90 year old plane offers flights through history - WEEK.com: Peoria-area News, Weather, Sports

90 year old plane offers flights through history

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BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WEEK) -- -

It looks big, clunky and like it's held together by sheet metal, but Captain Bill Thacker says the 1928 Ford Tri-Motor now calling Central Illinois Regional Airport home is the ancestor to every modern day jumbo jet.

"This airplane was the first airplane built specifically to haul people," he explained.

Before Ford built the Tri-Motor, anyone who wanted to fly had to cram into a mail plane and sit on a pile of envelopes. But with the plane's invention, passengers got style, room and comfort.

And it's more than just a walking tour: you'll actually get to ride in the plane, fly over Bloomington and take a trip into the golden age of aviation.

Thacker has been a part of the Experimental Aircraft Association's pilot program for years, and the tone of his voice whenever he talks about the plane easily expresses his passion.

"When they step through the door there in the terminal," he said with zeal, "its going to be back in 1929. What they're going to see, to feel, hear, experience and smell is exactly what would've happened in 1929."

And if you're worried about safety, take it from Captain Thacker and some of the brave aviators who were on the first rides of the day: The flight, while loud, was surprisingly smooth.

"The misconception is that people would be concerned about safety," said passenger Thomas Ruprecht. "And I don't think...there's probably no safer plane you can fly than a Tri-Motor like that. It just kind of lands by itself."

"It has some upgrades on it to bring it into the 20th century," confessed Thacker, "Other than that, it is exactly what it looked like back then."

The ultimate goal of the flight program: igniting the spark for future pilots, and train the next generation to get off the ground. 

Anyone interested in taking a trip should check out the EAA's bookings website. Tickets must be bought on-site and will no longer be ordered online. The Tri-Motor takes off from Bloomington's CIRA old terminal, at  2901 E Empire, CIRA Commons.

Flights are $75 for adults, $50 for kids 17 and under, and free for 2-year-olds and smaller who will ride on a parent's lap. Weather permitting, flights will be offered from 9AM-5PM Friday, June 15 through Sunday the 17th,

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