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.
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“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.
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.”
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.
The Naples chapter could not find a hangar, Ingraham said, and the Stuart chapter knew it had a space for it.
“Fortunately…we got it,” Ingraham said. “Unfortunately, we only had not quite four weeks’ notice to put this event together.”
Ingraham said this is the third time the local chapter has had the Tri-Motor plane in Stuart.
The Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT was one of the first passenger airplanes sold by the Ford Motor Company, according to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
The 5-AT became Ford’s most used airplane and more than 100 airlines used the plane in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, Europe, Australia, and China, according to the museum.
The commercial plane seats up to 10 people in the cabin and two people in the cockpit.
The Ford name also gave the plane prestige to outcompete other planes, according to the Smithsonian.
A retired American Airlines pilot on Thursday’s flight said it was a visceral experience.
“The last airplane I flew was the Boeing 777 internationally, completely automated,” said Don Bartz. “And this really takes you back to the infant days of flying. Very simple controls. Very straightforward airplane.”
Other passengers took children on board the flight to give them their first experience flying.
Erica Brewer of Hobe took her 2-year-old son William Brewer on the flight.
She said he took a recent interest in airplanes, so she wanted to show him what flying was like in the historic tri-motor.
“He won’t remember, but I have video,” Brewer said.
Want to take a flight?
Where: Ross Aviation at Stuart Jet Center 2501 SE Aviation Way at Witham Field in Stuart.
When: The plane is in Stuart through Sunday.
How: Tickets can be purchased by calling 920-379-8339 or at the door. It’s $55 for children, $77 for adults and $165 to sit in the cockpit.
Process: Ticket proceeds go to the local and national Experimental Aircraft Association. Local Chapter President Eric Ingraham said he intends to use the local chapter’s money to fund scholarships for three youths who are part of the Stuart chapter, maintain an interest in flying and a 3.5 GPA in school, to attend an aviation camp in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Mauricio La Plante is a TCPalm breaking news reporter. Follow him on Twitter @mslaplantennews or email him at Mauricio.LaPlante@TCPalm.com.
This article originally appeared on Treasure Coast Newspapers: Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT takes flights for public in Stuart above Martin County