The flying Ford, still flying Featured

Port Clinton Mayor Vincent Leone (right foreground) thanks Maurice Hovious for bringing the TriMotor restoration project to the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton. 

David and Vince Leone aboard the Tin Goose. 

The mouth of the Portage River as seen from the Tri-Motor

For the past several days, people around the Port Clinton and Marblehead areas have found themselves looking skyward as a distinctive sound hums overhead. The Tin Goose has been flying again out of Port Clinton. The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) has brought one of its two Ford Tri-Motors to Erie-Ottawa Regional Airport, offering flights to those who want to go into the air and back in time. For those who flew the Tri-Motor regularly to and from Port Clinton and the Lake Erie Islands, the sound and sight of the Tri-Motor brings back memories. For those who have never flown a Ford, it is a truly unique experience. 

The Ford Tri-Motor was Henry Ford’s contribution as the first commercial passenger airliner, and was instrumental in establishing passenger service for Eastern, United, Northwestern and TWA. There were 199 Ford Tri-Motors built, seven of which are still flying. It was the first airplane made of metal, from corrugated aluminum, earning it the name of the Tin Goose. Ford used door handles, ashtrays, gear shift and stabilizers from Ford automobiles as parts on the airplane. 

On the Fourth of July at Erie Ottawa Regional Airport, Maurice Hovious was waiting his turn to fly the Ford. Hovious, of Hov-Aire Inc., of Kalamazoo, MI, is the renowned pilot and airplane restoration expert and member of the Michigan Aviation Hall of Fame who is responsible for bringing the Ford Tri-Motor rebuilding project to the Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton. Hovious told how he was intrigued by Port Clinton when he used to fly over it on a weekly basis. He saw the Tri-Motors flying and how the people on the islands relied on the dependable and versatile aircraft. He was impressed by the planes and the people here when he landed on several occasions. Houvious said that Port Clinton can be proud that it is “the epicenter of the Ford Tri-Motor on the globe,” and will continue to be so, thanks to his generosity.

With the Ford’s cruising speed being 80 m.p.h., there is time to look out at the world below, take photographs of familiar sights and places, and feel the breeze from the window vents. With pilot Tom Leahy being so close, it is possible to watch as he cranks the hand-operated “Johnny brake” on the cabin ceiling or looks out the window to see the instruments that are not inside the cabin, but on the engines. Leahy and his co-pilot shared stories of Island Airlines, how unusual cargo was often carried, including a sick horse that was once flown from one of the islands to Port Clinton for surgery. 

The Tri-Motor that is in Port Clinton through July 10 was built in 1929. It saw service as a passenger plane, delivered freight and mail, flew scenic flights into the Grand Canyon and was used to fight forest fires. 

David Leone declared the flight “awesome.” Mary Alice Schaffner said it was a real thrill, one for her memory books. All passengers were impressed with how smooth and steady and effortless the flight was. 

To fly the Tri-Motor, tickets purchased in advance are $70 for adults; walk up tickets are $75 and $50 for children 17 years old and under. For reservations contact 800-843-3612 or

For more information on the EAA, go to To volunteer to work on the Ford Tri-Motor being built at the Liberty Aviation Museum, contact the museum at 419-732-0234 or‎ 

More Tri-Motor photos and aerial photos of Port Clinton-Marblehead at

The Flying Ford

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