A storied aircraft, one that played a supporting role in a recent movie, is coming to Blaine as part of a nationwide tour.
The Experimental Aircraft Association will bring a Ford Tri-Motor to the Anoka County-Blaine Airport from Thursday through Sunday and is offering rides on the plane.
Built in 1929, the plane is a leading luxury vintage aircraft, with nine plush passenger seats and expansive windows for a view of the outdoors.
"There are very few that give rides," said Greg Herrick, a vintage aircraft collector from Minneapolis. "It's a special opportunity to experience what air travel was like."
One of the earliest planes used for transcontinental service between San Diego and New York, the Ford Tri-Motor was one of the safest airplanes made at the time, Herrick said. The one coming to Blaine was owned or operated at different times by several airlines, including Eastern Air Transport and Cubana Airlines.
Aside from its conventional use, this Ford Tri-Motor also recently appeared in the film "Public Enemies," starring Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. The plane was repainted for its role.
The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) restored the Tri-Motor after it was damaged in a thunderstorm in 1973. It had previously been used as a passenger plane and later as a barnstormer, fire fighter and crop sprayer.
After 12 years of restoration by aircraft association staff, volunteers and Ford Tri-Motor specialists nationwide, the plane took flight again, offering rides to those brave enough to bear its roaring engines.
"They're great fun to fly in, they fly low and slow, this has great big windows, there's only two seats [in each row] - you get a good chance to see the countryside," said Dave McCauley, a member of the EAA.
The association, founded in 1953 by veteran aviator Paul Poberezny, regularly showcases antique airplanes, as well as offering a number of classes and flying opportunities for novice and experiences pilots. The EAA also is noted for its annual fly-in convention in Oshkosh, Wis.
"One of the quests of the [Experimental Aircraft Association] is to keep vintage aircraft flying and to preserve that experience for people."
As part of its Young Eagles program, the EAA has given more than 1.3 million airplane rides to children.
There are more than 1,000 EAA chapters around the world, focused on sharing ideas to make aviation safer and more enjoyable, McCauley said.
Along with a chance to board and fly the Tri-Motor, the on-site Gold Wings Museum at the airport will be open to visitors. The private collection of more than 30 vintage planes features planes piloted by flying legends Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart, among others.
"It's all part of sharing the history of aviation," said Herrick, who has many personal planes stored at the location. "The importance of the Ford Tri-Motor in the history of flight cannot be underestimated."
Tickets for a ride on the Ford Tri-Motor are $60. A seat can be reserved online at www.flytheford.org or by calling 1-800-843-3612 or can be bought on the spot. Rides will be offered from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Admission to the museum is $4.
Kathryn Nelson is a freelance writer.