Antique aircraft stops by Summit Airport

By Amy Cherry 4:55pm, June 12, 2013 - Updated 5:11pm, June 12, 2013
WDEL's Amy Cherry took a ride in the vintage aircraft.
Delawareans find out what flying was like in the Golden Age of Aviation, among them, WDEL's Amy Cherry.

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Loud and bumpy, that's what it was like to ride on-board one of America's first airplanes.

But the 1929 Ford Tri-Motor plane was pure luxury back then.

It was only for the very wealthy. It was long dresses, gloves and hats. Men wore coats and ties. It was definitely upper crust to ride in this airplane in the twenties," says pilot Colin Soucy.

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Soucy, a 1929 Tri-Motor Captain for the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), says being in the cockpit of one of these planes is like driving a stick shift. In the twenties, it took three days to fly from New York to Los Angeles.

"So this airplane cruises at 90 miles per hour, and that doesn't sound all that fast, but in 1929, that was really moving," he says.

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But compared to the competition, a 1929 model T-Ford, the Golden Age of Aviation was the way to go.

"If you tried to drive that car to Los Angeles from here, it would take you three to four weeks because there were no roads, or just gravel roads, and you do 20 miles an hour," he explains.

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Soucy says just because these planes are old doesn't mean they're not safe.

"Henry Ford from the Ford Motor Company made these airplanes. He designed it with three engines so if any one engine would fail, it could continue on any two," he says.

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The vintage aircraft, owned by a museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, was only in Middletown for one day. Soucy was giving rides at Summit Airport to Delawareans and aviation fans for $75 and for free to sick kids from the Ronald McDonald House.

Some didn't want the cruise over the C&D Canal to end.

"The plane ride was great. It wasn't long enough. We wanted him to go around again," says Tenney Wheatley of Wilmington, who rode alongside Sandy Kowchak.

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Lit signs inside the plane read, "No Smoking and Fasten Seatbelts" just like in today's airplanes, but in this antique aircraft you could use your cell phone. Despite the narrow aisles, Wheatley, a pilot himself, says the old plane was quite spacious.

"They even had better seating space than they have on the new jets, unless you're in first class. This was 1929 first class," says Tenney Wheatley,

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