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Vintage Ford Tri-Motor plane visits Sawyer

Taking flight

August 15, 2012
By MATT KEISER - Journal Staff Writer ( , The Mining Journal

K.I. SAWYER - Area residents have had the opportunity to fly in a piece of history at Sawyer International Airport this week.

A 1929 Ford Tri-Motor airplane is at Sawyer offering rides for all ages. The airplane weighs 11,000 pounds and flies at about 1,000 feet in the air, cruising at 90 mph.

Cody Welch, a retired Northwest Airlines pilot, has been flying the Tri-Motor for 15 years. He has piloted more than 45,000 people on the Tri-Motor in 125 different cities.

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"I do it because it's really fun to give back to the industry," Welch said.

He said that in his stretch piloting the plane, he has never seen anyone exit without a smile on their face.

Worried about not getting a window seat?

Article Photos

Pilot Cody Welch explains safety procedures before passengers board the 1929 Ford Tri-Motor airplane for a flight out of Sawyer International Airport this week. The vintage craft circled the Marquette area, providing a bird’s eye view. (Journal photo by Matt Keiser)

The airplane holds nine passengers and every seat has a great view of the Marquette landscape.

The plane is owned by the Experimental Aircraft Association AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wis., and the tours are run by volunteers.

Brett Harriman of Marquette and his 2-year-old son Isaac took a ride Monday morning.

Harriman said he is a huge airplane fan and he tries to attend as many airplane shows as he can. So when he heard about "Fly the Ford" at Sawyer, he wanted to take part.

"It's always been a dream of mine to fly in a Tri-Engine airplane," Harriman said.

This particular 1929 Ford Tri-Motor airplane has served many purposes in its 80-plus years of existence.

It was manufactured on Aug. 21,1929, and purchased by Pitcarin Airways, a predecessor of Eastern Airlines.

The Tri-Motor has done everything from crop dusting to being featured in major motion pictures like "The Family Jewels," starring Jerry Lewis and Sebastian Cabot, and "Public Enemies," starring Johnny Depp.

For more information, visit the website at

The airplane is at Boreal Aviation Inc. off of Second Street at K.I. Sawyer. The flights last about 15 minutes and will be running through 5 p.m. today, weather permitting. Walk-ins are welcome.

Tickets are $80 for adults; $40 for children 6 to 17 years old, who must have a legal guardian sign a waiver for them; and free for children under 5 with a paying guardian.

A ticket to fly in the co-pilot's seat is $125.

Matt Keiser can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 243.



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