Thanks to our partnering organizations, EAA Chapter 692 of Stuart was able to bring the 1929 Ford Tri-Motor to the Treasure Coast. The spectators turned out in large numbers to go for a ride in this piece of flying history or simply reminisce about years gone by. EAA's Ford Tri-Motor (NC8407) was manufactured on August 21, 1929, and was purchased by Pitcairn Airways, which flew it up and down the east coast of the United States in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Eastern Airways, the forerunner of Eastern Airlines, subsequently purchased Pitcairn Airways.
In the mid-1930s, the airplane was sold and moved to Cuba, where it flew for a Cuban airline for several years and also spent time in Central and South America. In the 1940s, the airplane was flown in Idaho and Montana, transporting smoke jumpers who fought forest fires. At that time, the large 450-horsepower engines were installed. The passenger door was also converted into a square-jumping threshold, so that jumpers' equipment would not become snagged during an exit. The airplane was also used as a "Borate Bomber” that dropped chemicals on forest fires. In the 1960s, the airplane was part of an operation that flew around the country, offering rides to the public.
In 1973, the airplane was at a tour stop at Burlington, WI, when a thunderstorm squall line moved through the area. Either a tornado or a very large thunderstorm lifted the airplane 30 feet in the air and then dropped it to the ground. The airplane, which broke into three pieces, was considered a total loss.
EAA purchased the Tri-Motor from an insurance company shortly afterward and began the long process of restoring it. The 12-year restoration was completed in 1985.