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ALBERT LEA, MN — Those at the Albert Lea Municipal Airport did not let the Saturday morning rain dampen their spirits.
They held a unique ribbon cutting ceremony for some improvements that have been done to the airport and they brought in an old plane to celebrate the occasion.
After helping to push the plane out of the hangar area leaders climbed aboard for a quick flight.
“At that height and with that speed, you can really get an appreciation for all of the beauty of these lakes and the community,” said Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen.
He had a unique seat for this flight as the co-pilot.
“That’s a different experience; I’ve never had that one before. I had a lot of fun up there. You really get to hear some of the interactions with the pilot and that’s a lot of fun,” Rasmussen said.
“The airplane is big and it’s loud and it’s slow, but what a great airplane to fly,” said Jim Hanson, Manager at the Albert Lea Municipal Airport.
The 1929 Ford Tri-Motor Airplane is in Albert Lea as part of a grand opening ceremony and no grand opening is complete without a ribbon cutting. In this case the plane’s propellers took the place of scissors.
“We wanted to do something different for our grand opening and said, how much better could we have it then to go back and took what was past I guess and what’s the future and brought in the airliner of the past and that’ll open up the airport for the future,” Hanson said.
Hanson has special ties to this plane. 50 years ago he was able to fly it with Max Conrad, the famous pilot from Winona.
“I was inspired I guess to do my own aviation career and I’ve done flights all over the world to 78 countries plus Antarctica and Max Conrad is in the Aviation Hall of Fame and now I am too,” Hanson said.
You do not have to be in the hall of fame to enjoy a flight on this plane. Many are joining the likes of John Travolta and Harrison Ford by boarding a piece of history.
“I think it’s really nostalgic. I think it really shows the future coming back to the past and I think those planes paved the way for this type of operation to happen,” Rasmussen said.
If that sounds like something you want to do it is still not too late. You can check it out at the airport for free through Sunday. Otherwise if you want to get up in the air it is $75 for adults and $50 for children.
There were 199 of these planes built and only 18 still exist. Ten of those are in museums and while eight can still be flown, only two of them are able to offer rides to the public.