Tin Goose offers a blast from the past at SRQ

Tin Goose offers unique view at SRQ

jajones1@bradenton.comMarch 27, 2012 

MANATEE -- Captain Cody Welch started the nose engine of the 1929 Ford Tri-Motor airplane, followed by the one on the left wing, and finally the one on the right wing.

With a chugging roar from the three radial engines, and maybe just a whiff of exhaust, he taxied the historic airplane from its temporary home at APP Jet Center to the runway, gave it the gun and then lifted it lightly into the sky over Sarasota Bay and the northern tip of Longboat Key.

It must have been some sight from 1,000 feet below to see one of the nation's first airliners, made of corrugated aluminum, and trimmed in blue, sailing overhead at 85 mph from Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

The plane has packed a lot into its 83 years, including duty as a crop duster, transportation for a Dominican Republic dictator, aerial firefighter, barnstormer, and now traveling goodwill ambassador for AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisc., and the Experimental Aircraft Association. It's also had a role in at least two movies, Jerry Lewis' "The Family Jewels," and more recently the Johnny Depp gangster flick, "Public Enemies."

So, how was the ride? A tad noisy, perhaps, but comfortable as it flew over the brilliant blue-green of Sarasota Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

For a plane so old, it seemed to have plenty of get up and go.

"We keep it in wonderful, wonderful condition," Welch said. "The plane has to fly for food."

"You have been to 1929 and back," Welch told his passengers after the 15-minute flight.

The Tin Goose might be 83 years old, but with all the restoration and maintenance it receives it is "like a kid," Welch said.

Also like a kid was Donald Clinger, who went to work for TWA in 1957 and worked for the airline 26 years.

"This was beyond my wildest imagination. I never thought I would get a chance to ride on a Ford Tri-Motor," Clinger said after his flight.

Julie Barth of Anna Maria came with her husband, Clayton, and watched him board the Tin Goose.

"He has been talking about nothing else the past few days," Barth said.

"He's gone to Oshkosh. I tag along," she said.

Even Welch, who was a Northwest Airlines pilot for many years, and has probably seen just about everything through a cockpit window, seemed impressed with the scenery along the Gulf Coast.

"The only thing that would have been cooler would be to have the Spirit of St. Louis on our wing tip," Welch said.

The public is invited to take a look at the airplane at APP Jet Center 1234 Clyde Jones Road. Flights are available at $80 per person.

Flight times are 9-5 p.m. today and Wednesday. Pre-booking is available at www.flytheford.org or call 1-877-952-5395.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee editor, can be contacted at 941-745-7021 or tweet @jajones1

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