Ford Trimotor

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Ford Trimotor
Missing image
Ford Trimotor G-CYWZ of the .

Role Commercial Transport
Crew Two plus Eight Passengers
First Flight June 11, 1926
Entered Service
Manufacturer Ford
Length 50 ft 3 in 15.32 m
Wingspan 77 ft 10 in 23.72 m
Height 12 ft 8 in 3.86 m
Wing Area 835 ft² 77.57 m²
Cargo Hold Dimensions ft in x ft in x ft in m x m x m
Empty 7,840 lb 3556 kg
Loaded lb kg
Maximum Takeoff 13,500 lb 6133 kg
Engines Three Pratt & Whitney C-1 or SC-1 Wasp 9-Cylinder radial piston engines
Power 420 hp 313 kW
Maximum Speed 150 mph 241 km/h
Combat Range 550 miles 885 km
Ferry Range miles km
Service Ceiling 18,500 ft 5640 m
Rate of Climb ft/min m/min
Wing Loading lb/ft² kg/m²
Power/Mass hp/lb kW/kg

The Ford Trimotor was a three engine civil transport aircraft first produced in 1926 by Henry Ford and continued until about 1933. Through out its lifespan a total of 198 aircraft were produced. It was popular with the military and was sold all over the world. Unlike his famous cars and farm tractors, Ford did not make the engines for these aircraft. The original (commercial production) 4-AT had 3 air cooled Wright radial engines. The later 5-AT had more powerful Pratt & Whitney engines. The plane had aluminum corrugated sheet metal body and wings. However, like many aircraft through World War II and later, the aircraft control surfaces were fabric covered. Amazingly, but common for the time, the rudder and elevator were controlled by wires that ran on the outside of the aircraft. Like his cars and tractors, they were well designed, relatively cheap, and reliable (for the time period). The rapid development of aircraft at this time, (the vastly superior Douglas DC-2 was first conceived in 1932), helped Henry Ford to lose interest in aircraft production. This was not to be Ford's last venture in aircraft production. During World War II, he built the largest aircraft manufacturing plant in the world and produced thousands of B-24 bombers. They were, however, designed by another company.

In the early 1920's Henry Ford, along with a list of 19 other investors including his son Edsel, invested in the Stout Metal Airplane Company. In 1925 Ford bought Stout and its Junkers influenced aircraft designs. Ford adapted the traditionally single engined Stout craft with three Wright air-cooled radial engines. After a series of test aircraft and a suspicious fire causing the complete destruction of all previous designs, the 4-AT and 5-AT emerged. The Ford Tri-Motors used an all metal construction. It was not a revolutionary concept, but it certainly was not the standard in the 20s. They resembled the Fokker F.VII but as it was all metal its wings were made of aluminum and corrugated for added strength. This has become something of a signature for the tri-motor. Ford no longer produces complete aircraft, but the Tri-Motor has earned legendary status. It was a workhorse for airlines, air carriers, and explorers alike. Richard Byrd purchased both a Ford and a Fokker of similar design for his successful trip to the North Pole in 1926. TWA used the craft to begin its transcontinental air service from San-Diego to New York in 1929.

One 4-AT with Wright J-4 200 hp engines was built for the Army Air Corps as type C-3, and 7 with Wright R-790-3 (235 hp) as type C-3A. The latter were upgraded to Wright R-975-1 (J6-9) radials at 300 hp and redesignated C-9. Five 5-ATs were built as C-4 or C-4A.

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