STATUS: Active, Limited Service
MANUFACTURER(S): Ford Motor Company (Stout Metal Airplane Division) - USA
OPERATORS: Australia; Colombia; Canada; Cuba; Czechoslovakia; Dominican Republic; Mexico; Spain; United Kingdom; United States; Venezuela
LENGTH: 50.26 feet (15.32 meters)
WIDTH: 77.82 feet (23.72 meters)
HEIGHT: 12.63 feet (3.85 meters)
WEIGHT (EMPTY): 7,848 pounds (3,560 kilograms)
WEIGHT (MTOW): 13,492 pounds (6,120 kilograms)
ENGINE: 3 x Pratt & Whitney Wasp C 9-cylinder radial piston engines developing 420 horsepower each.
SPEED (MAX): 149 miles-per-hour (240 kilometers-per-hour; 130 knots)
RANGE: 550 miles (885 kilometers; 478 nautical miles)
CEILING: 18,504 feet (5,640 meters; 3.50 miles)
RATE-OF-CLIMB: 1,050 feet-per-minute (320 meters-per-minute)
Detailing the development and operational history of the Ford Trimotor Transport Aircraft / Passenger Airliner.
Entry last updated on 8/24/2018.
Authored by Staff Writer. Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com.
For a time in aviation history the "Tri-motor" aircraft proved popular for aviation enthusiasts, casual observers and passengers like. There were several major contributions to this aircraft class including Fokker's F.VII and Junkers' Ju 52 during the 1920s and 1930s. The Ford Motor Company of the United States, through their acquisition of the Stout Metal Airplane Company in 1925, added their own take on the triple-engine, high-winged concept and this became known simply as the "Ford Trimotor" covering several variants for both military and civilian use.
The Ford Trimotor held roots in work completed by William Stout and Hugo Junkers and originated in the early 1920s through a team financially headed by Henry Ford himself. This period gave rise to the Stout "3-AT" which first-flew in 1926 and encompassed a single three-engined (Curtiss-Wright powerplants) prototype. The design was progressively evolved and relied on corrugated metal skinning (using aluminum alloys) as pioneered by German engineer Hugo Junkers in his various World War 1 and post-war designs. Series introduction of the Ford product was had in 1926 and 199 examples were ultimately built for many air carriers as well as the United States Army Air Corps (USAAC), the United States Navy (USN) and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). Several legal defeats for Ford kept the Trimotor from being sold in Europe.
As completed (the 4-AT-E model) the aircraft could manage a top speed of over 130 miles per hour and cruised near 105 miles per hour. Range was out to 570 miles and its service ceiling reached 18,600 feet. Rate-of-climb was 920 feet-per-minute.
Production of Trimotors spanned from 1926 until 1933. The original 3-AT prototype had been followed by the 4-AT which served as a pre-series aircraft and carried 3 x wright J-4 Whirlwind air-cooled, radial piston engines of 200 horsepower. it could carry eight passengers along with its two crew. The 4-AT-B was an improved model and fourteen were built to the standard. The 4-AT-C emerged next and carried Pratt & Whitney Wasp radial engines of 400 horsepower each and held space for twelve passengers - though this aircraft was a one-off. The 4-AT-E was based on the 4-AT-B and given several revisions as well as different engines. It carried a crew of three and eleven passengers. The 4-AT-F was based on the 4-AT-E but its changes unknown.
The 5-AT-A was a dimensionally larger offering (wider wingspan) and powered by PW Wasp radial engines of 420 horsepower each. Thirteen passengers could be carried and three were built to the standard. The 5-AT-B was the 5-AT-A with PW Wasp C-1 or SC-1 radials of 420 horsepower fitted (each). It could carry fourteen and forty-one of the type were manufactured. The 5-AT-C was an improved form and carried seventeen while fifty-one were produced. The 5-AT-CS was a seaplane model, only one of its kind built, and fitted with float equipment provided by the Edo Aircraft Corporation.
Ford Trimotor (Cont'd)
Transport Aircraft / Passenger Airliner
The 5-AT-D introduced use of PW Wasp SC radials of 450 horsepower each and the wings were slightly elevated while overall weight was increased. Twenty of this kid were completed. The 5-AT-DS was another floatplane model and one was built. The 5-AT-E was a revised, proposed, variant which would have seated the wing engines at the leading edges in more conventional fashion.
The 6-AT-A was the 5-AT-A with Wright J-6-9 radial engines of 300 horsepower each. Three were built. The 6-AT-AS was the floatplane model ad only one of this form was completed.
The 7-AT-A was the 6-AT-A with a PW Wasp radial of 420 horsepower installed at the nose. The 8-AT was a one-off model based in the 5-AT-C and fitting just a single engine (in the nose) and mainly used for cargo-hauling. The 9-AT was the 4-AT-B with 3 x PW Wasp radials of 300 horsepower each. The 11-AT was the 4-AT-E with 3 x Packard DR-980 diesel units of 225 horsepower each. The 13-A was the 5-AT-D with a mixed engine arrangement encompassing 1 x Wright Cyclone radial of 575 horsepower in the nose and 2 x Wright J-6-9 Whirlwind engines of 300 horsepower at the wings. The 14-A carried 3 x Hispano-Suiza 18 Sbr engines of 1,000 horsepower each, was a dimensionally larger variant and could carry up to forty passengers.
Civilian operators included Colombia, Canada, Cuba, Czechoslovakia, the Dominican Republic, Mexico, the United States and Venezuela.
Various models were converted to military forms and fielded under various designations. The C-3A was a transport based in the 4-AT-E and the C-4 was the 4-AT-B. The 5-AT-D made up the C-4A and a re-engined version became the C-4B. The USN/USMC knew the Trimotor as the "JR" and included the JR-2 and JR-3 as well as various "RR" forms.
Military operators included Australia, Canada, Colombia, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.
Just eighteen Ford Trimotors are known today (2017) with some being airworthy and others having ended up as protected museum showpieces.
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Our Data Modules allow for quick visual reference when comparing a single entry against contemporary designs. Areas covered include general ratings, speed assessments, and relative ranges based on distances between major cities.
Relative Maximum Speed Rating
This entry's maximum listed speed (149mph).
Graph average of 112.5 miles-per-hour.
Graph showcases the Ford 5-AT Trimotor's operational range (on internal fuel) when compared to distances between major cities.
Useful in showcasing the era cross-over of particular aircraft/aerospace designs.
Unit Production Comparison
Comm. Market HI*: 44,000 units
Military Market HI**: 36,183 units