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Flight of fancy: The Experimental Aircraft Association will host the Ford Tri-Motor NC8407 airplane in April 

Ah, the majesty of flight. Birds do it, bees do it, educated fleas don’t do it, but Superman sure does. Unfortunately, humans do not. The closest we earthbound mortals can get to pulling an Elphaba and defying that gravity is with airplanes, and most of the time it’s not even that great because you get stuck in an aisle seat, with elbows blackened and bruised by that dumb snack cart.

But, for those who favor a more original approach to flying, your prayers have been answered. The Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) SLO County chapter will be hosting the Ford Tri-Motor NC8407 airplane in Paso Robles and San Luis Obispo in April, offering rides to the public. No need to cry about not getting a window seat, because every seat is a window seat. You get a view, you get a view, everybody gets a view!

click to enlarge FLEW THE COOP:  The Ford “Tin Goose” Tri-Motor plane will be stopping in San Luis Obispo on its tour of the West Coast. - PHOTO COURTESY OF EEA
  • PHOTO COURTESY OF EEA
  • FLEW THE COOP: The Ford “Tin Goose” Tri-Motor plane will be stopping in San Luis Obispo on its tour of the West Coast.

The Tri-Motor, nicknamed the “Tin Goose,” was first produced in 1925 by the Henry Ford Company specifically for civilian airline travel, and was in production until 1933.

Michael Dubin, the director of the SLO chapter of the EAA, was born and raised in San Luis Obispo, and still remembers the when the Tri-Motor last came to the county in 1939.

“It’s a really special experience to get to see this vehicle, and it’s great that we get to show it to the public,” Dubin said. “Even if you don’t fly in it, it’s just as exciting to watch.”

The Tri-Motor had the first all-metal design, and it was the precursor for trans-continental flight. In fact, a few months after its introduction, Transcontinental Air Transport was created for coast-to-coast air travel. Ford built it with three engines—hence the name—for reliability, and it boasted the modern feature of an enclosed cabin for added passenger comfort. Although it was designed for passenger use, it was frequently used for transporting cargo, firefighting, and even crop-dusting.

“Only 199 of these planes were made,” Dubin said. “And we have two of them out there that still fly: One on the East Coast, and one on the west. They tour all around the regions and then they meet up in Oshkosh in Wisconsin for the annual air show.”

The plane coming to San Luis Obispo was the 146th one that was built, and first flew in August of 1929. It was owned by Pitcairn Aviation, Eastern Airlines, and served as a crop duster, a borate—or fire—bomber, as a prop in films or in air shows, and for firefighting. The EAA purchased the craft and spent 12 years restoring it to its former glory, quickly putting it to use touring it around the country. The plane can hold a pilot and co-pilot, and a stewardess, in addition to eight or nine passengers.

“It’s a nostalgia trip. It makes you cry, at least it does to me anyhow,” Vince Rubatzky, the newsletter editor for the EAA, said. “It’s just amazing to watch them start the plane. They hand turn the motors, and as you can imagine, it’s very loud, but very exciting. My wife calls it noise. I call it music.”

The Ford Tri-Motor will be in Paso Robles at the Municipal Airport on April 17 and 18, and in San Luis Obispo at the Regional Airport on April 19 and 20. Flights cost $70 for adults and $50 for children ages 17 and under. Flights run from 10 a.m. to noon, and 1 to 6 p.m. For more information about the event, visit flytheford.org, or call 877-952-5395.

Fast fact

The Charles Paddock Zoo received accreditation from The Association of Zoos & Aquariums’ independent Accreditation Committee in March. The accreditation process included an on-site inspection by a group of trained zoo and aquarium professionals to ensure that the standards of animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education, and safety are met or exceeded. Owned and operated by the city of Atascadero, and with more than 300 animals, including wallabies, red pandas, lemurs, flamingos, and a tiger, the Charles Paddock Zoo is located at 9100 Morro Rd. in Atascadero. For more information visit charlespaddockzoo.org, or call 461-5080.

Intern Adriana Catanzarite is the wind beneath her wings. Send your business and nonprofit news to strokes@newtimesslo.com.

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