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Dozens of airplanes from the 20s and 30s return to the Detroit area after departing on Sept. 8; Pilots and crew celebrating an era that introduced America to safe, reliable air travel
YPSILANTI, Mich. (Sept. 24, 2003)
Dozens of rare, vintage airplanes on the National Air Tour 2003 have just finished a chapter in aviation history. The aircraft and more than 80 volunteer pilots and crew from 20 states and Canada, today returned to Willow Run Airport in Ypsilanti, Mich., completing a 4,000-mile journey that was planned for the 1932 National Air Tour but never flown.
For more than two weeks, weve flown these rare birds from the 1920s and 30s over Americas great landscapes, sharing a unique slice of aviation history with hundreds-of-thousands of people. Along the way, weve been telling the story of a group of pioneers from the Golden Age of Aviation, who introduced America to the concept of civil and commercial air travel, said Addison Pemberton, a National Air Tour pilot. Im thrilled to have been a part of this historic event flying my 1931 Stearman Speedmail biplane on the Tour and meeting outstanding people along the way.
The National Air Tours originally took place from 1925-31. They were conceived by a group of air-minded Detroit businessmen, receiving significant support from Henry Ford and his son, Edsel B. Ford, to introduce Americans to the concept of air travel. During its seven-year run, the National Air Tours traveled more than 29,000 miles and visited 114 cities, demonstrating safe, reliable air travel to people who previously considered aviation a military function or for daredevils. By supporting the Tours and lending the trusted Ford name, Henry Ford and Edsel Ford helped convince a skeptical public that passenger flight was a sensible means of transportation. In its own centennial year, Ford Motor Company is celebrating 100 years of powered flight and its rich aviation heritage by sponsoring the National Air Tour 2003 just as it did the original tours.
The pilots and crew of the National Air Tour 2003 have a common vision: to share the story of an era in aviation that led to our modern system of air travel the Golden Age of Aviation, said Greg Herrick, president of the Aviation Foundation of America, the nonprofit group responsible for organizing the Tour. Today, more than two weeks after our departure, we have told the story behind these magnificent aircraft as well as the pilots, the crew and the mission of the original National Air Tours with millions of people at the stops, over the Internet and through the media. Hopefully, in some small way we have touched the lives of the people with whom we have shared this wonderful event.
17 days, 4,000 miles, History Lessons and Hurricane Isabel
Along the National Air Tour route, pilots and crew have offered an up-close look at a flying museum of unique aircraft including Sikorsky flying boats, Tri-motors and rare Stearman, Eaglerock and Fokker airplanes, with hundreds-of-thousands of people across dozens of cities. Tour stops drew diverse crowds ranging from aviation enthusiasts to curious spectators merely enjoying the site of the rare airplanes.
Along the route, National Air Tour 2003 pilots met relatives of the original Tour pilots, including several nieces and a sister of 1929 Tour winner John Livingston; pilots who used to fly some of the aircraft on this years Tour; and even a man who, as a child, waved a flash light at an air mail aircraft passing over his house in the night. That aircraft, a Stinson Tri-motor, is ship #29 on the 2003 Tour.
This has truly been a magical history tour not only for the people whove been following us on the Web and have come out to see us land and experience these magnificent airplanes, but also for the pilots whove met the outstanding people along the route, said Dave Allen, a National Air Tour pilot, ship No. 26, 1930 WACO ASO.
Despite brief weather conditions associated with two storm fronts and Hurricane Isabel, the National Air Tour 2003 traveled to more than two dozen cities, allowing spectators to visit with Tour pilots and get an up-close look at the aircraft. The National Air Tour had been scheduled to fly to the site of the Wright Brothers National Memorial near Kitty Hawk, N.C., for a two-day layover from Sept. 19-21. However, the pilots elected to spend an extra 24 hours in the Atlanta area at Falcon Field, waiting for the weather to clear and damage from the hurricane to be assessed. A temporary flight restriction had been issued over the site of the Memorial. On Sept. 20, the National Air Tour learned the temporary flight restriction had been lifted and pilots and crew eagerly climbed aboard their aircraft to fly around the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
It was a moving experience to fly around the Wright Brothers National Memorial and pay homage to the place where powered flight began, said Bob Newhouse, a National Air Tour pilot, ship No. 10, 1931 Bird CK. It was our way for these aircraft of the Golden Age of Aviation to salute the accomplishments of the Wright brothers in this centennial year of flight.
The National Air Tour Web site at www.NationalAirTour.org has received million of hits from people seeking updates, including photographs and a daily journal.
The National Air Tour has been one of the highlights of my flying career. It is an experience I will never forget, said Phil Chastain, National Air Tour pilot on ship No. 23, Ryan M-1. Flying the Ryan M-1, an aircraft similar to the one Charles Lindbergh used to fly the first solo across the Atlantic, has given me greater respect for his determination and endurance.
Dignitaries Share the Excitement of the National Air Tour 2003
Edsel B. Ford II, honorary chairperson for the National Air Tour 2003, and Erik Lindbergh, pilot and grandson of Golden Age pilot Charles Lindbergh, were among the dignitaries at the departure ceremony. Edsel B. Ford II, waved the starter flag, just as his grandfather, Edsel B. Ford, did for the 1925 National Air Tour. Erik Lindbergh departed with the Tour to fly the first leg to the Lansing Municipal Airport in the Chicago area. Charles Lindbergh planned to attend the departure of the 1928 National Air Tour, but had a forced landing in a potato patch 50 miles outside Detroit.
Ford Motor Company
Ford Motor Company (NYSE: F) is the world's second-largest automaker with approximately 350,000 employees and dealerships in more than 200 markets on six continents. Its automotive brands include Ford, Jaguar, Land Rover, Lincoln, Mazda, Mercury, Aston Martin and Volvo. Its automotive-related services include Ford Credit, Hertz and Quality Care. The companys world headquarters is in Dearborn, Mich. Ford Motor Company officially observed its 100th anniversary on June 16, 2003. Additional information can be found on the companys Web site at http://www.ford.com.
Aviation Foundation of America
Minneapolis-based Aviation Foundation of America is a 501(c)3 public charity designed to preserve and promote Americas aviation heritage at a grassroots level through initiatives such as historic flight re-creations, airport preservation projects and educational programs. The Aviation Foundation of America is an official partner of the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission along with the FAA, NASA and the Experimental Aircraft Association.
For additional information about the National Air Tour 2003 including photos, please visit the media center at www.NationalAirTour.org.