Ford Trimotor
Ford Trimotor
Collecton of Gus Huey, 6-10-07

Ford Trimotor
Contributed by Toni Naccache, 5-17-11
daughter of Linley Wright
My First Airplane Ride
By Linley Wright
     "Bring Grandma, Bring Grandpa, Everybody fly, Airplane Rides 50 cents. Topeka Kansas Airport, Ford Tri-motor, Ben Gregory, pilot." This was the ad in the local paper in 1936. Airplane rides were normally only $1.00, but we couldn't afford that due to the "depression." But 50 cents! My mother said yes, we would go! After Mr. Beaudry, my Sunday school teacher, gave us a ride out to Topeka Airport and we saw Topeka from the air, I wanted to make my career as an airplane pilot.
     Later I went out to the airport on weekends and sold tickets for airplane rides for a local pilot, Bill Calderwood. I got free rides and some flight instruction. Most of all, "I was in aviation!" Later Topeka Flying Service employed me as their “gas boy”. They let me fly the plane for the cost of gas, which was $2.00 an hour. I also had a Daily Capitol newspaper route (Capper's Publications), which helped to allow me to get more flying, and I made my first solo.
     As part of the WWII preparation, the Civilian Pilot Training program started. I enrolled in CPT as part of Washburn College and still worked as a "gas boy" at the airport. After Pearl Harbor, I went into full time training. I obtained my Commercial and Flight Instructor License. Then I was sent to Uvalde, Texas, as a flight instructor for the Army Air Corps. Later I was transferred to Ft. Worth, Texas.
     Then in 1944 I transferred to the Ferry Command and was commissioned as a Flight Officer Pilot. I was sent to the China-Burma-India theatre. In India I was a "Hump" pilot flying B-24, C87 four engine airplanes over the Himalayan Mountains to China.
     After WWII, I went back to flight instructing in Ft. Worth, Texas, married a Texas girl, and started a new life as a "pilot." Since flight instructing was not very high pay, I went back to flight school in Ft. Worth and obtained my Airline Transport Pilot rating in 1947. This gave me the opportunity to go to work for Pioneer Airline in Houston, Texas flying DC-3 aircraft. In 1953 Continental Airline bought Pioneer. We all became CAL pilots, and eventually advanced up into jet aircraft. I retired in 1981 while flying the DC-10 to Australia.
      I have owned and restored several "old airplanes" throughout the years flying them just for fun. Since that first ride for 50 cents, I've had several more rides in a Ford Tri-motor. The price also went up quite a bit to $1.00, $5.00, and $50.00. Finally in May 2000, one of my daughters and I paid $350.00 each to get 8 minutes of flight instruction in one, just to be able to say, "Yes, I flew a Ford Tri-motor!"

Via email from Jim Brink, 3-5-04
     The photo of the Ford Tri-Motor brought back many fond memories. I flew co-pilot for Ben Gregory in his Ford from Fairfax Airport, KC, Ks., in 1938. (That's my story now....actually I sold tickets, 50 cents a ride, and got either 10 cents or a free ride.) I took the free ride and got in the co-pilots seat, Ben knew me well and let me pilot the plane over KC for the riders to see the city. About 20 minutes per ride.)
     I sure wish I could tell more about Ben Gregory. The only thing I remember for sure, is him telling about his flying experiences in China in which he said, "If you ever go there be sure to take your own woman because all the ones there have VD."
     I spent quite a bit of time one summer when he was "polishing" the Ford, He had a buffer on an electric motor and would go up and down the corrugations to clean them. I have wondered later if that was a good idea, knowing how aluminum immediately forms another layer of oxide.
Best regards,

via email from Tom Williams, 11-14-05
     For some odd reason, Ben Gregory came to mind while I was driving to work this morning. I grew up on North Garfield and left Kansas City in 1966 when I joined the Navy.
     Ben Gregory was a neighbor and never hesitated to spend time showing off his red sports car. I can still see it in my mind today. It was made of fiberglass. The doors were very thick and heavy. He took me under his wing for a couple of summers, or at least he was never too busy when I would come to visit.
     He was one of those unforgettable characters we all have in our childhood memory banks.
     If you know where I could obtain more information about Ben Gregory and his car, I would appreciate it. A picture of the car would be great.
Thanks for your time.
Tom Williams
AutoGraphic Publishing
Editor's Note: If you can help Tom with his quest for information and perhaps even a picture of the car, please contact him at his email address or his phone number. Thank you

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