1929 Ford airplane lifts Space Coast passengers on short flights

Published On: Jan 28 2014 11:12:29 AM EST

The world’s first mass-produced commercial aircraft, a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor nicknamed "Tin Goose," flew over Cocoa Beach, Cape Canaveral and Merritt Island Tuesday and Wednesday, Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports.

“It was wonderful,” Wolfgang Lau said after his flight. “I have 28,000 hours as a pilot in command, but this is still fun to step back in history.”

Lau, a retired Southwest Airlines pilot and his wife, Susan, a flight attendant for the airline, said they could not pass up the opportunity to fly on the historic aircraft.

“It was nice to be part of history,” Susan Lau said. “I especially liked his briefing. It is similar to what I have to do at work.”

The aircraft took off with 10 passengers for a flight that went from Merritt Island across the Banana River, along Cocoa Beach and Cape Canaveral and back to Merritt Island on a flight that took a little more than 20 minutes.

Passengers constantly snapped pictures of the scenery and of themselves during the smooth flight in the 84-year-old plane.

Chief pilot Cody Welch said the Ford Tri-Motor was extremely significant to aviation history in the United States.

“Commercial aviation as we know it today is thanks to Ford,” he said. “It was the first mass-produced airline. It’s what got all of our airlines started.

The 1929 Tri-Motor visiting Merritt Island first flew Aug. 21, 1929. Painted in the color scheme of the old Eastern Airlines, itwas that airline’s first plane. It then went on to become the first airplane of Cubana Airlines before being sent to Dominican Republic, where it served the government.

After damage during a thunderstorm in 1973, EAA founder Paul Poberezny bought the aircraft, which underwent a 12-year restoration. Following service as a crop duster and in aerial firefighting, it returned to flying passengers in 1991. It is kept at the AirVenture Museum at Pioneer Airport in Oshkosh, Wis.

The aircraft has appeared in two major movies: 1965’s “The Family Jewels” with Jerry Lewis and 2009’s “Public Enemies” with Johnny Depp.

“I always wanted to fly in it,” said Jim Soldini, 71, of Palm Bay.

Soldini couldn’t wait to get on the Ford Tri-Motor as his wife, Annette Soldini, snapped photos.

“When I was 16, my parents asked me what I wanted for my birthday,” Soldani said. “I said I wanted to fly in a DC-3.”

The airplane, which has been on tours across the United States, came to Merritt Island for the first time Monday, landing to the cheers of aircraft enthusiasts.

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