Passengers are transported into a different era as they arrive on the runway to experience flight in a WWII aircraft. (Photo: Emily Rhyne)
Passengers are transported into a different era as they arrive on the runway to experience flight in a WWII aircraft.

Photo: Emily Rhyne

Fly The Ford: Tri-Motor tour

December 19, 2017

Ada aviation program is taking off


Photo: Paula Kedy

Returning from their flight, Emily Rhyne and Eric Crowell meet with the pilot, John Hartke. Thank thank him for the opportunity to attend and discuss the experience.

Buckle your seat belts, ladies and gentlemen! Ada’s very own aviation program is taking flight. This program has been in the works since the spring and was finally implemented into effect this school year.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilot Association (AOPA) selected Ada City Schools, one of only 29 schools in the nation, as a field test site for aviation curriculum. The course will also serve as an aviation awareness program that offers many opportunities to students such as a “Flight Club,” field trips, contests, and unique learning experiences that cover various aspects of STEM areas such as 3-D printing and drone certification.

Director of Curriculum, Paula Kedy has been there each step of the way to get this program off of the ground. Kedy was involved in the Fly The Ford: Tri-Motor Tour event alongside the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), and believes that students should have the ability to learn and “understand the importance of aviation, and in particular, how far flight has come in such a short time.”

“Not only was Ada’s Chapter 1005 of the EAA instrumental in bringing the Ford Tri-Motor to Ada, but the chapter has been the driving force behind helping the Ada City School District develop its new aviation program,” said Kedy. “Because of the EAA, the District has been able to offer new opportunities for students.  We were thrilled that some of our students had the opportunity to volunteer at the Fly the Ford Event.”

Many high school students such as junior, Tanner Gilliam entered and won an essay contest that would allow him to explore aviation and be a part of the Fly the Ford event, receiving a drone and a flight at the Ada Airport.

“I’ve always been interested in Aviation, I’m looking into the Air Force” said Gilliam. “Getting to experience something new and fly in the plane, one of two left flying in the world, was really cool.”

The class, “Introduction to Aviation,” is being offered to 9th grade students at Ada Junior High School. Taught by Andrea Appleman, the course covers 3 main branches of aviation: general, commercial, and military. The students will also be afforded the opportunity to delve into the world of aeronautics with hands on activities such as modeling jet engines and creating hot air balloons.

Appleman said, “We also discuss the history of aviation, the role of women in aviation, technology development, weaponry, etc… It is a very broad and all encompassing curriculum.”

The course will be offered at both the junior high and the high school for the 2018-2019 school year; it is the first class centered around aviation provided for high school credit. For those who have taken part in the introduction class, a second class will be available that discusses becoming a pilot or drone pilot.

“It definitely is an introduction to the second leading industry in Oklahoma,” said Appleman. “This program has been possible and successful based on people passionate about aviation, flying, education, and of course, the students.”

History in the skies


Photo: Emily Rhyne

Awaiting take off, news reporters and volunteers marvel at the Ford Tri:Motor airplane.

The Fly The Ford: Tri-Motor Tour event showcases the beginning of commercial flight with the Ford Tri-Motor, a transport aircraft that would soon redefine world travel. Recognized as the first luxury airliner, the Tri-Motor is considered a flying chapter in the narrative of aviation. The plane and its history marks the transition period of innovation in aeronautics  and is one of two left flying in the world.

Nicknamed, “Tin Goose,” the Ford Tri-Motor first took off on August 21st, 1929. It was the 146th aircraft created in Henry Ford’s assembly line with three engines and an enclosed cabin intended for ultimate passenger comfort. The plane began touring in 1964 and has flown all over the world. It even starred in movies such as “The Family Jewels” and “Public Enemies.”

The Tri-Motor continued to tour until 1973, when a devastating thunderstorm “ripped the plane from its tie-downs, lifted it 20 feet into the air, and smashed it to the ground on its back.” The restoration process was a long, strenuous, 12 year undertaking completed by Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) “staff, volunteers, and Ford Tri-Motor operators nationwide.” The aircraft eventually took to the skies again in 1985 and made its re-debut at the EAA Fly-In Convention.

The Ford Tri-Motor was then featured in the EAA AirVenture Museum until 1991 when it resumed its annual tour across the country, providing a glimpse into an era of possibility and passion. The plane marked the beginning of commercial flight and symbolizes the “golden age” of aviation.


A pilot’s perspective


Photo: Emily Rhyne

Stopping for a quick interview before the flight, Eric Crowell discusses the Ford Tri:Motor with pilot, John Hartke. The two chat about the Fly the Ford event and why aviation is important to education.

The Ford Tri-motor would be nothing without the man inside the cockpit, John Hartke, an experienced pilot who volunteered to participate in the Fly the Ford program.

With over forty years of experience, Hartke says he was “fairly fortunate as a youngster” as he had the opportunity to learn to fly as a teenager.

“At 14 I began working for the local airport cutting grass and doing the garbage and eventually fueling and washing the planes in exchange for flight lessons,” said Hartke who now flies 737s for a living and has his own small plane. “I began solo flights at 16 and got my pilot’s license at 17.”

Familiar with the plane’s history, Hartke notes how the brief time span between the fathers of flight and the development of the Tri-Motor.

Hartke said, “The Wright Brothers were developing the Wright Glider and successfully attempting flight 25 years earlier before the plane was created. The Tri-motor tripled the Wright brother’s speed.”

Hartke considers the Tri-Motor the “grandfather of all the modern airliners.” Original airliners were innovative, made of metal, and carried 11 passengers while older planes were wooden and carried less.

Hartke notes the next step to modern aviation with the change of times and the end of the Tri-motor era.

“Technological ramping of aviation from the Ford motors soon became obsolete as newer planes carried the same amount of passengers put required 1 less engine,” said Hartke.

As a long time pilot, Hartke has a deep appreciation for the Tri-motor. If it wasn’t for the small Ford plane, aviation as we know it today wouldn’t exist.


In the air, a retrospective


Photo: Eric Crowell

Flying over Ada High, Cougar Call staff members capture photos to commemorate their experience.

The Fly the Ford experience is one I will always remember. As a fan of history, the idea of flying in a historic plane was an opportunity I’m thankful I didn’t pass on. After learning where this plane has been, what it has seen, and the stories it holds, I was more than excited to participate in the flight experience.

Loading the aircraft, was in my eyes, taking a step back in time to this planes heyday. I was imagining the 1930s, looking down onto Ada and the people and area surrounding the town. However, I was also full of anxiety. I do not like heights so I mouthed a prayer to myself and fastened my seat belt.

Soon, there was a sound like thunder… the first engine fired over. Another boom, engine two had begun. And three, the last engine sounded off. All propellers were turning in a cacophony of raucous noise. We begin to turn to the tarmac and make our way to the run way.

As we pick up speed, I am in awe and terrified. The wheels cease to touch the ground as we ascend to the air above us.

The view was breathtaking and borderline cinematic. I could see the college, the cement plant, the football stadium, the water towers and so much more. As every person and building began to get smaller, we began our circle over Ada. Camera ready, pictures are being snapped by other news reporters as I video my side. My partner, Emily, and I switch back and forth between cameras to get the best shots. We had to be sure we capture this moment in time.

We circle back to the airport and make our descent. Coming in hot, we hit the landing strip. The plane is jumping up and down off and on the ground until we maintain contact to the ground. We then cruise back to the hangers. Stopping and unfastening our seat belts, our ride had finished.

Being in the air and seeing everything was a high I almost can’t describe, it was amazing. I still do not enjoy heights, but the flight was an incredible time and I urge anyone to take the opportunity to go on the Ford Tri-motor tour. You will not regret the experience.

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