This Goose Was Made of Tin (Well, Aluminum Alloy…)

June 11, 1926

Automotive giant Henry Ford made history with another means of transportation when the Ford 4-AT-A Tri-Motor plane made its first public test flights. This pioneering aircraft had been designed and built by the Stout Metal Division of the Ford Motor Company in a remarkably short period of time, specifically just over four months from the blueprint stage to the first test flights.

Henry Ford and his son Edsel witnessed the first of those flights, while officials from various airlines – including National Air Transport, Florida Airways Corporation, Colonial Airways Company, and Western Air Express – were on hand to see the new plane lift off the second time around. This particular Ford Tri-Motor, which was formally classified as 4-AT-1 (with 1 denoting a serial number for that particular plane series), was powered by three air-cooled Wright Whirlwind J 4 radial engines. Another distinguishing feature of the aircraft was that its fuselage and wings consisted of aluminum alloy that was corrugated for added strength – a composition that earned that type of plane the nickname “Tin Goose.”

The original Ford Tri-Motor could accommodate a pilot, co-pilot, stewardess, and – with enough swivel chairs for seating as well as sufficient space for luggage – up to eight passengers. The plane also had an open cockpit so that pilots could feel the wind in their faces and be able to better hear such sounds as the engines while flying along. (Ultimately, however, these cockpits were enclosed and any planes with an open design were retrofitted.)

While designed primarily for passenger use, the Tin Goose could be also be adapted for hauling cargo since seats in the fuselage could be easily removed. It would also be used for military purposes. The response to this innovative type of plane was immediate and favorable, with a total of 199 Ford Tri-Motors built between 1926 and 1933.

For more information on the Ford 4-AT-A Tri-Motor (The Tin Goose), please check out

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