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Old 11-08-2021, 05:25 PM   #1
ericr
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Default Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

has anyone ever heard that the plane crash that killed Knute Rockne and others in a wood-bodied Fokker tri-motor had the impact of ending the popularity of the Ford Tri-Motor, since the two planes looked alike?
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Old 11-08-2021, 05:41 PM   #2
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

No, never heard that. Where did you read that ?
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Old 11-08-2021, 05:49 PM   #3
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

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No, never heard that. Where did you read that ?
started out reading about the Big Bopper crash wich led to an article about celebrities getting killed in crashes which led to Rockne. I read that, though I have never heard it elsewhere, the Fokker had body panels that look visibly defective.
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Old 11-08-2021, 06:26 PM   #4
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

The advent of larger, faster, more capable aircraft like the venerable DC-3 did in the Tri-motor, not any celebrity accident. I would ask why did Ford give up so easily on producing a successor to the Tri-motor? I would guess they chose to concentrate on their core car business.

The "Day the Music Died" crash was in an older Bonanza, (4 seats, 150 kts with a non intuitive artificial horizon) flown in instrument conditions by a pilot that had no business being there. The flight was supposed to stay visual, and since it was at night he climbed inadvertantly into a low cloud deck, lost control and crashed. Lots more details there, but suffice to say it was a tragedy that shouldn't have happened.
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Old 11-08-2021, 06:44 PM   #5
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

The Ford Tri-motor was obsolete by 1933 and sales went into a free fall. Henry pulled the plug on that division and started using the airport buildings for other purposes. The Boeing 247 came out followed shortly by the Douglas DC-2 so Ford just didn't want to compete with that type of engineering. They got 10-years out of the design and many kept flying long after they stopped production.

Fokker made several Tri-motor designs that were successful but they used a lot of wood. The glue they were using to put the wood together was not standardized for aviation yet and one of the wings broke up in flight on the plane Rockne was a passenger in.

The FAA and even the CAB didn't exist yet in those days but all the barn stormer crashes and the crashes that were also killing passengers on fledgling air lines forced the US government to pass the Air Commerce Act under the US Department of Commerce. They slowly started to force the aircraft manufacturers to set up standards for safety for their products. I imagine most folks didn't want to fly on any Fokker tri-motor after that crash hit the news. Fords were all metal wing airplanes so they stuck around a while longer for regular passenger service on smaller routes.
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Old 11-08-2021, 07:12 PM   #6
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

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Dad claimed that he was driving by our local airport in the 1920s while a Ford Tri Motor was coming in for a landing and the wheels of the plane touched the roof of his Auburn but that story sounds a lttle fishy....
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Old 11-08-2021, 09:25 PM   #7
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

While I was flying into St Barts daily, Air Guadeloupe put the right main landing gear of their Dornier into the windshield of a small pickup truck on short final. You need to know the airport to understand this, lots of videos on Youtube. The aircraft landed successfully, and the driver of the truck was uninjured. The truck... not so much. So yes it can happen, but there are fish stories also.
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Old 11-09-2021, 07:39 AM   #8
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

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The advent of larger, faster, more capable aircraft like the venerable DC-3 did in the Tri-motor, not any celebrity accident. I would ask why did Ford give up so easily on producing a successor to the Tri-motor? I would guess they chose to concentrate on their core car business.

The "Day the Music Died" crash was in an older Bonanza, (4 seats, 150 kts with a non intuitive artificial horizon) flown in instrument conditions by a pilot that had no business being there. The flight was supposed to stay visual, and since it was at night he climbed inadvertantly into a low cloud deck, lost control and crashed. Lots more details there, but suffice to say it was a tragedy that shouldn't have happened.




Yep. If I remember correctly it was a B or C series Bonanza [ great flying airplanes] flown by a 22 yr old commercial non-instrument rated pilot. [ I say pilot tongue in cheek].
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Old 11-09-2021, 09:49 AM   #9
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

From what I've read the owner of the charter company knowingly gave the flight to the non instrument pilot since he'd rather go home to bed. That's one of the root causes of the accident.
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Old 11-09-2021, 10:42 AM   #10
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

Hi Guys,
I recently retired as Captain from South African Airways, where we had a few interesting aircraft in our historic fleet. Amongst others we had a Junkers JU52, an immaculately example restored by our new apprentice aircraft mechanics while learning their trade. The JU52 is also a 3 engined aircraft and ours was fitted with three Pratt and Whitney engines, normally used in the Texan T6 called a Harvard over here.
If I remember correctly, we also had a Texan T6, DC3, DC4. The DC4 had even visited Oshkosh a few years ago.
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Old 11-09-2021, 11:41 AM   #11
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

FWIW, the JU52 was a single engine aircraft, only a few were built before they added 2 more engines and called them JU523M. Look it up.
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Last edited by katy; 11-09-2021 at 12:00 PM. Reason: Correction
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Old 11-09-2021, 12:04 PM   #12
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

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From what I've read the owner of the charter company knowingly gave the flight to the non instrument pilot since he'd rather go home to bed. That's one of the root causes of the accident.



Seems like he had to have known the kid was in over his head. Shameful.
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Old 11-09-2021, 02:40 PM   #13
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

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FWIW, the JU52 was a single engine aircraft, only a few were built before they added 2 more engines and called them JU523M. Look it up.
The Ford tri motor also started out as a single engine airplane - it may have been a bit smaller, at any rate 2 extra engines were added for enough power. Actually this airplane was a Stout and one was built before Ford bought the company and started building the Tri motor.

Last edited by aermotor; 11-09-2021 at 03:51 PM.
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Old 11-09-2021, 04:30 PM   #14
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

Early aviation stories are interesting and intriguing. Those of you with exposure to those days could write some interesting stories. Please do and publish them in this thread.
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Old 11-09-2021, 05:08 PM   #15
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

Fliegerfreunde,

Hugo Junkers had miscalculated with the single-engine construction; probably because the corrugated iron surface the air resistance was underestimated.
As far as I know, only one (or two?) test plane was built and then designed directly on three engines.
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Old 11-09-2021, 05:19 PM   #16
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

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Originally Posted by Mister Moose View Post
The advent of larger, faster, more capable aircraft like the venerable DC-3 did in the Tri-motor, not any celebrity accident. I would ask why did Ford give up so easily on producing a successor to the Tri-motor? I would guess they chose to concentrate on their core car business.

The "Day the Music Died" crash was in an older Bonanza, (4 seats, 150 kts with a non intuitive artificial horizon) flown in instrument conditions by a pilot that had no business being there. The flight was supposed to stay visual, and since it was at night he climbed inadvertantly into a low cloud deck, lost control and crashed. Lots more details there, but suffice to say it was a tragedy that shouldn't have happened.
Another sad example of "get-there-itis"! If those musicians had waited until morning to fly or had taken the bus (as some band members did), all would have been fine.
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Old 11-09-2021, 06:48 PM   #17
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

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Early aviation stories are interesting and intriguing. Those of you with exposure to those days could write some interesting stories. Please do and publish them in this thread.
OK. Not real old, but old for me...

It was about 1983, and we had taken a 1960 CE 210 in trade. Not by me.

For reasons I can't remember, I flew it once. Avionics repair, ferry flight, I don't remember. Garish maroon velvet interior, old paint, radios leftover from the Hindenburg. Pre flight was ok, flew fine. The 1960 was essentially a 182 with 260 hp, the most convoluted retractable gear ever, and a bulbous nose gear door that made the airplane look like a pelican in flight.

The airplane doesn't sell, and we have to give it an annual. Once all the panels are off, the lead mechanic calls me over.

"You gotta see this"

First stop is the engine bay. There is a plastic shell 2 D cell flashlight laying inbetween the 2nd and 3rd cylinders on the left side. It's been there long enough to partially melt into the gap.

Next stop, the floor between the seat rows. He has me look though the open inspection plate and down amongst all the hydraulics and cylinders and downlocks is a shiny chromed combination wrench.

Then he says "operate the mixture control." So I do. "Now go look in the engine bay while I do it"

OMG.

The cable where it exits the housing is frayed, and when he pushes it to full rich the frayed portion bends about 90 degrees (It should stay rigid and straight) and looks like its going to separate in 10 flight hours. Maybe.

As we walk around the plane further, he say something like "this plane is so f'd up, I bet the spar is cracked" and he wobbles the horizontal stabilizer. His face goes white. There's just a little too much wobble. "It is" he whispers. Can't be. I wobble the right and left and compare them. Scary. One is rigid, the other is attached, but springy. Ugh. De skin the entire surface and replace the spar.

Pencil whipped annual inspections are real. It had flown 15 hours since the last annual. And he didn't even up the empty weight for the flashlight and the wrench.

2nd oldest airplane I ever flew.

Last edited by Mister Moose; 11-09-2021 at 07:25 PM.
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Old 11-09-2021, 08:58 PM   #18
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

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OK. Not real old, but old for me...

It was about 1983, and we had taken a 1960 CE 210 in trade. Not by me.

For reasons I can't remember, I flew it once. Avionics repair, ferry flight, I don't remember. Garish maroon velvet interior, old paint, radios leftover from the Hindenburg. Pre flight was ok, flew fine. The 1960 was essentially a 182 with 260 hp, the most convoluted retractable gear ever, and a bulbous nose gear door that made the airplane look like a pelican in flight.

The airplane doesn't sell, and we have to give it an annual. Once all the panels are off, the lead mechanic calls me over.

"You gotta see this"

First stop is the engine bay. There is a plastic shell 2 D cell flashlight laying inbetween the 2nd and 3rd cylinders on the left side. It's been there long enough to partially melt into the gap.

Next stop, the floor between the seat rows. He has me look though the open inspection plate and down amongst all the hydraulics and cylinders and downlocks is a shiny chromed combination wrench.

Then he says "operate the mixture control." So I do. "Now go look in the engine bay while I do it"

OMG.

The cable where it exits the housing is frayed, and when he pushes it to full rich the frayed portion bends about 90 degrees (It should stay rigid and straight) and looks like its going to separate in 10 flight hours. Maybe.

As we walk around the plane further, he say something like "this plane is so f'd up, I bet the spar is cracked" and he wobbles the horizontal stabilizer. His face goes white. There's just a little too much wobble. "It is" he whispers. Can't be. I wobble the right and left and compare them. Scary. One is rigid, the other is attached, but springy. Ugh. De skin the entire surface and replace the spar.

Pencil whipped annual inspections are real. It had flown 15 hours since the last annual. And he didn't even up the empty weight for the flashlight and the wrench.

2nd oldest airplane I ever flew.
One of Dad's friends from a prior generation claimed that he rode on the Graf Zeppelin back in the 1920s, I don't know where he boarded it. He claimed that the Germans added some substance to the hydrogen to give it a smell for safety reasons; though I have never read that anywhere. Anyway he said you could smell hydrogen all over the ship and he couldn't wait to get off of it.
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Old 11-09-2021, 10:05 PM   #19
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

I just watched a program regarding airships and the hydrogen had an additive to produce a smell like garlic for "leak" reasons much like propane & natural gas today.
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Old 11-09-2021, 10:30 PM   #20
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Default Re: Demise of the Ford Tri-Motor

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Dad claimed that he was driving by our local airport in the 1920s while a Ford Tri Motor was coming in for a landing and the wheels of the plane touched the roof of his Auburn but that story sounds a lttle fishy....
What, you canít believe Dad drove an Auburn instead of a Model A? 🤔😂
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