Weeks Solution over Mesa, AZ where I won my first of two US National Aerobatic Championships

Weeks Solution over Mesa, AZ where I won my first US National Aerobatic Championships

Unbelievably, several weeks ago someone broke into one of our offsite storage facilites and stole the engine off my Weeks Solution biplane!  By chance, one of my mechanics happened to be in the facility the next morning and noticed a bunch of oil on the floor.  Since most of the airplanes in storage are in pieces, he didn’t initially notice the whole front end of the airplane was missing until he saw some of the engine cowling lying about.

Apparently, the perpetrators had previously broken in and staked the place out first.  It is all you can do to walk through as it is packed with almost no floorspace.  They must have decided the only thing they could get out the door with any value was my engine so, they came back and actually cut it off the engine mount!  No small feat since there’s no lights or electricity in the building.  It would have taken at least three people to get it off, drag it 30 feet out the door, and then lift the 300 lb. engine into the back of a small pickup truck.

Kermit with Weeks Solution at WAC 1986

At the World Aerobatic Championships in England 1986

The police came out the next morning, we filed a report, and there was a LOT of press including, two news stations, several papers, a magazine, and a radio station.  I’m sure it was thieves in the local area and the engine is probably destined for an airboat, because without the log books the engine could not be used in an airplane without an overhaul.

I designed and built the airplane myself and first test flew it in 1980.  I flew it in competitions around the world until it was highly damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  I’m sure the thieves had no idea the historical value of the engine, as it powered me to become a two-time US National Aerobatic Champion and win 12 medals in four World Aerobatic Championships.

Winning Team Gold Medal in WAC 1984 - Hungary

Kermit winning Gold with US Team in Hungary 1984

We notified every engine builder and airboat shop in the area as well as the Fish & Wildlife agency so everyone is on the lookout.  It is a six-cylinder 300 hp. Lycoming IO-540, serial number L 8000-48 with a non-standard sump on it.  Most Lycoming engines are painted grey but mine was black.

If you happen to run across it, and can help me get it back intact, I’m offering a $5000 reward.  Thanks for your interest and please pass the word!

Kermit

I just got the final results in from my Oshkosh sales.  While I didn’t sell as many Gee Bee Books as last year, I definitely sold more product!  Last year was the first year the book came out and I sold 420, although I did run out of books with three more days left of the Fly-In.  This year I sold 350 Gee Bee Books, as well as, 100 Audio Experience CD’s, and 120 Wizard of Orlampa DVD’s.   EAA rolled out the red carpet for me and gave me my own spot, Kermit’s Corner, in the EAA Wearhouse Merchandise building near Aeroshell Square.

kermit's corner

I introduced two showings of the Wizard of Orlampa in the EAA Museum Theater and got a great response.  When I arrived for my second showing on Thursday morning, the AV guy came out and told me it was the biggest crowd he had seen all week!  All the seats were filled with many people sitting in the aisles!  I also got a chance to read the Gee Bee Book several times at Kid Venture and gave away six Gee Bee Books as prizes.

Handing out three Gee Bee Books after reading to the crowd!

Handing out three Gee Bee Books as prizes after reading to the crowd!

On Thursday night, at the Young Eagles event, I was an auction item and my Vision Tour package including an airplane flight raised $4000!  All in all it was a great trip!

Kermit

Posted by on Saturday, August 15, 2009
Filed in: Ford Trimotor, Kermit Weeks
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Built Ford Tough!

Cropped Ford 1

I recently visited my Ford 4AT Tri-Motor project going together slowly in Michigan at Great Lakes Aviation.  It had an interesting history and was flown by Island Airways to haul school kids and mail from Port Clinton, OH to a small island in Lake Erie.  They owned several Fords over the years and this was the first one they purchased and the last one they sold as it had smaller and more fuel-efficient engines for what they needed it for.  I acquired the aircraft in the late 1980′s and flew it back from California to Florida in only 4 1/2 days!

DSC04303

Unfortunately, this was one of my aircraft that was highly damaged by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. The day before the Hurricane, I flew it down to the Homestead Airport about 20 miles away and put it in a big concrete hangar with many other aircraft looking to dodge the storm.  That night it hit landfall as only one of two Catagory 5 Hurricane’s ever to hit our country with sustained winds of 165 mph, gusting to almost 200!  After several days of disbelief and digging out of the collapsed hangar at the Weeks Air Museum, I borrowed a small plane and flew down to check on the Ford.  I was in shock when I got there.  The hangar doors had all blown off, an 18-wheel semi-tractor trailer fuel truck had been blown over on its side, pushed all the way across the hangar floor by the wind, and then smashing into the Ford!  The fuselage was twisted in half aft of the passenger door and both wings had been ripped off!

Right Outboard Wing - Check out those Multiple Spars!

Right Outboard Wing - Check out those Multiple Spars!

It had been several years since I had seen the project and great progress had been made on the center-section and wing panels.  It has been somewhat of a slow restoration because I have another Ford 5AT Tri-Motor to fly at Fantasy of Flight.  On one of my early visits, while the fuselage was going together, I happened to notice they were riveting the skins on with AN470 Universal head rivets.  These rivets became popular around WWII but the Ford had been built in 1928.  I questioned this and asked, knowing full well the answer, “Didn’t they use round head rivets originally?” The owner replied, “Yes, but when the aircraft had been damaged previously in an accident it had been repaired with the later rivets.” I made them drill all the rivets out and replace them with the original round-style head!

When completed, it will sport a washroom with a wooden toilet complimented by a small sign, “Don’t use the toilet over populated areas!” It will also be the only airliner in the world I know of where a passenger can slide their window back and hang their arm out the side!

Kermit

Posted by on Saturday, August 15, 2009
Filed in: Grumman Duck, Kermit Weeks
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Save the Ducks!

I recently got a picture update of my Grumman Duck project in Wichita, KS.  I’ve owned this aircraft since the mid-1980′s and it has been a avery slow back-burner project.

Grumman Duck Fuselage under going long-term restoration

Grumman Duck Fuselage under going long-term restoration

It has an interesting history and one time held the longest water-taxi record in the world!  It’s previous owner, Sam Poole, from Lake Alfred, FL was using it for hauling supplies up the Amazon when one day his left float hit a submerged log.  This careened him to the left where he found himself heading for, and then up, the riverbank.  He closed the throttle as he found himself climbing rather steeply up the side of the river!  As he began to slide backwards, he gunned the throttle to slow his tailslide back down to the river.  After inspecting the damage, he decided it was not safe to fly and began what became a 400 mile taxi down the Amazon!  Along the way, he picked up a couple of nuns that needed a ride but, as the river began to wander back and forth, he realized he would not have enough fuel.  He made some makeshift repairs and took-off with the nuns to complete the journey!  Later, after being repaired and working some more, The Duck ended back up at the headwaters on the Amazon in Leticia, Colombia.  Over time it became un-airworthy and began to languish.  Sam went back, took it apart, and brought it out onboard a cargo plane to Lake Alfred, FL.  I heard about it and stopped by one day on my way to look at property for Fantasy of Flight.  We struck a deal and I became a double-Duck owner!

Inverted Duck Hull being prepared for new Belly Skins

Inverted Duck Hull being prepared for new Belly Skins

I have actually been the largest owner of Ducks since the US Navy in WWII, owning four!  The first I purchased and flew in the early 1980′s, eventually donating it to the Weeks Air Museum.  We rebuilt it in Miami in the colors of the Candy Clipper and it is currently on display at Fantasy of Flight.  The second Duck is mentioned above and the third was acquired as part of the Tallmantz Collection in 1985 and starred in the movie Murphy’s War with Peter O’Toole.  It later became part of a trade to the US Air Force Museum for my P-35A Seversky.   My fourth Duck was acquired from the San Diego Air & Space Museum and traded for the Grumman F3F Flying Barrel currently on display at Fantasy of Flight.

I love the Duck and have had a lot of fun flying them over the years.  One of my more memorable moments was flying the Candy Clipper over one weekend to Cypress Gardens for a Hydroplane Race.  After talking to a couple of the skiers on the shoreline, we came up with a plan to to spruce up the show by letting them ski behind the Duck!  On our second pass, one actually kicked off his ski and began to barefoot in front of the somewhat stunned crowd!

Duck towing Skiers for Cypress Gardens Show!

Duck towing Skiers for Cypress Gardens Show!

If you want to see it fly, I will be splashing about during our upcoming first annual Last Big Splash this September 26th and 27th.  Hope to see you there!

Kermit