THE TIN GOOSE: Tri-Motor aircraft makes a visit to Columbus airport

The 1928 Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT-B, serial No. 8, flew its first flight on Dec. 1, 1928, according to the Experimental Aircraft Association.

More than 90 years later, the plane is still flying — and on Monday, a few select community members got to experience what it’s like inside of the vintage aircraft as part of a VIP flight.

Nine passengers got to ride on the “Tin Goose” (as Tri-Motors are sometimes called). According to Columbus Municipal Airport Director Brian Payne, this passenger list included individuals from Kenny Glass, Taylor Brothers, the Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce, Ivy Tech Community College — Columbus, the Heritage Fund — the Community Foundation of Bartholomew County, Force Construction, the Greater Columbus Economic Development Corp. and the airport.

This particular Ford Tri-Motor belongs to the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, Ohio, and is leased to the Experimental Aircraft Association for tours. Ed Kornfield, an EAA pilot for the Tri-Motor, said that a tour stop in another town was canceled due to some problems with hangar availability, so the plane ended up making a pit stop in Columbus instead.

It was too last-minute to put together an event, said Payne, but airport officials were able to hangar the plane before it departed and made its way to Owensboro, Ky. for another tour stop.

Kornfield and Payne said that there are plans to do a tour stop in Columbus on the last weekend in June. The event will likely take place over about three or four days and give members of the public a chance to ride the same Tri-Motor.

Airport officials are still brainstorming ideas for the event. Potential COVID-19 safeguards include setting time slots, creating different stations and limiting the amount of people in different areas, Payne said.

Payne and local Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 729 President Brad Stinebring said that they hope to have some additional youth aviation activities at the event as well. The local chapter will help host the Tri-Motor rides, Stinebring said.

While the details are still being worked out, Payne said that the airport looks forward to hosting the Tri-Motor again in June.

“It’s a rare aircraft to be seen around here,” he said. “I’ve not seen one in person since 2015 here at the airport. … It’s an exciting piece of aviation history to be here in Columbus.”

Payne recalled that there was a Tri-Motor in Columbus as part of Aviation Day festivities in 2015.

Aviation Day is typically celebrated in the first or second Saturday in June, he said. However, he also stated the airport decided against planning a 2021 Aviation Day event due to COVID-19 considerations and the uncertainty of what limits there might be on attendance.

According to the association, the Ford Tri-Motor was known as the “first luxury airliner” and marked the beginning of commercial flight. It was also the largest civilian passenger aircraft of its time.

The planes were used to get passengers from coast to coast, Kornfield said.

The planes were unique, for their time, in that they had the pilot riding inside rather than in an open cockpit. He also noted that the Tri-Motor’s interior somewhat resembles a railroad car.

“They had a high comfort level for riding on trains, and so that was one of the considerations when they designed the interior, that it would kind of give people that comfort that they’re used to,” he explained.

The association uses two Ford Tri-Motors for tours. One is the 5-AT-B, which flew out of Columbus on Monday and returns in June. The other is a 4-AT-E, which Kornfield said is being repaired right now.

This is Kornfield’s third year flying the Tri-Motor. He said that while it’s a stable aircraft, it requires “constant supervision.”

“It’s a two-handed airplane,” he said. “… It takes a lot of muscle and constant flying. You can’t really relax.”

Stinebring, who once got to fly a Tri-Motor, agreed that flying it is “all hands-on.”

As for riding one, he said, “It definitely takes you back to that era, where things were a little slower, a little noisier.”

Kornfield said that it’s rare to have the chance to ride in an airplane that’s been around for as long as this Tri-Motor, which took to the skies about a year and a half after Charles Lindbergh’s transatlantic flight.

“You might get to see your house from the air, maybe,” he said.

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More information about the EAA’s Ford Tri-Motor Tours and the history of the 5-AT-B serial No. 8 is available at

To learn more about our local EAA chapter, visit