What is a Trimotor?

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  • Written By: Lori Kilchermann
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Images By: n/a, Jetpics
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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A trimotor airplane is a piston-driven or jet-propelled aircraft using three motors or engines. First used in early propeller-driven aircraft, the trimotor design placed an engine on each wing and one mounted in the center on the plane's nose. Used in a vast array of designs from mail carrying airplanes to cargo and passenger planes, the trimotor design proved to be a safe and worthy aircraft. Typical jet applications of the trimotor design have a jet engine mounted on each wing and one in the tail; some versions, however, use an engine on each side of the tail with a third engine placed higher in the tail and centered over the fuselage.

One of the most popular trimotor airplanes manufactured in the 1920s and 1930s came from the Ford Motor Company. The American-made Ford trimotor airplane was used worldwide for cargo and passenger service. Using three large radial-type piston engines and propellers made of wood or aluminum, the Ford trimotor proved to be a valuable and reliable airplane design. The Ford airplane, affectionately called "The Tin Goose," was used in several military applications in many different countries around the world. The trust bestowed on the aircraft by so many military branches around the globe gave testimonial to the dependability of the trimotor design.


The Fokker manufacturing company created another famous three-engined airplane which became involved in a bit of controversy that continues to surround the plane and its crew. Admiral Richard Byrd, acting as navigator along with pilot Floyd Bennett, claim to have reached the North Pole in 1926 flying a Fokker built trimotor airplane. The feat, while questioned by some, proved the reliability of the design when used in extreme weather conditions. Based on the Ford design, the Fokker aircraft also proved to be a dependable aircraft and found service worldwide.

The Ford company may have begun the three-engine plane popularity, but companies such as Boeing and Douglass brought the design into the jet age. Popular with commercial passenger service, jet-engine equipped aircraft featuring three tail-mounted engines fly all around the world offering safe and reliable flights. Passengers are able to enjoy relaxed accommodations aboard the triple jet-engine equipped aircraft that the early Ford aircraft engineers could not have envisioned. Heat, air conditioning and in-flight movies are coupled with ice cold beverages, steaming hot coffee and piping hot meals, all offered while traveling several hundred times faster than the old propeller aircraft.


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