Very readable volumes about the Grand Central Air Terminal are these books:

Underwood, John. 1984. Madcaps, Millionaires and 'Mose'. Heritage Press, Glendale, CA. 144pp.


Underwood, John. 2007. Grand Central Air Terminal. Arcadia Publishing. Charleston, SC. 127pp.


Everything you ever wanted to know about the Ford tri-motor series is in William L. Larkins' 1957 book, The Ford Story: A Pictorial History of the Ford Tri-Motor. Robert R. Longo Company. Wichita, KS. 178pp.


Thanks to Guest Editor Bob Woodling for help researching this page.


the register


I'm looking for information and photographs of this airplane to include on this page. If you have some you'd like to share, please click this FORM to contact me.






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Albuquerque Journal (NM), September 8, 1930 (Source: Woodling)


This airplane was a model 5-AT-C, S/N 5-AT-89. It was purchased initially by H.H. Timken of the Timken Roller Bearing Company of St. Louis, MO. Timken owned and operated the airplane from 1930-1931.

Massillon, OH Evening Independent, March 3, 1930 (Source: Woodling)
Massillon, OH Evening Independent, March 3, 1930 (Source: Woodling)



NC429H is logged once in the Grand Central Air Terminal (GCAT) Register on Thursday, May 14, 1931 at 9:34AM. It seemingly carried only the pilot and co-pilot and neither were identified. Neither were their home base and destination identified. If there were passengers, they could have been the Timkens, because, coincidentally, NC429H was also logged at the Davis-Monthan Airfield in Tucson, AZ April 20, 1931 with Mr. & Mrs. Timken as passengers. Although not a certainty, with the Tucson and GCAT landings only three weeks apart, the visits could be part of the same itinerary if the Timkens were on an extended business or pleasure trip.

Timken and his airplane made the news at least twice. On March 3, 1930, the Massillon (OH) Evening Independent, above, left, announced that Timken had gifted the airplane to his son, H.H. Timken, Jr.

Six months later, on September 8, 1930, the Albuquerque Journal (NM), right, reported the airplane departing the airport there with Timken, his sons and others aboard headed for "the coast." Coincidentally, nine days later on September 17, 1930, the airplane and six unidentified passengers appeared in the Oxnard Field Register (the original Albuquerque airfield, now the site of Kirtland Air Force Base). They had arrived from Los Angeles and their destination cited a return to Los Angeles. The Oxnard Field Register is not represented by a Web site yet.

The young Timken didn't keep the airplane for long. Next, NC429H sold to Shell Oil Aviation of St. Louis, which operated it from 1932-1934. Below, from the Larkin reference (page 70) in the left sidebar, is a photograph of NC429H in Shell livery. Notice that the starboard (and, we assume, the port) engine had a Townend ring (the metal cowling) installed over the engine. This was a speed modification that gave the airplane a few more miles per hour.

Ford 5-AT-C NC429H, Circa 1932-1934 (Source: Larkin)
Ford 5-AT-C NC429H, Circa 1932-1934 (Source: Larkin)

Another photograph of NC429H, below, shows it after an unfortunate incident at the East Boston (MA) Airport. Note to Townend rings on the outboard engines. Curiously, this noseover appeared to occur in soft substrate. Note the right half-buried, and the nose engine and starboard engine propellers are partially buried. No real damage is visible. At least four newsboys survey the scene, which is guarded by a police officer.

Ford 5-AT-C NC429H, 1933 (Source: Link via Woodling)
Ford 5-AT-C NC429H, 1933 (Source: Link via Woodling)

NC429H was transferred to the Columbian Air Force in November 1935. Another, smaller, photograph appears in Larkin (page 94) of 429H in New York City with the Shell markings painted over, awaiting its flight to Columbia. Columbia operated more Ford tri-motors than any other South American country (total somewhere near 18).

The fate of NC429H was described as follows at the link (translated from Spanish), "..... on August 27, 1941, airplane 644 took off at 3:05 pm from Tarapacá, while serving a monthly service flight from Tres Esquinas to the southern bases. Hours before, the plane had left Leticia and was preparing to cover the last leg of return. Commander was Major Alvaro Almeida and carried 15 passengers, among whom was Lieutenant Guillermo Nieto Muñoz. Between Tarapacá and La Pedrera, seven minutes after taking off, the radio operator of the plane reaches to transmit the following message: 'We are falling on the jungle S.O...." 

On September 3, 1941, a lengthy article appeared in El Tiempo about a Colombian senate inquiry into the crash. The article states that "644" was built in 1929 and entered Colombian service in 1936. There was speculation that the flight crew mis-managed the fuel tanks which led to the left and right engines quitting. They estimated that the plane crashed with 128 gallons of fuel on board, which explained its destruction by fire. Three passengers survived and subsequently built a small raft and floated down a nearby river to be rescued. A search plane on floats ultimately picked them up.

While it's hard to believe that an airplane that sustained a nose-first crash in a remote jungle could have been salvaged, it appears that it was. According to Larkins, it operated in Nicaragua during 1942. The airplane was sold to an owner in Honduras as of October 15, 1942. Its registration numbers, from the U.S. through Columbia and finally to Honduras, were: NC429H --> Colombia (644)? -> AN-AAD (Nicaragua) --> XH-TAI in Honduras. After it moved to Honduras I could find no further information. If you know what happened to NC429H, please let me KNOW.



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THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 03/02/16 REVISED: 03/03/16, 04/15/18