Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT takes flights for public in Stuart above Martin County

STUART — With engines roaring and propellers spinning, the Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT took flight, giving passengers a bird’s-eye view of Martin County.

A dozen people from across the Treasure Coast boarded the 93-year-old reconditioned plane Thursday afternoon at Witham Field. The plane first flew in 1928.

The plane, one of Ford’s first commercial passenger planes, showed people what flying was was like in the early 20th century.

The Stuart chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association organized a series of flights from Thursday through Sunday on the historic plane for interested people to experience a flight and see the beaches, water and land of Martin County from the sky.

Erica Brewer, and her son William, 2, of Hobe Sound, get a helping hand from the EAA ground crew after their flight aboard the Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT airplane at Witham Field on Thursday, Feb.  Stuart 3, 2021.

More: 80 years after enlisting, Palm City World War II veteran enjoys vintage biplane flight

More: US Navy Blue Angels fly into Fort Pierce, visit Vero Beach before next year’s air show

“You don’t see aircrafts like this flying anymore,” said Ed Delany, 64, a passenger from Port St. Lucie. “It’s kind of amazing to see something of this age that still has the ability to fly and take passengers like us up to enjoy the experience.”

Delany had a camera in hand and took photo and video of the flight from his seat.

He said the view’s better than other flights he’s been on before because of the panoramic window.

The Tri-Motor flew to about 1,200 feet, flight organizers said.

Passengers gazed at the sunshine reflecting on the St. Lucie River and Atlantic Ocean.

Karen Bartz (left) and Craig Cuthrell, both of Stuart, record the start of their flight above Stuart as passengers inside the Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT airplane, leased by the Experimental Aircraft Association, during a tour of the airplane on Thursday, Feb.3, 2022, at Witham Field in Stuart.

Since 2014, the plane has been on display at the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, Ohio.

The Experimental Aircraft Association leased the plane from the museum and collaborated with museum representatives to take the plane across the country and offer rides. .

John Hartke, the plane’s pilot from Anchorage, Alaska, said the purpose of arranging public flights on it is to expose people to aviation and its history.

“First of all, not many things you can do that were going on 100 years ago. This was modern technology back then,” Hartke said. “But also, you’ve got this great view. We don’t go very high. We don’t go very fast. It’s like a magic carpet ride.”

A passenger aboard a Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT airplane gives a thumbs up gesture after taking a flight on the historic airplane leased by the Experimental Aircraft Association while at Witham Field on Thursday, Feb.  3, 2022, at Stuart.  The aircraft was the first mass-produced airliner, with its first flight on Dec.  1, 1928. The historic aircraft will be at Witham Field for public tours through Sunday.

The Experimental Aircraft Association, founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1953 for aviation enthusiasts, has a chapter in Stuart.

The president of the Stuart chapter, Eric Ingraham, of Jensen Beach, said the plane landed in the chapter’s hands at the last minute.

“We got lucky to get this plane because this was actually supposed to be in Naples this week,” Ingraham said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.