Iowa City Municipal Airport features historic Ford Tri-Motor for - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Iowa City Municipal Airport features historic Ford Tri-Motor for 100th anniversary

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

To step inside a Ford Tri-Motor is to step almost a century back in time.

From Friday to Sunday the Iowa City Municipal Airport will celebrate its century of aviation.

The airport was opened in 1918. It was a part of the first transcontinental airmail flight, and as it continued to grow it started to offer commercial flights -- which ultimately came to an end in the 1970s. At one point, it was a training base during World War II. It's that history that the airport hopes to celebrate this weekend.

"It's a chance to have the community come out and appreciate what the airport has been doing for the last 100 years and have a chance to see what the airport is doing for the next 100 years," Michael Tharp, the airport operations specialist, said.

The anniversary celebration will start on Friday and it features an historic Ford Tri-Motor plane. Built in 1928, the plane is small in comparison to today's commercial flights but back then it was ahead of its time and a luxury.

To overcome concern, Henry Ford had the plane commissioned with three engines so that fliers wouldn't worry about the reliability of the engines. 

"It gave a lot of people at that time a lot of inspiration in the aviation business," Jim Heinzelman, a Ford Tri-Motor volunteer, said. "Airline travel really lagged in the United States compared to Europe and this really gave it a shot in the arm."

An innovation to match the airport's long history.

"Aviation itself is only about 105-110 years old so having something just within the industry that is that close to the beginning of the industry is amazing," Tharp said.

A 1929 New Standard D25 will also be at the airport for the weekend. Other events include a hot-air balloon glow, night flight tours, and a display of WWII planes. Kids ages 8 to 17 can also get a free plane ride during the event. A full itinerary and details can be found here.

On Thursday, Vietnam veteran Terry Kruse, of Lone Tree, was on the Tri-Motor flight. Kruse was given the honor of co-piloting the flight.

"It was a very nice, smooth ride. Getting a chance to fly the plane for a few minutes was a lot of fun," he said.

A thousand feet in the air, riders like Kruse get a view of Iowa City much different than what the original pilots and passengers would have seen.

"The tri-motor actually flew out of Iowa City for a few years as a commercial airliner. It's bringing back that history to the community," Tharp said.

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