I can’t help but get butterflies when I’m at an airport.
The excitement of air travel has always been intoxicating to me. As I pulled into Lancaster Airport on Thursday, those butterflies were flapping feverishly inside my stomach.
The airport graciously invited LNP to ride a Ford Tri-Motor plane that took its first flight in 1928. The plane is one of several that attendees can ride at the Lancaster Airport Community Days this weekend. The event is free, but tickets to ride the plane are $75 for adults and $50 for children.
The Ford Tri-Motor’s Lancaster appearance is one of several on a tour sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association. When it’s not traveling, the plane resides at the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, Ohio.
Of the 199 Ford Tri-Motor plans that were made, only eight remain capable of flying.
The glistening silver aircraft can reach speeds of 90 miles per hour. While that might not seem all that impressive in 2017, Capt. Colin Soucy, our pilot, said that was “blistering fast” by 1920s standards.
We reached heights of 1,000 feet during our 10-minute afternoon flight. The plane has two seats in the cockpit and 10 passenger seats in its main body. There’s no fighting for a window seat on the Ford Tri-Motor, because each seat has a fantastic view.
The interior is stunning, lined with wooden panels and outfitted with adorable miniature curtains and vintage lighting fixtures.
It took a few minutes before the propellers were moving fast enough to lift us off the ground. I peeked up the aisle to watch Capt. Soucy handle the controls with confidence.
“This airplane has some undesirable flying characteristics that require skill to manage,” Soucy said. “I tell people it flies like a truck, but not a pickup truck, a dump truck.”
The takeoff was a little shaky, but relatively smooth given the aircraft’s age. The vibration was intense, and although we weren’t required to wear ear protection, the plane was loud enough to make conversation difficult with your neighbors. On some flights, I wish this was still the case.
As we climbed the sunny skies, I became even more awed by the land beneath us. Lancaster County is gorgeous by car, but if you're ever doubting its beauty, see it by plane. The fields of grass looked like plush green velvet I wanted to touch. Our farmers’ crops looked lush and thriving. Clusters of flourishing trees looked so happy that Bob Ross would surely approve.
When the plane made a turn to take us back to the airport, my stomach did a somersault. I felt just a tad bit of motion sickness at the end of the ride, but that comes as no surprise to someone who gets queasy reading a text message while riding in a car. I’m confident the average passenger would be fine.
The landing was far smoother than I expected, but more turbulent than that of a modern commercial plane. As we touched down, I felt I gained a greater appreciation for our county having seen it from the skies.
Rides in the Ford Tri-Motor are available to the public this weekend at the Lancaster Airport Community Days. The event first began in 1996 and now happens every other year.
Marketing and events coordinator Kim Huber said the last Lancaster Airport Community Days in 2015 attracted 12,000 to 14,000 people.
In addition to the Ford Tri-Motor, visitors can see historic planes like the World War II C-47 and C-45, B-25 Bomber and TBM Avenger. Guests can enjoy the captain’s point of view in the immersive “Rise Above” exhibit and learn about the Tuskegee Airmen, a group of World War II African-American military pilots.