Airplane made in 1928 comes to Knoxville and you can catch a flight

Local News

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Would you go up in an airplane from the 1920s? There is one in Knoxville for a limited time.

The Ford Tri-Motor was made about 25 years after the Wright Brothers flew for just a matter of seconds. In that span, aviation capabilities improved tremendously.

Bill Thacker, a pilot who flies the 1928 plane, doesn’t believe in leaving the past in the past.
“They would fly over the city and attract people to come out and remember, again, the whole world was in an uproar over aviation, so if somebody saw an airplane they looked up and if they saw it landing, or coming down, they would go find it,” Thacker explained.

Mind you, this was well before the internet, so oftentimes people just looked up to find the plane. That’s how they knew it was there at all, according to Thacker.

In the very back of the plane there is a bathroom, although it isn’t used anymore. “It was right behind this door here and it was just a hole,” Thacker pointed. “So, you know, people did look up for the tri-motor when it was going by. Wasn’t necessarily the best idea.”

It’s referred to as the tin goose and considered the first luxury commercial plane.

“Beautiful sconces and it has the look of a Pullman car and that was all part of Henry’s design criteria,” he said.

A ticket cost about $2,000 back in the roaring 20s. That means the price today would be about $30,000.

“The people with money would say, ‘okay, I can go coast to coast in two days versus 12 days bouncing around on a train,'” Thacker explained.

That price included snacks and drinks. Nowadays, Thacker will take you up for about $70 and it’s his pleasure.

“I remember when I was a little kid building models and hanging them from the ceiling and then I got to live the dream,” he recalled.

He’s a commercial airline pilot who flew the Ford in his free time. There are nine volunteer pilots across the country in total. Thacker will teach you everything you could possibly want to know, just like he did with his own kids. They are, of course, now in aviation, too.

“Taught my wife and both my kids how to fly,” he smiled.

His daughter, Jessica, is a commercial airline pilot. His son, Jacob, is a jet mechanic. Both of his children have the same initials. They spell JET.

The volunteer pilots who fly the Ford are making sure the past has a clear future and history lives on. The Ford Tri-Motor only flies about 80 miles per hour. To put that in perspective commercial planes today fly about 550 miles per hour. The Ford is at the Island Home Airport through Sunday, June 6. If you’d like to buy tickets, click here.

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