I got a great view of progress on local projects such as the southeast truck route Adams County is building to connect J Street and Showboat Boulevard, as well as Osborne View Estates on the south end of North Park Commons.
While the flight had me uneasy at times while in the air, the Ford Tri-Motor had the smoothest take off and landing of any plane I’ve ever ridden. The flight was 15 minutes of fun.
By the time I got off the plane, a crowd assembled of people waiting to get on subsequent flights — including several veterans who now live at The Kensington.
As a friend, who was to be on the fourth flight of the day, said to me, flying on the Ford Tri-Motor was the bucket list item she didn’t know she had.
Seeing later flights swooping and growling over Hastings at a relatively low altitude, the Ford Tri-Motor looked as graceful in the air as Drogon swooping over King’s Landing in “Game of Thrones,” although definitely less menacing.
The city of Hastings is due a great deal of credit for re-energizing the airport by hiring Luke Meyers and Hastings Air.
Lambrick said bringing in the Ford Tri-Motor fits with the growth the airport is seeing.
“EAA’s mission is to promote the spirit of aviation,” he said.