|By Fred Harl|
According to the EAA, this 4-AT-E Trimotor aircraft was number 146 of 199 total produced and first flew in August of 1929. It served with Eastern Air Transport (later Eastern Airlines), the government of the Dominican Republic, as a cropduster, a firefighting tanker, a barnstormer and even a moviestar. It was acquired by the EAA in 1973 and underwent a lengthy restoration. The Trimotor has been touring since 1991, and continues to provide an unforgettable nostalgic flight experience across the U.S. and each year at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
Pilot John Hartke flew planeloads of passengers in the cabin and several who purchased the upgraded "copilot" seat for their flights. Here are some views of Hartke as he refueled the aircraft and one flight sequence:
The EAA's Ford Trimotor continues it's 2019 tour, and you can see the schedule and book flights through their web page. Take an inside tour and watch a video of a previous flight featured in this story: "Aviation History Comes Alive As EAA Ford Trimotor Returns to St. Louis Area."
Rolla National Airport began as a U.S. Army Air Forces pilot training field and was revived as a civil airport in the late 1950s. Lee Maples, World War II veteran aviator and local aviation legend, became the first airport manager there for the City of Rolla in 1958 and served until 1967. He then started Maples Aviation and later Baron Aviation, which still provides feeder services for FedEx.
During our visit, we also saw some general aviation aircraft on the apron, including a Hughes 369D helicopter, 2 experimental Long-EZs, early Cessna 150 and 172 models and others featured here: