When in 1925 the Ford Motor Company took over the Stout Aircraft
Company it also acquired the designs of William B Stout one of the best designers of light metal
structures of the day. The first and only result of the takeover of Ford in the field of aviation would be the Ford
4-AT Trimotor, a powerful three-engined, high wing monoplane constructed totally of metal, with a skin of corrugated duralumin based on the Junkers system. The German
company in fact began a court
action against Ford for breach of patent. This meant that Ford had to provide insurance to buyers of the aircraft in case Junkers, in turn, took action against them. Notwithstanding, between June 1926 and September 1932, 195 Ford Trimotors were built, and flew with companies all over the world.
Henry Ford was,in fact, a visionary in aviation. He predicted that in the future airplanes would be, "made of metal, not wood, multi-engined, and monoplanes". Ford believed multi-engined planes would provide extra safety, as engines were not very reliable. Also, monoplanes would not be subjected to the same icing conditions as biplanes, with their extra wings, struts, wires, etc.
Ford also founded its own airline, and pioneered radio air navigation. The first modern airport in America was in Dearborn, Michigan, site of the present day Ford Museum. Runways were of concrete, and about 1 mile in length. It took that much runway for the lumbering Trimotors to get airborne.
The Ford Trimotor, robust and easy to maintain, had a fuselage of rectangular cross-section, rounded off fore and aft, built around a structure of multiple longitudinal spars, which together with the frames and skin carried most of the structural forces. The thick profile wing, also multi-sparred, was entirely made of metal including the skin. The aircraft had a wingspan of 22' 55 metres and its length was 15' 20 metres.
The empty weight was 3.150 kilos and its maximum takeoff weight was 5.000 kilos. It was powered by three Wright J-6 300 hp radial engines. With a crew of two (pilot and radio operator or flight engineer) its cabin could accomodate up to 12 passengers, comfortably seated on wicker chairs, at a cruising speed of 182 kilometres per hour over hour over a range of 850 kms.
For more information, see http://www.fordtrimotor.org/
Information mostly from Http://www.mpcmcgrath.flyer.co.uk/foundation/found2d/trimotor_story.htm (Nodeshell resucue, and AWAY...)