I recently got back from the Living Legends of Aviation event in Beverly Hills.  As usual, it was a great event and it’s always fun to see old friends and meet new ones.  While I’m not big suit and tie guy, I love to get dressed up in my tux!

One of the fun things about being a Living Legend (other than the alternative), is being able to bypass the “normal” entrance and walk the red carpet for the Paparazzi!

Posing for the Paparazzi!

When I walked up to begin, I couldn’t help but notice I was following Morgan Freeman and his entourage!

Walking the Red Carpet!

For some reason, I didn’t notice as many flashes going off when I went through!  Hmmm?  Oh, well . . . so much for being famous!  :-)

With LLoA Founder Jerry Lips and Morgan

On the flip-side, you know you’ve arrived when they have your favorite drink sitting next to your table and won’t let you get to the bottom of your glass!  In the past I’ve had to walk to the bar in the back to get a drink and have to live with the white rum (I won’t name the label) they stock, which I can’t stand!  One day, my Naked in Jamaica rum with orange juice will be my drink of choice!

You know you've arrived when . . .

This year though I got put to work so, maybe that’s why they had a stash for me close-by!  Actually, I was honored to be part of the program in several ways.  First of all, as a Living Legend myself, I got to hang a medal around one of the new Legends, Jeff Plunkett.  Next, I was was included in a tribute to Cliff Robertson, who recently passed away.

Go back and look at last years LLoA blog post where I included several pics of Cliff and myself.  The tribute we all did can be seen at http://youtu.be/2k7CT6mrspE .  I’m right at the beginning, but feel free to watch the rest of the tribute by others to Cliff as well.

The coolest thing I got to do, was to present the Award to Boeing for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.  It was a great opportunity to touch everyone with a bit of Fantasy of Flight philosophy and I got several great comments later.

I thought it somewhat interesting that, while I was waiting backstage before presenting the Award, I found myself following Morgan Freeman again!  There seemed to be a pattern forming!

Backstage and up next!

Friend and Film Director, Tony Bill (Movies - Flyboys and The Sting), was introducing Morgan for the Aviation Inspiration and Patriotism Award. I soon followed to introduce the Aircraft of Legend Award and present it to Michael Sinnett, who accepted in on behalf of the Boeing Dreamteam.

Presenting Award to Michael Sinnett!

The following clip of the presentation will be seen by tens of thousands of people that brought the Dreamliner into reality!  Pretty Cool!  Check it out at - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d9qTxAWq6mk

All in all, it was a great event for me and everyone else.  I can’t wait until next year!

Kermit

Hard to believe but, after decades of dabbling, I FINALLY GOT MY INSTRUMENT RATING!

I studied hard for several weeks over the Holidays and took the written exam just after Christmas.  It’s probably the hardest of all FAA Written Tests and I got a 98% on it!  If you don’t pass your check-ride for the flying part within two years after passing the written, it lapses and you have to take it again.  It was the sixth time I’d passed the written exam in the last 30+ years!

With FAA Check-Pilot Chuck Brown and my Instructor Durwin Daniel

The Cessna 172 I flew was equipped with a Garmin 1000 glass panel!  Just like flying a jet but at a quarter the speed!  It was a great experience, although it was somewhat frustrating having to learn the system on the fly.  There is so much information available using it that it’s like drinking from a fire hose and, at times, felt like the panel was, “Starring back at me!”

Garmin 1000 Panel in a Cessna 172 (courtesy of Garmin website)

After the recent trip bringing the C-47 across the pond and getting stuck five days on the ground, I decided it was finally time!  There were several other reasons too.  They recently changed the type-rating requirements.

Cruising along on my Instrument Cross-Country!

In the past, I got type-ratings in the B-17, B-24, B-26, etc. with a VFR (Visual Flight Rules) limitation.  Now you HAVE to have an Instrument Rating.  Without it, I would not be able to fly the C-47 as Pilot in Command.  We also got a special waiver to fly the P-51D Cripes A’Mighty for revenue rides but, guess what?  One of the requirements is an Instrument Rating!

Plus, one day, I hope to be in a position to get a small jet for personal transportation and add another aspect of piloting to my flying career.  Currently, I’m learning all that I can about light jets and it’s still a dream . . . but it IS getting closer!

Kermit

I am very excited to have completed my second illustrated children’s book in the Gee Bee Series, The Spirit of Lindy. After two years of writing, working with the artists, and endless tweaking, I recently sent it off to the printer!

It’s a great story based on the famous flight Charles Lindbergh made from New York to Paris to win the Orteig Prize in 1927.  I came up with the concept, wrote the story, and had two great Disney-trained artists, Dominic Carola (pencils), and Ryan Feltman (paint), do the artwork.  We came together to create a beautiful book that, we all feel, has more potential than my first book, All of Life is a School.

The first book was actually a condensed version of a feature film script I’d written.  At the time, I owned several of the ten airplane characters in the book.  Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to collect another character here and there and eventually realized life was leading me to collect all ten!  I now have seven on display at Fantasy of Fight!  There’s a possibility to collect two others but the third, Curtiss, will have to be built from scratch, as only the original exists and is in National Air and Space Museum in Washington.  Something tells me, I don’t think they’ll be willing to part with it any time soon!  :-(

Cover Art including Questions on the back to help teach History in a Fun Way!

While creating the next book, and to save myself some money, I got smart this time and made sure I only included new characters that I already had in the collection!   This will be my approach for future books in this series, as I’ve got plenty to work with.

Two new characters making their debut are Geoffrey D. H., an enthusiastic DeHavilland 4 Mailplane with a grand idea, and Lindy, based on the Spirit of St. Louis.  Of course, it all takes place at Fantasy of Flight where Gee Bee Zee, Puff, and all their friends pursue Geoffrey’s idea, build the plane, and learn a valuable life lesson in the process.

Geoffrey D.H. makes his debut!

Currently, I’m awaiting a sample copy from the printer to approve before we run the presses.  As with All of Life is a School, the first run will be for 5000 books.  I’m hoping to have them by the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In in late March 2012 but this may be somewhat tight, as the printer is currently on vacation and I’m not sure where I may end up on their schedule.  If I don’t make Sun ‘n Fun, I will definitely be signing copies at the Oshkosh Fly-In in July and the Reno Air Races in September.

So far, I’ve sold over 6000 copies of All of Life is a School out of the Fantasy of Flight gift shop, on the Internet, at airshows and other smaller events.  I’ve had no luck trying to break into the major bookstores so, I’m quite proud to have sold this many on my own.  I actually have signed so many books the non-autographed ones are rarer and probably worth more!  :-)

Lindy is Ready to Go!

Since the book will now be printed in 2012, I’ve missed the deadlines for entering any 2011 contests.  I’m excited to submit it, as I believe it has as much, or more, potential than All of Life is a School, which won a Bronze independent Book Publishing Award!

I have concepts for another dozen books in the Gee Bee Series and now have to think about which one to focus on next!  Once I get The Spirit of Lindy books in hand, the real work will begin trying to promote and sell them!  At least I’ve laid the foundation with the first book and already have an email list and somewhat of a following.

I’m still learning the business, which is all but impossible to break into for a first-time author.  I can only apply what I’ve learned so far and hope to implement some new things as well.  But, hey . . . now I’m a two-time author!  We’ll see.

Kermit

My Sopwith Snipe has been completed, signed-off by the authorities, and recently test-flown!

All this is courtesy of Peter Jackson’s great interest and efforts building up very authentic reproductions of famous WWI aircraft.  As mentioned in a previous blog, I did a trade with Peter for the Snipe and Albatros and sent down several engines they overhauled for the projects.

Snipe being Rigged for Flight!

Since this is the first Snipe built by Gene DeMarco and The Vintage Aviator Ltd. (TVAL), it took considerably longer than my Albatros, which already had a prototype flying.  I blogged about my exploits in April flying the Albatros at the Omaka Airshow.

I chose to paint the Snipe in the colors of highly-decorated WWI Canadian Ace Billy Barker, who was the 12th highest scoring ace in WWI with 50 confirmed kills.  It represents the airplane he flew his last combat in on October 27, 1918, in which he received the Victoria Cross for his valiant efforts against enemy aircraft.

Ready to Test-Fly!

One of the cooler aspects of the restoration was that Barker and his squadron mates used to put car ornaments of the time on their airplanes to “personalize” them.  Gene and his restoration crew did some research and found the ornaments are still being made for period cars . . . by the SAME COMPANY that built them in WWI!  How cool is that?  They ordered me the one Barker used . . . a Red Devil!

Barker's personalized weapon with WWI period car hood ornament!

The Snipe uses the largest Rotary engine ever built: a British Bentley BR-2 with 230 hp!  I have seen videos of it running on a test stand and can’t wait to get it back to hear it in person.  Better yet, fly behind it!

She Flies!

As I write this, both the Snipe and the Albatros are on a ship headed to Florida.  We hope to have them assembled and flying at Fantasy of Flight and by the end of March in time for the 2012 Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In!

Kermit

The Curtiss Pusher I purchased earlier this year is now at Fantasy of Flight!  Shipped down from Idaho, it made the trip in record time in the back of a semi-trailer.  With the help of my guys, we unloaded it and eventually hung the wings on temporarily while we had everyone there.

The precarious part with the help of a forklift!

While in the trailer unloading parts . . . with my three of my guys looking in . . . I couldn’t help but have them pose for a picture!

Grease Monkeys?

As mentioned in a previous blog, I think the airplane will make a great trainer for the Benoist Flying Boat we’re building.

Hangar Flying!

The airplane has since been completely assembled, inspected, and test run.  We now only await paperwork from the FAA.

Kermit

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