Thursday, April 30, 2015

A Stout Ford

The history of Bill Stout's business efforts are deeply interwoven with those of Henry and Edsel Ford, which is reflected in today's photo of this Stout Airways Ford Trimotor.

Inscribed on the back: Mr. Jos. Andrews, Chicago, 8-1929.

Stout Air Services, established by William Stout in 1925, operated under a number of names, including the Detroit-Grand Rapids Airline and Detroit-Cleveland Airline as well as Stout Airways, Bill Stout originally designed the "Air Pullman", the forerunner to the Ford Trimotor, and then sold his aircraft manufacturing operation to Ford, while retaining his airline operation. And it shouldn't be confused with the Ford Air Transport Services, Ford's own airline, also established in 1925 and which started off flying Stout-built planes. Stout carried passengers, while Ford carried Ford car parts (at first) and then airmail starting in 1926. In 1928, Stout bought Ford's airmail contracts (CAM-6, Detroit-Cleveland and CAM-7, Detroit-Chicago).

On April 29, 1929, Bill Stout cashed out, selling the line to United Aircraft and Transport Corp, who was going around the country gobbling up small carriers left and right. United continued operating the service under the Stout brand, however. In September 1930, as part of the big corporate shell game that United was playing, another carrier they'd just purchased, National Air Transport "bought" the Stout division from the parent company. A year later, all these little airlines were rolled up into the new United Airlines.

Because this photo doesn't show the plane's registration number, it's hard to know which plane it is, as Stout operated at least six 4-AT Trimotors (as well as several later 5-ATs, but this photo shows the 4-AT windshield configuration). According to Larkin's The Ford Trimotor, the planes were:

  • 4-AT-5, NC-1879, which carried Stout fleet tail number 3. It operate from 6/23/27 to 5/12/31.
  • 4-AT-8, NC-880, tail #6, from 2/18/28 until it crashed on 10/13/28 at Detroit.
  • 4-AT-9, NC-1076, from 10/6/27 to 1/16/29 when it crashed near Toledo, OH.
  • 4-AT-18, NC-4806, from 5/10/28 to 11/7/30.
  • 4-AT-28, NC-6892, from 8/17/28 to 11/7/30.
  • 4-AT-34, NC-7120, tail #9, from 9/14/28 to /1/13/31
Since 4-AT-8 and -9 both crashed before our photo was taken, the plane shown is either 4-AT-5, -18, -28 or -34.

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