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I recently got a chance to fly our Polikarpov Po-2!  It was a Russian training plane designed as a primary trainer and has the distinction of having the longest production run in history from 1928 to 1959 with over 40,000 being built!  During the Great Patriotic War (WWII) the Russians employed a squadron of women operating these at night to harass the enemy by dropping bombs and grenades to keep them from sleeping.  They earned the nickname by their enemy as the “Nachthexen” or the “Night Witches.” 

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Engine Start!

The Aircraft Department had been working on it for some time and the weather was nice a couple of days ago so I decided to take it out and taxi around to get used to it.  It has no brakes and uses a steerable tail skid to slow it down and steer it somewhat on our grass runways.  It has an unusual feature of soloing from the front cockpit, which is different from most biplanes of the period.

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It is powered by a five-cylinder Shvetsov engine with 115hp and has a very distinctive sound while flying.  I hope to put some time on the airplane in the near future as we have a five-hour FAA restriction to fly off locally before I can take up any passengers. This is one of the aircraft featured in the Audio Tour we offer as part of the Fantasy of Flight attraction price, although we only have twenty Audio Wands so it’s first come, first serve.  We also sell the Audio Experience CD in the gift shop as well as at http://www.audioexperiencecd.com.

It’s amazing how something sitting in a static museum can take on a completely different life and energy when you get the engine running and take it to the skies.  Fantasy of Flight is the only aviation facility in the world that currently flies something every day, weather permitting!  While the Po-2 requires a bit of manpower to get it out to the grass, get it started, and then put away, I hope to have the opportunity to fly it during special events and let everyone see and hear this amazing piece of history putt-putt-putting around the sky!

Kermit

I just got back from Alaska and the Iditerod Dog Sled Race.  When I was Heli-skiing with Sean Tucker the week before he got a call from a corporate friend that had some last minute cancellations and got us an invite!  We were wined and dined with great food and great friends and had a great time!

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The first day we got to see the start of the race in downtown Anchorage and I bumped in to Gov. Sarah Palin!  When she was campaigning in Florida she made a campaign stop at Fantasy of Flight compliments of the Republican Party.  I happened to autograph a Gee Bee Book for her son Trig and gave it to one of her helpers to pass on.  After she officially started the Iditerod Race by cutting the ribbon she happened to walk towards me holding a baby.  I asked if it was Trig and she thanked me for the book and introduced me to her husband, who likes to fly.

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Later our group got out to a giant glacier by helicopter.  It’s ice flow ended at a frozen lake at about 700 feet above sea level and continued up to about 6000 feet!  On the flight out, Sean and I couldn’t help but notice all the great Heli-ski opportunities!  We landed on the lake at the end of the glacier and got to explore some ice caves.  It was the first time I had ever been to Alaska and it was certainly the first time I ever had champagne on ice!

Kermit the Musher!

Kermit the Musher!

The next day we jumped into some airplanes on skis and flew out to a great lodge located at the third checkpoint on the 1150 mile race.  The next morning the first racers began to come through to stop to feed their dogs, have them checked, rest up, and head out.  By the end of the day all of the 60+ racers and come and gone and during the day I got a chance to do some snowmobiling as well as trying my hand at being a Musher with a team of eight dogs!  It was great fun but I learned not to try it after the dogs had eaten!

Kermit

blog-shot-heli-ski-11I just got back from my annual Heli-ski trip in Canada.  I’ve been doing this for almost twenty years now and we just had a great week skiing at the Canadian Mountain Holidays (CMH) Galena lodge.

For some reason when you say Heli-skiing, people somehow think you jump out of a Helicopter and ski down the mountain.  In actuality we just land on top of a peak somewhere with a Guide that knows the mountain using the Helicopter as our ski lift.

CMH has a number of lodges in the Canadian Rockies west of Calgary that cater to our addiction and it’s nothing short of heaven when the snow is great.  With about 25 square miles of ski terrain per lodge, we start with a 5-7 hour bus ride out of Calgary and are then flown in to the lodge by helicopter out in the middle of the Canadian Wilderness.  Once there, we retrain in the use of avalanche beepers, which every one wears, and helicopter safety.  With between 3-4 groups of 11 skiers per lodge, we get to meet, ski, and party with a lot of interesting people from all around the world.

blog-heli-shot-2-downsizedI got my good friend, Sean Tucker, hooked on this many years ago and he has been my ski partner for almost ten years.  Sean is arguably the top male sole airshow performer on the circuit and is currently sponsored by Oracle.

CMH keeps track of how many vertical feet you ski and once you attain “one million vertical feet of skiing” they give you a “free” ski suit!  Of course, I don’t even what to think about what that “free suit” cost me!  I am currently working on my “three million foot suit” and Sean is working on his “two million foot suit.”

Skiing the terrain is nothing short of unbelievable and consists of High Alpine skiing, which is above the tree-line, and tree skiing, which is through the trees on the lower parts of the mountains.  The scenery while Alpine skiing is breath-taking and I believe tree skiing is “the ultimate video game,” as you never know what’s coming around the corner.  Every run is basically fresh powder, every run is different, and it can be demanding at times.

blog-ski-shot-kermit-sean-3I’ve included a couple of shots to give you the feel of this fascinating sport, including a couple with Sean and I sitting on top of the world about ready to become “one with the mountain!”

Kermit