First Real Airliner Visits Collegedale

Friday, September 29, 2017 - by Willard Rice

Aviation enthusiasts were thrilled Wednesday to witness the arrival of a 1929 Ford Tri-motor airliner at Collegedale airport. One of the first operating airliners in the world, the Tri-motor was evidence of the elegance that graced the first ventures to lure people to air travel. 

The Chattanooga area Experimental Aircraft Association sponsored the visit and is providing local rides on the Tri-motor through Sunday from 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. for $75 at Collegedale Airport. 

Seattle based Tri-motor pilot Bill Sleeper’s most recent other ride has been United Airlines Boeing 747s which he has captained for decades. He revels in having had the opportunity to fly two of commercial aviation’s most iconic models. A volunteer for the EAA, he and Jim Heinzelman of the EAA headquarters operation in Oshkosh, Wi. are traveling throughout the country to demonstrate the Tri-motor to a limited number of locales and Chattanooga/Collegedale was on their list. EAA puts on the nation's largest airshow each year in Oshkosh.   

The Ford Tri-motor with its three engines, Pullman-quality passenger cabin furnishings, and aluminum skin corrugated to provide appearance of extra strength, was designed to get adventurous and well heeled travelers off the train and into the air. With room for 10 passengers, it is surprisingly spacious with panoramic windows all around. The flight over Chattanooga in the Tri-motor provides a view difficult to get from any other aircraft. 

The local EAA chapter is inviting the general public to Collegedale Airport (just off Appison Turnpike. No charge to view, just $75 to fly.

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