Historic Plane Which Was One Of America's First True Airliners Visits South Coast

Feb 24, 2017

It’s an incredible sight that attract crowds wherever it lands.

It’s a Ford Tri-Motor, a type of plane which was world’s first mass produced airliner. This plane visiting Camarillo Airport was built in 1928, and was one of the actual aircraft used to start the first coast to coast passenger airline service. As the name implies, it has three engines, and has a distinctive all silver corrugated steel finish.

Now, the plane is operated as a flying museum by America’s Experimental Aircraft Association Foundation, not just educating people but giving them the chance to go on the flight of a lifetime.

Bill Sleeper is one of the volunteers piloting the plane on a nationwide tour. He says it’s a lot different experience than piloting the jumbo jets he flies for a living. He says it isn’t the easiest plane to fly, but is a lot more fun.

The Tri-Motor seats 12 people, plus a pilot and co-pilot. As you climb into the plane, you notice that it’s very narrow. There are no overhead compartments. The seats are covered with leather, but have metal armrests. The aircraft has been rebuilt multiple times over the decades, is as authentic as possible.

The plane’s interior is wood paneling, with curtains around the windows, inspired by the fact the first airlines were competing with passenger trains for business. It actually has a tiny restroom, and -- back before they were called flight attendants -- it had a stewardess.

It’s a unique experience for most of the people who’ve bought tickets for a 20-to-30-minute-long tour flight. A Boeing 737, like you fly on a Southwest Airlines flight, cruises at 580 miles an hour. The Tri-Motor is flying at 90 miles an hour.

That’s part of the fun of it. Don Hoffman, who is one of the passengers on a tour flight, is all smiles as the plane soars above Ventura County.  He calls the experience unforgettable.

The historic plane will be taking people up on flights from of Camarillo Airport beginning at 9 a.m. daily through Sunday, weather permitting.