Aerobatics!

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This information comes from the listings of Non-Prefixed and Non-Suffixed aircraft reviewed by me in the archives of the National Air & Space Museum, Washington, DC.

 
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FORD 4-AT-B NC7117

FORD 4-AT-B NC7117

BIG IRON TRANSPORT, AEROBAT AND THEN TO CUBA

This airplane is a Ford 4-AT-B tri-motor (S/N 4-AT-31; ATC # 87) manufactured August 11, 1928 by the Stout Metal Airplane Company (Division of Ford Motor Company), Dearborn, MI.  It came from the factory with three Wright J-5 engines (S/Ns L 9056, R 9025, C 9047) of 220 HP each.  It was a twelve-place airplane.

It sold on August 17, 1928 to Maddux Air Lines, Inc., Los Angeles, CA.  It was modified in December 1930 by Maddux to a Model 4-AT-E under ATC 132, with Wright J-6 engines.  Maddux sold it to Transcontinental & Western Air, Inc., New York, NY on April 21, 1931.

NC7117 landed twice at Tucson, on August 20, 1928 and on March 7, 1929.   On August 20th, it was flown by Larry G. Fritz, Chief Pilot at the time for Maddux.  He flew a plane full of ten passengers, including copilot C.H. Madley.  Here, for Google posterity, we’ll list the brave passengers’ names: Dr. & Mrs. Matthews, Jean Thomas, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Van Nactor, N. Hussman and Master Hussman, D. Waller, and Mr. Bacon. 

They were westbound from Detroit, MI to Los Angeles, CA in what was undoubtedly the maiden voyage of this fresh, newly purchased (three days previously) airplane from the Ford factory to its new home on the west coast.  Fritz noted in the Remarks column of the Register, “Good Service”.  For a similar scenario, see the sister ship of this airplane at NC7118.

The flight on March 7, 1929 was piloted by D.W. “Tommy” Tomlinson.  Later, Tomlinson was the first pilot of the Douglas DC-1.  He, Jack Frye and Charles Lindbergh developed the specifications for Douglas to work toward in building that watershed early transport.  He carried six unidentified passengers westbound from El Paso, TX to Los Angeles.  Someone noted in the Remarks column of the Register, "from Mexico City."

Between December 21, 1930 and May 11, 1931, NC7117 landed at least nine times at the Grand Central Air Terminal (GCAT), Glendale, CA. The tower operator identified the owner as"T. W. A. Incorporated."

Interestingly, the airplane sold next on April 10, 1933 to Blue Bird Air Transport, Inc., Chicago, IL.  It was approved for “NR” registration on 9/9/33, “for aerobatics in connection with American Air Races Tour”.   I could find no record of its use for this purpose.  Does anyone know if or how it was used in the 1933 National Air Races tour?

During the Great Depression, NC7117 changed hands seven more times; five times in 1928 alone.  On March 1, 1939 it was sold to Tex-O-Can Flour Mills Co., Dallas, TX.  It, “was used with sound equipment & smoke writer tanks”.

Through the early 1940s it changed hands another six times.  On March 18, 1944 it was sold to broker Charles H. Babb, New York, NY.  He sold it the same day to Espresso Aereo Inter-Americana, Havana, Cuba.  The final disposition states, “Exported to Cuba in 1944 and assigned Cuban Reg. IM-5”.  No further information.

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UPLOADED: 04/01/06 REVISED: 01/08/14

 
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