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Tri-Motor Visits Chapter 1285

By Ian Brown, Editor, EAA 657159

March 2020 - I was lucky enough to be involved in the visit of the Ford 4-AT-E Tri-Motor to my local chapter at our winter retreat in Venice, Florida. EAA operates two Tri-Motors, and rides prove to be very popular. Not only is this a great way to promote aviation within the local community, but it's a great fundraiser for the chapter. Five dollars of the $77 charge for walk-up rides is passed on to the local chapter. Chairman Dennis King told me that the last time the Tri-Motor visited Venice, there were 500 rides sold, and most, if not all, of the volunteers managed to snag a free ride if space was available. Not only were thousands of local people encouraged to visit the airport, with great local news coverage, but the chapter earned $2,500 through the efforts of the volunteers.


A volunteer snaps a souvenir of the ride.

The aircraft was built in 1929 and nicknamed Little Ford. EAA operates another, and, as you might guess, it's called Big Ford — it has one more passenger seat! With the RIDES painted on the underside of one wing, it does a great job of advertising itself when flying over towns. Big Ford belongs to Liberty Aviation Museum, Port Clinton, Ohio, and is leased to EAA for these tours.


Loaded with passengers and ready to go.

The volunteers all wore chapter vests with EAA Chapter 1285 clearly visible, and many of us explained that a main goal of this event was to raise funds to donate to a youngster hoping for a career in aviation, as well as keeping these beautiful aircraft flying.


One of the well-cared-for radial engines.

At the last chapter event I attended, I was assisted in guiding cars into the parking area by an enthusiastic and hardworking young lady who was the grateful recipient of one of these grants. You can watch this video of my ride, but it's 20 minutes (just thought I'd mention that).

The author's ride.

The logistics are a little more complicated in hosting a tour stop in Canada, but you can offer your chapter to host such an event using this link. You will notice that each stop averages about 20 new EAA members and you might be fortunate enough to have them join your local chapter.


Lots of interest in a 1929 instrument panel.

Just a heads-up: There are no guarantees that you chapter will be selected to host a stop on the tour, since there are always more applications than slots available. You will need volunteers to be available for four days, in half-day shifts. EAA supplies the volunteer pilot, mechanic, and ticket sellers. Chapter volunteers mainly manage safety, startup, and passenger loading and unloading. What a great way to give your chapter a boost!

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