After his success with the Ford Trimotor helped get commercial passenger aviation going as an industry, Henry Ford turned to general aviation, private planes, hoping to make a “Model T of the Air”, with a target price of just $500. After William Stout and William Mayo, the two men in charge of Ford’s airplane division told their boss they wanted nothing to do with the project, Ford turned to Otto Koppen. Koppen was a young MIT trained aeronautical engineer who had hired into Stout Metal Airplane Company, which produced the Trimotor. Henry Ford was unhappy the way the Trimotor’s tail-dragging skid tore up the sod at Ford Airport in Dearborn and he was pleased with Koppen’s design for a tail wheel. Ford told him that he wanted a plane that fit in his own office, and the first Ford Flivver was 15 feet long with a 22 foot wingspan. There were between 3 and 5 prototypes made, but only two pilots took them up, Harry Brooks, who was the Trimotor’s test pilot, and Charles Lindbergh, who flew it as a publicity stunt after his transatlantic flight. Brooks loved the little plane but Lindbergh said it was one of the worst planes he ever flew. The fact that Brooks crashed and died while flying the Flivver to Miami after setting a non-stop record, causing Ford to abandon the project, didn’t do much for the Flivver’s reputation. That crash, though, was the result of Brooks forgetting to remove some wooden plugs he’d inserted in the fuel cap vents to prevent condensation of water in the fuel system when the plane sat overnight.
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