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