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Feature Date: April, 2005

Event Date: 20 October 2004

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 A 2005 Countryman & McDaniel

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"The Boeing Tri-Motor"

"Following Henry Ford"

On The Scene at Chicago's O'Hare

International Airport

A Cautionary Air Cargo Tale



20 October 2004

A Cargo Nightmare Prize Contender

The Time: Late Evening

The Date: Wednesday 20 October 2004

The Place: Chicago's O'Hare International Airport

The Ford Tri-Motor Model 4-AT Passenger Aircraft

"Tin Lizzie" Becomes "Tin Goose"

The First Commercial Tri-Motor Aircraft

The Gold Standard for Passenger Transport Around The World

Since 1926 -- Still In Commercial Use

The Ford Tri-Motor 4-AT Specifications

Length - 49 ft. 10 in.

Height - 12 ft. 8 in.

Wingspan - 77 ft. 10 in.

Total Wing Area 785 sq. ft.

Gross Weight - 10,130 lbs.

Empty Weight. - 8,013 lbs.

Engines (3) - Wright air-cooled radial

The Ford Tri-Motor4-AT Specifications

Fuel Capacity - 234 gal.

Fuel Consumption - 45 gal./hr..

Oil Capacity - 24 gal.

Stall Speed - 64 mph

Normal Cruise - 90 mph

Range - 500 miles

Price At Factory - US$42,000


The Ford Tri-Motor of 1926

Henry Ford mobilized millions of Americans and created a new market with his Model T "Tin Lizzie" automobile from 1909 to 1926. After World War I he recognized the potential for mass air transportation. Ford's Tri-Motor aircraft, nicknamed "The Tin Goose," was designed to build another new market, airline travel. To overcome concerns of engine reliability, Ford specified three engines and added features for passenger comfort, such as an enclosed cabin. The first three Tri-Motors built seated the pilot in an open cockpit, as many pilots doubted a plane could be flown without direct "feel of the wind".

Ford Motor Company built 199 Tri-Motors from 1926 through 1933. They were sold to companies such as American Airlines, TWA and Pitcairn Aviation's passenger division, Eastern Air Transport -- which became Eastern Airlines.

One of the most important events in the selling of aviation to the general public was the entry of Henry Ford into aircraft manufacturing. The Ford automobile was at the time the symbol of reliability, and it followed in the minds of a good many people that a Ford airplane would be safe to fly. And it was. The Ford Tri-motor was a rugged, dependable transport airplane, which won a permanent place in aviation history.

The story of the Ford Tri-Motor begins with William B. Stout, an engineer who had previously designed several aircraft using principles similar to those of Professor Hugo Junkers, the famous German manufacturer. Stout, a bold & imaginative salesman, sent a mimeographed form letter to leading manufacturers, blithely asking for US$1,000 and adding: 'For your one thousand dollars you will get one definite promise: You will never get your money back. Stout raised US$20,000, including US$1,000 each from Edsel and Henry Ford.

The two Fords became very interested in air transportation, and in April 1925 the Ford Motor Company started an experimental air freight service between Detroit and Chicago. In August of that year, Ford purchased the Stout Metal Airplane Company.

Up to this point, Stout airplanes used a single engine. The introduction of the lightweight Wright air-cooled radial engine, however, set Stout and his design team onto a new course: a three-engine airplane.

The 1st Ford Tri-Motor was retroactively designated 3-AT (for Air Transport). It was an unsightly airplane, which could not be landed power-off because of the terrible air-flow patterns generated by its unusually positioned engines. A mysterious fire broke out in the factory in Jan. 1926, after the third flight of the 3-AT, destroying that airplane and others of Stout's. The 3-AT was dropped from further development, and proved to be Stout's last major design effort with Ford.

A team of engineers began work on the 4-AT, which was the prototype for the classic Ford Tri-motor design. While it bore more than a superficial resemblance to contemporary Fokker products, the Ford had two overwhelming advantages for the domestic market: the Ford name and all-metal construction.

The 1st 4-AT made its maiden flight on June 11,1926. By the time Ford stopped producing aircraft in 1933, 199 Ford Tri-Motors had been built. More than one hundred airlines flew the Ford in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Central & South America, Europe, Australia, and China.

Increasing airline use and the availability of the new Pratt & Whitney 420-hp Wasp engine led to the 5-AT model in the summer of 1928. The 5-AT became the most famous of the Ford Tri-Motor designs. Two other types, the 8-AT and 14-AT, did not go beyond prototype status.

The Ford Tri-Motor is an inherently stable airplane, designed to fly well on two engines and to maintain level flight on one. Its rugged construction and ability to operate from grass and dirt airstrips have kept the Tri-motor in operation. Island Airlines of Port Clinton, Ohio, still flies a Ford in its daily 2005 operation on scheduled sight-seeing trips.

One 4-AT with Wright J-4 200 hp engines was built for the U.S. Army Air Corps as type C-3, and 7 with Wright R-790-3 (235 hp) as type C-3A. The latter were upgraded to Wright R-975-1 (J6-9) radials at 300 hp and redesignated C-9. Five 5-ATs were built as C-4 or C-4A.

Admiral Richard Byrd purchased both a Ford and a Fokker of similar design for his successful trip to the North Pole in 1926.

PROLOG TO DISASTER - October 20, 2004, a Boeing 747-132F #N709CK operated by Kalitta Air departed Hong Kong with a full load consisting of general merchandise cargo & 5 crew. From Hong Kong the airplane stopped in Khabarovsk, Russia for fuel and then continued to Anchorage, Alaska for fuel before stopping at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago.

After flight service & cargo discharge --#N709CK departed Chicago's O'Hare International Airport as Kalitta Air Flight 825, bound for New York's Kennedy International Airport.

At 16,000 feet Flight 825 experienced "mechanical difficulties" with No. 1 engine -- about 15 miles east of Battle Creek, Michigan. The Kalitta Air 747 was able to fly but was diverted by controllers as a safety precaution to Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

Kalitta Flight 825 Streaks By -

Kalitta Air Flight 825 safely raced down the runway upon landing at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, early on Thurs. 21 Oct. -- but something seemed wrong --
-- "something" perhaps best appreciated by Henry Ford from his earlier aviation work.

The Boeing Tri-Motor

N709CK At Detroit Metropolitan Airport - 21 October 2004

After the landing, airline personnel found that the No. 1 Engine, one of four Pratt & Whitney JT9D models, was not just a "mechanical problem" -- it was completely gone!

Michigan authorities searched October 21, for the missing engine, which was pinponted in early November after falling 16,000 feet into Lake Michigan.

The Cargo Letter Daily Casualties Report>> "Boeing 747-F owned by Kalitta Air<<Webfeature, Chicago's O'Hare Int'l Airport for New York, suffered engine trouble late Oct. 20 -- may have dropped one of its engines into Lake Michigan -- crew reported engine engine problems over Lake Michigan. When aircraft landed, engine missing." (Thurs. Oct. 21 2004)

The Pratt & Whitney JT9D No. 1 engine has Seperated From The Underwing Pylon.

What A Truly Rare Event!

But Sadly, Not.

This wasn't the first 747 Freighter engine separation incident:
*On Mar. 31, 1993, the No. 2 engine separated from a Japan Airlines Boeing 747-121 during climbout from Anchorage International Airport. Investigators determined the failure occurred when the engine pylon's ultimate lateral load capability was exceeded during the 747's encounter with severe or possibly extreme turbulence. The three crewmembers survived; the aircraft, manufactured in 1970, was substantially damaged. It had accumulated 83,906 hr. and its engines, 18,387 cycles.

*On Dec. 29, 1991, the No. 3 engine separated from a China Airlines Boeing 747-2R7F during a high-speed climbout from Taiwan's Chiang Kai-Shek International Airport. The Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7R4G2 struck the No. 4 engine, which also detached from the 1980-manufactured aircraft. All five crew died in the subsequent crash. The 747 had accumulated 45,868 hr., and 9,094 engine cycles at the time of the accident.

*On Oct. 4, 1992, the No. 3 Pratt & Whitney JT9D-7J engine and pylon separated from an El Al Israel Boeing 747-258F during climbout from Amsterdam Schipol Airport. As was the case with the China Airlines crash (above), the engine struck the No. 4 powerplant, detaching it from the 747. All four on board were killed when the aircraft crashed into an apartment building. The 1979-built 747 had 45,746 airframe hr. and its engines, 10,107 cycles.

U.S. Federal Aviation Aministration safety actions include a June 13, 2001, Airworthiness Directive (AD) requiring inspection and replacement of certain bolts in underwing fittings on Boeing 747-100, -200, -300 and SP series aircraft. According to the FAA, the action was necessary to prevent loss of the underwing fitting load path, which could result in separation of the engine.

In addition, on July 19 2004, the FAA issued an AD on the Boeing 747-100/B; 100B SUD; and -200B/C/F, -300, SR and SP aircraft equipped with Pratt & Whitney JT9D-3,-7-7Q and -7R4G2-series engines. The AD required drilling witness holes through the cowl skin at the cowl latch locations on the left side of the cowl panel assembly of each engine. The action is necessary to prevent the latch from disconnecting, which could result in separation of a cowl panel from the aircraft.

Henry Ford would agree that we need no more "Boeing Tri-Motor" incidents -- the venerable "Ford Tri-Motor" alone is just right four our history.

But when it comes to the increasing age of our air cargo fleets -- and the demands on them -- this is a serious & cautionary tale.

Boeing 747 Accidents In Summary - A Superior Record For 36 Years

... with over 1,400 built & over 27.7 billion miles flown. Thanks Bill Boeing!

* Hull-loss Accidents: 30 with a total of 2,843 fatalities

* Other occurrences: 6 with a total of 857 fatalities

* Hijackings: 29 with a total of 22 fatalities

The Dedication of This Feature Is Simple: To the air professionals, such as the crew of Kalitta Air Cargo Flight 825 who stake their lives upon reliability of the equipment.
A Cautionary Air Cargo Tale>> At the Air Line Pilots Assn.'s Air Safety Forum in late summer 2004, NTSB Chairman Ellen Engleman-Conners noted the NTSB had investigated 40 cargo accidents since 1984 and that, compared with passenger air transport, air cargo transport has 2-5 times the fatal accident rate and an average older fleet of 28 years for cargo compared with 7 average years for passenger. With the continued expansion of the air cargo industry & increasing number of older passenger plane conversions to cargo configuration -- new safety considerations arise.

SPECIAL NOTE: The historic dangers of carriage by air & sea continue to be quite real. Shippers must be encouraged to purchase high quality marine cargo insurance from their freight forwarder or customs brokerIt's dangerous out there.


Ford Tri-Motor
Ford Tri-Motor History

Ford Tri-Motor Organiation

Ford Tri-Motors -- where are they now

Tin Goose

747 Family of Aircraft

Boeing 747
Boeing 747 History

Boeing 747-100 & 200

Chasing The Sun

NASA Boeing 747 Photo Collection

Boeing 747 Events

William E. Boeing

Pratt & Whitney - established 1860

Pratt & Whiney's JT9D Engine

How The Turbofan Engine Works

Kalitta Air

Kalitta Air received Part 121 Air Carrier Certification by the Federal Aviation Administration in Nov. 2000. Kalitta Air is based in Ypsilanti, Michigan at Willow Run Airport and flies cargo internationally. Kalitta Air operates eleven (11) Boeing 747 airplanes to transport cargo worldwide. The company was founded by former drag-racing champion Conrad "Connie" Kalitta.

In the action movie Air Force One, Harrison Ford is cast as the president of the United States and Glenn Close as the vice president, but the surprise star of this movie was Kalitta Air freighter N703CK --a B747-146 , the 54th and the 3rd to enter the Japan Air Lines fleet after it rolled off the production line in June 1970.

Kalitta Air B747-100F, Tail #N709CK

Kalitta Air #N709CK - The "Boeing Tri-Motor"

Model ................... B747-132

Serial Number........ 20247

Yr. Manufacture..... Nov. 1971

Max Landing Wt.....  585,000

Max T/O ...............  750,000

Stage III ..............  734,000

Max Payload .........  215,220

Zero Fuel Wt..........  545,000

Navigation Units...  1 GPS 2 INS 1 AHSU

Cargo Capacity......  38-96x125

Loading System.....  Boeing

Cargo Door............  Boeing

Thanks To Our Contributor For The "The Boeing Tri-Motor" Feature:
The Doc - a huge supporter of our effort -- but he always remains Anonymous*
For so very many of our research projects & feature over the years - our The Doc has found material deemed un-findable.
* Anonymous contributor(s) who wish to be anonymous

Other of our "How Can They Really Fly?" features:
"On A Wing & A Prayer" - Jan. 2004

"White Planes Can't Jump" - at Kuala Lumpur! Oct. 2001

Continental Airlines "Meets" Gate 114 - exclusive photos! June 2000

Trans Arabian Air Transport Water Landing - Feb. 2000 Lake Victoria

See All The Features At Our Gallery

NOTE: Please Provide Us With Your Additional Information For This Loss.

EDITOR'S NOTE FOR SURVEYORS, ATTORNEYS & MARINE ADJUSTERS: The Internet edition effort of The Cargo Letter now celebrates it's 8th Year of Service -- making us quite senior in this segment of the industry. We once estimated container underway losses at about 1,500 per year. Lloyd's put that figure at about 10,000 earlier this year. Quite obviously, the reporting mechanism for these massive losses is not supported by the lines. News of these events is not posted to the maritime community. Our new project is to call upon you -- those handling the claims -- to let us know of each container loss at sea-- in confidentiality. Many of you survey on behalf of cargo interests with no need for confidentiality. Others work for the lines & need to be protected. As a respected Int'l publication, The Cargo Letter enjoys full press privileges & cannot be forced to disclose our sources of information. No successful attempt has ever been made. If a personal notation for your report is desired -- each contributor will be given a "hot link" to your company Website in each & every report. Please take moment & report your "overside" containers to us. If you do not wish attribution, your entry will be "anonymous." This will will benefit our industry -- for obvious reasons! McD

* NOTE: The Cargo Letter wants you to know that by keeping the identity of our contributors 100% Confidential, you are able to view our continuing series of "Cargo Disasters." Our friends send us materials which benefit the industry. The materials are provided to our news publication with complete and enforceable confidentiality for the sender. In turn, we provide these materials to you.  

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