A piece of aviation history this week returns to the Mid-American Air Center, offering locals a rare opportunity to take flight in a 100-year-old aircraft.

The 1929 Ford Tri-Motor landed at the local airport, 13608 Hangar Road, Lawrenceville, Illinois today and will offer pleasure rides to area aviation enthusiasts throughout the weekend.

Produced between 1926 and 1933, the Tri-Motor was originally used to carry mail but soon transitioned into the first all-metal passenger plane, marking the beginning of commercial flight.

Nicknamed “Tin Goose,” there are only a handful of these aircraft still flying, giving locals a unique glimpse into the early days of aviation.

Those who choose to take to the sky in the Tri-Motor will be treated to a short tour of the greater Lawrenceville and Vincennes area at approximately 1,000 feet and roughly 100 mph, which is the aircraft’s top speed.

Today’s passengers will likely find the plane’s top altitude and speed quite low and slow.

But that, along with its large windows, make it the perfect way to catch a bird’s eye view of the city.

“If you fly in this, you also get to better understand how amazing it was that we only started flying at the turn of the century, in 1903, and by 1929 we were going 100 miles per hour and taking passengers across the country,” said Dr. Scott Stine, Chief Medical Officer at Good Samaritan and member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and Mid-American Pilots Association.

Rides in the Ford Tri-Motor will be available this afternoon and through Sunday. Advance online tickets can be purchased by visiting www.flytheford.org, with a cost of $55 for children under 17 and $80 for adults.

Visitors can also purchase tickets on site from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CDT, at a cost of $55 per child and $85 per adult.

In addition, visitors can expect a full weekend of food, music and an array of aviation fun.

The Mid-American Pilots Association (MAPA) and Experimental Air Association (EAA) Chapter 114, too, on Saturday will host a fly-in and drive-in event for lunch at the EAA Club Hangar. In addition, kids ages 8-17 are eligible for a free Young Eagles flight.

Stine says inspiring kids is really the primary mission of MAPA and the local EAA chapter.

“We center all of these activities around Young Eagles events,” he said. “Whenever we have something like the Ford Tri-Motor or our fly-ins, it’s an opportunity to introduce kids to aviation — that is really our big mission.”

The group, in 2019, launched the chapter’s Young Eagle’s Program, which is a national organization providing free plane rides to children.

In the three years since its inception, local EAA members have given nearly 300 free flights to area children and teens.

Stine says while it’s often difficult to inspire adolescents to willingly study Science, Technology, Mathematics, and Engineering (STEM), they naturally gravitate towards things like airplanes.

“It’s not hard at all to make aviation appealing, and we are surrounded by things like physics and math — the physics of flight, of weather, and the calculations of flight plans.

“But it’s fun because you’re about to hop in an airplane and go 150 miles per hour,” he said with an excited grin.

Too, he says, learning how to fly also provides real-word experience in utilizing good judgment and decision-making, helping to grow the critical thinking abilities of youngsters.

“Although it’s appealing to be in the cockpit, and it’s great to inspire them, they also get an opportunity to experience what it’s like for something to be all on you — like deciding whether or not to fly and understanding your own limitations,” he said.

Occasionally, Stine says, club members even get to see Young Eagles mature and come full circle.

Current club president and Certified Flight Instructor Josh Magruder took his own Young Eagles Flight as a kid in 1997. Then, a few years ago, Magruder began pilot training, working his way from private license to commercial license.

“Now he’s instructing for us, so he came full circle from his Eagle flight 25 years ago,” Stine said proudly.

More than 40 kids and teens have registered for their own free Young Eagles flight this Saturday, but Stine says more are welcome.

To pre-register your child (ages 8-17 only) for a free flight, visit www.flymapa.org.

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