Most people travel to the Grand Canyon for the view or the outdoor recreational activities. For pilots, a trip to the Grand Canyon could bring the opportunity to get type-rated in a Ford Tri-Motor. That’s right. A Ford Tri-Motor.
“The Ford Tri-Motor paved the way to fly passengers safely in transcontinental air travel,” says Bryan Godlove, the owner of Ford Tri-Motor Type Ratings. “It was the first. To be a part of this history in aviation has always been an honor and privilege.”
Godlove, who has been flying for 35 years, has logged more than 23,000 hours, including 1,250 hours in the Ford. He operates out of Grand Canyon Valle Airport (40G), located 18 miles south of Grand Canyon International Airport (GCN). He adds he’s the only person in the world who offers the Tri-Motor ratings.
There aren’t many Ford Tri-Motors left in operation. A check of the FAA aircraft database shows less than 20 in existence. Godlove flies Ford Tri-Motor 5-AT-74, N414H. The airplane, serial number 74, was first flown Sept. 4, 1929, and has more than 16,000 hours on the airframe.
The Ford Tri-Motor was first produced in 1925 by Henry Ford. Known as “The Tin Goose” in some circles, the three-engine aircraft is primarily metal. Approximately 199 Tri-Motors were built before production stopped in 1933, as designs such as the Boeing 247 and McDonnell Douglas DC-2 and DC-3 came online.
According to Godlove, the Ford Motor Co. put N414H on floats and used it for two and a half years as a demonstrator aircraft. “Then they sold it to Pan Am, where it was based in Miami and flown on routes into Central America. In 1935 it moved south of the border and began passenger operations for Cia Mexicana de Aviacion,” he said. Eventually, the Ford was sold back to Pan Am. In the 1950s it was acquired by Robert Waltermire, who turned it into an agricultural sprayer and a platform for smoke jumpers at Johnson Flying Service in Missoula, Mont. The airplane eventually evolved from a work horse to a show piece, says Godlove.
“In 1960 the Ford was acquired by Johny Louck who used it to barnstorm across the U.S. It was leased to TWA, then sold to American Airlines, where it appeared at the World’s Fair plus many other historical promotions,” he said. “In 1978 it was sold to John Seibold, who is the current owner. It has been used for sightseeing in the Grand Canyon, a few movies and commercials, and giving rides at air shows, as well as our type rating program.”
Although Mr. Ford would recognize his airplane if he saw it today, there have been a few modern upgrades for the sake of safety and convenience. For example, it has a voice-activated intercom system. Back in the day, both the flight crew and passengers had to contend with the noise or do something basic, like stuff cotton in their ears. The wicker seats that once graced the interior have been removed and replaced with FAA-approved metal and cushion seats. In addition, the panel features modern radios, a transponder and a GPS, as well as some of the old dial instruments.
The three-day rating program is for VFR flight only. It begins with a four-hour ground school where trainees learn the aircraft systems and procedures. Flight training begins that afternoon. Day two is a continuation of flight training. Day three is the FAA Type Rating Check Ride. Total time in the aircraft, including check ride, is approximately 5.5 hours.
“This is a very basic, simple aircraft to learn,” said Godlove, who notes the old aviation mantra “needle, ball, airspeed” can be applied to the Ford. Cross country navigation is often done by pilotage.
To get the type rating, the applicant must demonstrate proficiency in steep turns and stalls at a safe altitude, engine out procedures in the pattern, go-arounds, aborted takeoffs and three landings. “Our trainees have been very well prepared,” Godlove said. “Examiners have been very impressed with our final product.” In the past two years, 24 people have gone through the program.
This one-of-a-kind experience does not come cheap. Tuition is $10,900. The class is limited to three applicants and requires at least two students to make it happen. Students receive a flight manual, ground school, all briefings, four hours of dual flight instruction, plus a VFR type rating check. The FAA Examiner fee is $550.
A caveat on the FordTypeRatings.com website notes that the type rating is not guaranteed in this time frame and is dependent on the pilot’s abilities. Additional flight time may be charged at $1,900 per hour. Trainees must hold a private pilot certificate with a multiengine rating. It’s also very important they are tailwheel proficient, Godlove said.
For more information: FordTypeRatings.com.