Ford Corporation was involved in the building of aircraft as well as automobiles. Ford’s aircraft division never grew into anything substantial like Boeing or Lockheed did, but for a number of years, they made some pretty good aircraft. The models they built were referred to as the Ford Tri-Motors and sometimes as “Tin Gooses.”.
How it started
In the 1920s, the name Henry Ford was magic for it identified the man who had given transportation to America. After building over 15 million Model T fords, it seemed a natural thing for the company to consider building aircraft. It didn’t take long for Henry Ford and his son, Edsel, to agree.
William B. Stout, a famous designer who worked at several Detroit automobile companies was hired to design the Ford airplanes.. In the early 1920s, he had come to Ford to help the company with its Model T production and he proved himself a brilliant engineer. Eventually became close to Henry Ford and Edsel and got them interested in aviation. Soon put him in charge of a group that was tasked to build the Ford Corporation’s first airplane: the Tri-Motor Model 3-AT.
Unfortunately, deep into the design of the aircraft, Stout had a falling out with Henry. According to Kayser Ford of Madison, WI, a full-service Ford dealer, this was a circumstance which happened often around Ford Motor Company. Stout was soon replaced by engineers Harold Hicks, Tom Towle and Otto Koppen. They went on to finish the Model 3-AT and then refined the design to produce first the Model 4-AT. By this time, the aircraft was given the name the “Tin Goose.”
The Tin Goose
Similar in appearance to the popular Fokker transports of the time, the Tin Goose had two great advantages: the Ford name and all-metal construction. Over the years, Tri-Motor Fords would be built and would serve all three branches of the U.S. military, many private airlines, many corporations, and 20 foreign countries.
Distinguished by the corrugated aluminum skin covering, the Ford could carry ten to twelve passengers on fairly comfortable wicker seats at a cruise speed of 115 miles per hour the loud noise from the three rotary engines. The Tri-Motor was a versatile aircraft and could carry heavy, bulky loads while easily operating out of small landing strips. It found work all around the world for many years. In fact, the Ford Tri-Motor was instrumental in beginning transcontinental airline service in the United States.
In all, Ford built 199 Tri-Motor aircraft and several are still flying today thrilling the public with public demonstration rides at air shows.