For about a year now I have been working with an archivist I hired to try and organize all the stuff I’ve saved over the years including; pictures, trophies, artifacts, clothing, etc.
One of the great finds were in slides my father had taken when I was a little kid that I had NEVER seen before. He was an amateur photographer and passed away in 2006. My mother was always worried about what to do with all the slides that he took . . . about 100,000 of them!
Since I now had an archivist on staff, I stepped up to the plate for the family and brought everything up from Miami to Fantasy of Flight. My car was totally loaded with every seat packed to the ceiling.
My Suburban loaded down with my Dad’s slides! The picture is of his mother who used to entertain the troops singing and dancing in WWI like Bob Hope did in WWII.
My dad took a lot of nature photography, animals, and artistic scenes and made a calendar for many years with his best pics. I knew there would be a lot of those types of pictures but was hoping for some family shots as well. I was not to be disappointed!
Here’s a shot of me as a baby. I had never seen picture until now!
There were a good number of other great shots that I had never seen before of me and my family.
Here, a young Kermit plays Peek a Boo for Dad the Cameraman!
Recently, we brought everything I had saved from everywhere to one spot and began the process of trying to organize things in some fashion. I can’t believe all that I’ve collected over the years and now realize I will need more space to properly store it. It’s amazing how seeing items can bring back a flood of memories.
I will continue to collect stuff for my personal archives as well as for Fantasy of Flight and am beginning to think there will always be job security for my archivist!
I recently got the shipment of my first printing (5000 copies) of my new illustrated children’s book The Sprit of Lindy just in time to sell them at the Reno Air Races!
Putting out signs to promote sales at Reno!
The new book includes characters from my first book All of Life is a School and two new ones – a Dehavilland Mailplane named Geoffrey D. H., and Lindy, who represents the Spirit of St. Louis.
In the story, the characters hear about the Prize for the first plane to fly non-stop between New York and Paris and decide to build a plane that will do it. As with the first book, we all learn a valuable life lesson by the end.
Aside from taking some artistic license with the Lindy being built by airplanes at Fantasy of Flight in Florida, it is actually very historically accurate in many of the details, including “Lindy” being visited by spirits that helped guide and encourage him at a very low point on his Journey.
My set-up in the entrance of the Main Merchandise Tent!
I decided not to sell books at Reno the last two years because I wanted to get my new book out. I had already sold over 500 All of Life is a School books a year there for two years and wanted to come back with something new.
While I also sold a number of All of Life is a School this year, most of the sales were for The Sprit of Lindy and I bettered my total sales from previous years; selling over 600 books! I also had 100 each of the Puff and Zee plush, which were very popular and totally sold out!
Ready for action with books and plush!
The artwork is great and I am VERY proud of how this new book came out. I included some questions on the back that are chronological to the story where the readers can not only have fun discovering the answers, but learn a little history in the process.
I you have a cute kid, know a cute kid, or ARE a cute kid, you can order The Spirit of Lindy online at https://www.fantasyofflight.com/store/index.asp?cid=9
Something recently told me to get my Lockheed Vega flying! I’m not sure where the message came from but it seems like a great idea!
I purchased the Vega from Dave Jameson, several months after Hurricane Andrew ripped the Miami Weeks Air Museum apart on August 24, 1992. I must have been feeling sorry for myself? :-)
We begin the disassembly process!
While digging out from the destruction, it continued to be displayed at the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, WI. By the time it made it to Florida for Fantasy of Flight’s grand opening in 1995, it had not flown for over a decade. At the time, we had other things to worry about and since it looked great we just assembled it for display.
Wing coming off!
Over the years, the original 500 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine was replaced by a bigger and later 600 hp version from an AT-6 Texan with a constant speed propellor. It’s my intent to restore it back to the original early-style engine and ground adjustable propellor. Because of the engine conversion, the instrument panel began to reflect later-style instruments and the plan will be to put everything back to as original as possible.
Nice shot of the disassembly from above.
Also, the wheels and brakes were upgraded and fiberglass wheelpants installed. We haven’t looked into whether or not the original wheels are available, or even if it originally had brakes (It may have originally been built with a tailskid), but brakes will be needed for sure. I acquired an original set of wheel pants from the Tallmantz Collection purchase in 1985 that we will try and salvage or use as a pattern for new ones. Dave Jameson may have actually purchased this Vega from Tallmantz, so we might be reuniting them after all these years!
First load – the Wing!
The Vega will be upgraded and made airworthy by Kevin Kimball and his shop about an hour away from Fantasy of Flight in Mt. Dora, FL. They do great work and have produced several award winning vintage aircraft restorations from this period.
Currently, it’s my intent to keep it in the colors of the Winnie Mae and use it one day as a character in my illustrated children’s book series starring many of the famous planes from the Golden Age of Aviation. His name will be Wiley and, of course, just might find himself with a patch over one windscreen!
Second load – Bye, Bye Vega!
During the process of talking to Kevin about the restoration, I found out he has always had the dream of making a mold to produce the fuselage which was used in the making of not only the Vega but the Orion, Sirius, Altair and Air Express!
Never to have been one to be satisfied with just one model of a type, I couldn’t help but think, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a set!” We’ll see.
This last April, it was finally time to bring our Douglas C-47 home and finish the trip that started last summer in southern England. We recently completed a new storage facility that allowed us to make some room and get it inside. I grabbed some of the crew from last summer and headed north to Oshkosh where we had left it on display in the EAA Museum. By the time we arrived, it had been moved over to the Flight Research Hangar where we could begin working on it.
Back to a familiar place!
Once we got there, we did a quick survey of everything and got started.
About to begin!
Over the course of the next few days, we installed the charged batteries, re-installed the GPS, began inspections, did gear swings . . .
Preparing to cycle the Landing Gear
and began loading up what we needed to take home.
Once completed, we pushed it out into gorgeous weather to fuel it and prepared to make some smoke and noise.
Ready to Run!
The engines ran great and it looked as if we were getting close to flying. The other pilot that crossed the Atlantic with me, Verne Jobst, was on stand-by a couple hours away but, unfortunately, had recently had some minor eye surgery and found out at the last minute he was not legal to make the trip. Bummer! I called Frank Moss in Florida, the father of Glen Moss, who had flown across the Atlantic with us last summer. Frank and his kids run a DC-3 operation in Florida and is very qualified. He was willing to help us and arrived the next day.
Unfortunately, after Frank arrived, we learned we were not legal to fly on the annual inspection we had done. We needed to have an inspection program by approved our local Florida FAA! This wasn’t something that was going to happen overnight. Our only option was to request a ferry permit from the FAA to get home and sort out the proper paperwork later. Unfortunately for us, it was Friday afternoon and the offices were closed!
Sadly, some of our crew went home the next day, as we could only legally fly with “essential crew only” on the ferry permit. We hung around over the weekend making small tweaks to the airplane and visiting the EAA museum. Monday morning came and we soon had our permit in hand.
Unfortunately, the weather was about to move in but not before we got a short flight in. While the weather was somewhat marginal, everything checked out fine.
We got out the next day before more weather moved in but still had weather south of us. This forced us to head out across Lake Michigan to try and get around the east side of it.
Heading across Lake Michigan!
Crossing the last major water body from England, we dodged some weather in Indiana and eventually broke out into gorgeous weather.
Dodging weather in Indiana!
Flying through the mountains north of Atlanta
After about six hours of flying, we stopped for the night in Douglas, GA where we hooked up with some other warbird owners. The next day was absolutely beautiful for our last leg to Fantasy of Flight. We delayed our take-off to arrive in time for our daily Airplane of Day display at 1:30 pm. Our Grand Arrival was greeted by many supporters and employees, as well as a couple of newspapers and news stations.
The final crew, finally home! Frank Moss, myself, and Wayne Root.
It was great to be home and I want to thank everyone that helped make our trip a successful and memorable one. We met a lot of new friends along the way and each of us now has a lot of great stories to tell.
It’s interesting how life can be full of surprises. Just over a year ago, I didn’t even know this airplane existed and now its safely on display at Fantasy of Flight. A year ago, I never would have dreamed I would be crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a C-47 and would became the reason for me to finally get my instrument rating last January.
Pop, Pop, fizz, fizz . . . Oh, what a relief it is!
Once we get the final FAA approval, I’ll get my type-rating and look forward to showing it off! One thing is for certain, this will be one adventure I will never forget!
One of my mechanics recently found a really old spark plug in our spare parts that was apparently made by the “Wizard” Spark Plug Company. He brought it to one of our aircraft meetings and presented it to me because of the “Wizard of Orlampa” title of a DVD years ago that’s for sale in our gift shop.
I immediately got the idea to create a little stand for it, which another mechanic made for me. The spark plug combined with our mission statement, Light that Spark Within, now resides on my office desk!
A Wizard of an Idea!
Light that Spark Within refers to the potential that lies within each and everyone of us as it manifests into reality. Kind of like the Universe coming from a Big Bang singularity.
Flight is the most profound metaphor of pushing our boundaries,reaching beyond ourselves, and freedom: not only in the world around us but also within, for we each, in our own way, can relate to reaching for sky and reaching for the stars as well as soaring in our imagination and flying in our dreams. This will be the Fantasy of Flight future concept and product, where people self-discovery themselves for themselves through entertainment as they Light that Spark Within! Now how cool is that!
Our 1932 Pitcairn Pa-18 Autogiro has finally arrived from a Museum in Ohio and is now on display at Fantasy of Flight! It’s powered by a 90 hp Kinner engine and has a maximum speed of about 95 mph.
The Pitcairn arrives!
I had seen this aircraft first at Oshkosh several years ago and then after the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In when it was flown over and disassembled in our Fantasy of Flight hangars before heading back north. I remember mentioning to the owners that if they ever wanted to sell it to give me a call. Well, that day came last summer and we quickly cut a deal!
The Assembly Process
Once it was all put together, it was time for the final inspections, paperwork, checking the oil, and fueling.
Fueling and final preparations.
Andrew King, who had been the only person flying it and who used to work for me in Miami, went up for a twenty-minute test-flight and put it through its paces. It was the first time I had ever seen an original autogiros fly and it is surely a sight to behold! Here’s a link to a video clip of Andrew’s test-flight.
After Andrew landed, we all looked it over carefully and put some more fuel in it. I jumped in the front passenger seat and, after Andrew took-off, he handed me the flight controls. It was a bit different than what I expected and tended to jump around a bit. When I asked Andrew this, he said it had been smoother early on and that maybe there was a blade out of track.
Here’s a link to a video clip of my view from the front seat. This was all happening during the Sun ‘n Fun Splash-In at Fantasy of Flight and you can see the activity on the lakeshore as I pan over that way with the camera.
Once we landed, we swapped seats and it was my turn! This was a first for me and a first for Andrew, as he had only flown from the back where MOST OF THE CONTROLS WERE! Talk about trust!
I taxied down to the end of the runway, spooled the rotor up to about 90 rpm, unset the parking brake, disconnected the clutch that spins of the rotor so it will free-wheel, added the power, and off we went! It needs to move forward on the runway a bit like an airplane to get the rotor blade speed up to about 125 rpm where it lifts off.
We climbed up and did some maneuvers, one of which I thought would be a bit disconcerting for your average airplane pilot. I slowed down to zero airspeed, held the stick back all the way, and came down vertically like a parachute! The rotor continues to spin because of autorotation! Then when you kick in the rudder, the wing drops and it starts to spin! Whooa!
After some more airwork I landed in about 40 feet and then did two more take-off’s and landings to get comfortable. While I have a helicopter rating and would feel perfectly comfortable flying it, the FAA says I still need to get an autogiro rating. Talk about incentive!
The post-flight Hero Shot with Andrew, Myself, and friend Richard Bach!
The whole experience was an amazing flashback into aviation history and I’m excited about getting my rating and start flying it. Of course, after we track the blades!
As part of the deal, they surprised me with a book on its history and restoration, a flying suit like Andrew had been wearing, and my very own autogiro hat! Hey, maybe I can practice running around the ramp with just the hat! :-)
A Happy New Owner with all the Accessories!
I think it will make a great future character for my illustrated children’s book series as Pretty Polly Pitcairn and expect that she will probably pair up with my other autogiro Juan de la Cierva!
It now seems I have some incentive to get Juan, a Cierva C-30, down from the rafters and restored! Come on out and check them out!
We now have two new Sikorsky’s on display at Fantasy of Flight!
The first is a Sikorsky S-39. It had been on loan for a period of time but is now part of the collection! It made its debut to the public at the Sun ‘n Fun Splash-In that was hosted at Fantasy of Flight this past March.
Coming in over the trees!
Recovered from the Alaskan bush and rebuilt by Dick Jackson over 40 years and 40,000 man hours, it is the only example of its kind flying in the world. To my knowledge there are only three or four known to exist.
It's great on the water!
Dick brought the aircraft down several years ago for the Splash-In and left it on display for about six months. I couldn’t help but want to see it on permanent display and after the event we cut a long-term deal to purchase it. The aircraft is now part of the collection and is a joy to fly as well as operate on the water.
In its element!
It is truly a work of art and must be seen up close to be appreciated.
The next cool Sikorsky to arrive is an S-55 Helicopter!
A Grand Old Lady!
It was used in New York Airways as part of the first ever helicopter airline service in the early 1950′s and flew passengers between New York and the three surrounding airports – La Guardia, Newark and Idlewild (now JKF).
It’s powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine that is similar to what is used in the WWII N.A. AT-6 Texan Trainer. It won’t fly anytime soon but I’ve been offered parts to help in the restoration from a local business that does turbine conversions. This one though . . . will stay as it is!
I’m hoping the S-55 will be seen by the public when we open our “Golden Hill” Storage Facility tour at Fantasy of Flight in a few months.
I finally got to fly my Benny Howard “IKE” replica a couple of times recently, but not before a few setbacks. It took us forever to sort out a brake problem, and then I had to figure out a way to fit in!
“Benny” is a character that shows up in my first illustrated children’s book called All of Life is a School that uses Golden Age airplanes to help tell the story.
Coming 'round a pylon!
The builder of this airplane, Kim Kovach, and the original pilot, were both smaller than me. I believe the original pilot flew barefoot while Kim modified a pair of shoes to get in. So I took his advice, grabbed an old pair of sneakers, and headed to the wood shop.
Modifying an old pair of sneakers!
After grinding off the heels down and sawing the toes off, I found that I could get in and operate the brakes without a problem. There’s not much room to spare, as I find my toes tickling the bottom of the fuel tank!
Heels and Toes ready for Action!
As in the original, your heels and butt actually go down below the floorboards. I had to wrap up a towel for a lumbar support so I could lean back and get my head down into the cockpit as well, which raised my knees to just below the panel and somewhat in the way of the throttle.
The only modification Kim made to the original dimensions was to extend the 18-inch fuselage width at the instrument panel back to the rear of the cockpit where your shoulders are. Without it, and even with my shoulders rolled forward and inward, I just barely fit. It’s hard to believe the original shoulder dimension was only 15 inches!
One of the things that became immediately apparent was how rough it taxies on my grass runways. As per the original, there is NO shock absorption built into the landing gear! Oh well . . . that’s the way it was so that’s the way I’ll fly it!
Currently, after about twenty minutes flying it, my arms and legs start to go to sleep so I end up landing sooner than I’d like. I don’t see any cross-country’s in my future but will keep trying to find a way to make it more comfortable.
The original racer had an impossible to find 6-cylinder Menasco engine so this one has an almost as hard to find 4-cylinder Menasco with two dummy stacks. It’s got a unique sound and I’m hoping we can fly it more for airplane of the day or special events.
I hope everyone gets out to Fantasy of Flight one day to see it fly!
After many months of research and thought, both the airframe and engine of the Benoist are slowly making progress as we narrow down on the 100th Anniversary of the first scheduled aircraft airline flight we hope to re-create on January 1st, 2014!
Fantasy of Flight restoration specialist Ken Kellett has single-handedly made a number of wooden components including; all 100 laminated ribs, all the interplane struts, all the wing spars, and both control sticks.
He began by building a mock-up of the critical center part of the plane where the pilot, engine, propellor, chain-drive, radiator, fuel tank, and main structure are located. This will give a basic idea of where everything fits in relation to each other.
Mock-up of the center part of the Benoist.
Ken built a jig for construction of the wing panels and currently has the top wing center-section assembled in it and ready for gluing.
Top Wing Center-Section in Wing Jig.
He also began gluing up the ailerons . . .
Aileron in Jig
and is putting the final touches on the two wing floats.
One of the two lower wing floats with a wing rib on top.
Ken has also begun laying out the structure of the fuselage / hull on a large table top jig. He built a six-foot dummy pilot (me actually) for use is making sure everything is somewhat ergonomical!
Dummy Pilot with one of two control sticks! Have I lost my mind?
One of the cool things that happened recently was that many of the Benoist descendants came by for a tour one day. I was out of town but Ken showed them what we were doing, as they are all following with keen interest.
Ken talks to the Benoist family descendants.
Later, after I got back, early engine expert Steve Littin came by for a visit to check on our progress and tell us how he was progressing on the six-cylinder Roberts engine for the project, which he’s building from scratch!
Ken, Andy, Steve (kneeling), and myself discussing the issues of airframe and engine.
Many of the smaller machined components have been made including hardware, oilers, and carburetor parts.
Brand new engine oilers!
Some of the larger ones like the crankshaft continue to be whittled down to finished size.
Roberts crankshaft undergoing final touches!
As seen in a previous blog post, most of the casting patterns have been made and some casting has begun. Ideally, we’d like to be assembling the airplane with the engine by the end of this year, as the time is flying by and the Anniversary will be upon us in no time!
We offer a wood shop tour every day at 12:45 pm so come on by Fantasy of Flight and check out the progress!
When we got the new trolley’s for our future Storage Bay Tours across the street, my GM for Fantasy of Flight, Kim Long, decided to try a Florida History and Citrus Tour, as many tourists come from overseas and are fascinated by both.
One of our two Trolleys . . . The Orlampa Express . . . touring the Groves!
Turned out, several of our employees were Florida-born “Crackers.” Not only were they a wealth of information . . . they both now do the tours!
Currently we do two tours a day from the normal Fantasy of Flight entrance, which tour through much of my Orlampa property. A tour last about an hour and cost about $10 for an adult. Come on out and check it out!