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Sparta event offers chance to fly on historic Ford Tri-Motor airplane | News

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Sparta event offers chance to fly on historic Ford Tri-Motor airplane

SPARTA, Mich. (WZZM) - People in West Michigan are getting a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to fly in a historic Ford Tri-Motor airplane. The Experimental Aircraft Association has brought its famous tour to the Sparta airport for this weekend's Great Lakes Aviators event.

"This is a very big deal for us," said Paul Kovalak, the chapter president for the organization. "We have an annual event, and we have been trying to get this thing for two years. We had to prove that we could handle it. We had to prove the airport could handle it. And, here it is."

Kovalak describes the four-day event as a car show for airplanes, and the Tri-Motor is the star attraction. The plane is also known as "The Tin Goose" because it is the first all-metal airplane ever built. Pilot John Maxfield gets the honor of flying it.

"This is the airplane that started the airline industry. It was built by Henry Ford and the Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan, to start airline travel," said Maxfield. "It is a sense of history. It is reliving the past and stepping back into 1928 or 1929 and seeing how grandma, grandpa and the rich and famous flew around the country."

It is indeed a rare experience to be able to do that. According to Maxfield, there are probably 15 to 20 Tri-Motors in museums around the world, with only about six flying. The one in Sparta is among the two existing Tri-Motors people can buy rides on.

"We fly at about 1,000 feet above the ground and about 84 miles per hour. That was the high-tech altitude [and] speed of the day. Before that, people never left the ground," said Maxfield. "They were driving around in Model A's and T's."

Organizers are offering rides on the Tin Goose between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Friday through Sunday. The schedule of events also include a cookout with live music, craft beer, and food on Friday night. Saturday morning there will be a fly-in and pancake breakfast. Click here for more information.