The friendly skies: Tin Goose bringing classic flight to Briscoe

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Paul Kelley remembers the ride that changed his life.

As a 12-year-old fascinated by flight, Kelley used the money his mother gave him for bus fare home to instead take a ride in a Tin Goose, a Ford Tri-Motor plane, the first used for Eastern Airline flights in Atlanta.

Then he had to hitchhike back home to Lawrenceville.

After a career in the Air Force and as Eastern Airlines' chief pilot in Atlanta, Kelley, now 84, got another chance Thursday to fly in a 1929 Tri-Motor, for a 10-minute cruise over his hometown.

"I can't believe how much it's changed since I grew up here. The landscape, it was all country," he said, after watching numerous subdivisions, Coolray Field and the Mall of Georgia through the windows of the plane.

One of only 199 made, the historic plane, which was featured in the 1965 Jerry Lewis movie "The Family Jewels," will be open for flights from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. this weekend at Briscoe Field.

A Tri-Motor was also the first plane to carry Sam Bass, a former Delta pilot who took the controls of the Tin Goose Thursday.

"I guess it's the history (that I love). I was born after this airplane, obviously, but I can associate with it," he said after turning off the plane's three engines. "It's a fun airplane. ... At the time it was the queen of the fleet."

The metal plane -- which was rebuilt after a 1973 windstorm destroyed it -- has nine seats for passengers, plus a pilot and co-pilot. With wood paneling and a lot more leg room than current commercial flights, passengers can watch the whirring side engines as well as the pilot, who has to manually crank the trim and push the throttle.

Flights are available for $50 for members of the Experimental Aircraft Association and $60 for non-members. A secure flight-reservation system and complete information are available through EAA's Tri-Motor tour website at www.flytheford.org.

Also this weekend, the local chapter of EAA will host a barbecue dinner Saturday benefiting the EAA's youth activities. Seating is limited and reservations are required. Tickets are $20 per person in advance or $25 at the door with reservations. For more information or reservations, call Lnor Levine at 678-770-1877 or e-mail lnor_l@bellsouth.net.