This airplane is a Ford trimotor S/N 5-AT-89. It was manufactured during December, 1929 by the Stout Metal Airplane Company, Ford Airport, Dearborn, MI. It weighed 13,500 pounds when it left the factory with three Pratt & Whitney engines of unidentified horsepower (serial numbers [L] 1932, [C] 2000, [R] 2002). It was a twelve-place airplane named "Comte de la Vaulx". It was first flown on January 20, 1930. The NASM data sheet is here (PDF 1.2MB).
It's about this time we see the airplane. NC428H arrived at Tucson just after lunch on Tuesday, February 11, 1930 flown by Larry Fritz. He carried five passengers identified as William B. Mayo, Erle P. Halliburton, Mr. & Mrs. N. Graham, and Glen Hopping. Based at Detroit, MI, they were westbound from Detroit to Los Angeles, CA.
At the time of this landing, Fritz was vice-president in charge of operations for the SAFEway
Air Lines. Passenger Halliburton founded SAFEway earlier in 1929. Passenger Mayo was head of Ford's Aircraft Division. No purpose was given in the Register for this flight.
Soon after its landing at Tucson, the airplane's outboard engines were lowered 6 inches and wheel pants were installed as of October 6, 1930, and an export certificate, E-380, was issued March 11, 1931. It sold to the Ford Motor Company, Ltd., London, England on May 3, 1931. They, in turn, sold it to Prince Bibesco, Bucharest, Roumania. It was registered in Roumania as CV-FAI. Bibesco was president of the Federation Aeronautique Internationale, the initials of which were incorporated in the registration. It was named for a former president of the FAI.
The airplane was fitted with a special interior, including leather upholstery, lavatory and kitchen. It was taken on an extensive European tour in 1931, and another to the Far East. It suffered an accident on April 17, 1931 near Mihinia, India. The airplane hit a vulture in flight and in the ensuing forced landing, it turned over and burned. Four occupants, including Bibesco, escaped with varied injuries. There is no data on the NASM data sheet as to the final fate of the airplane.
This clear, wintry photograph is shared with us by site visitor Javier Delucca. Note the wheel pants and, on the side of the fuselage below the cockpit, the external cables and bellcrank for the flight controls. Although the exact date is unknown, it is probably after the wheel pants were installed in October, 1930, and before it was registered in Roumania in March, 1931.
Ford NC428H, Date & Location Unidentified
UPLOADED: 06/26/09 REVISED: 01/29/10, 02/15/10