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

We held another Roar ‘n Soar event again this year.  I flew four different airplanes each day and talked to the crowds about each one after landing.  There are many things going on at the event like; R/C planes, boat races on the lake, BMX jumping, hang gliding, a car show, music, and lots of fun things for the kids to do.

One fun thing I got to do for me was to race a Hydroplane around the course one morning.  It does about 100 mph on the straightaways!  What a rush!

What fun!

Another cool thing I got to do was demonstrate a Hovercraft I’ve had for many years.

More fun!

When I moved out of my Miami shop to Central Florida I rented it to the people that built them.  After visiting from time to time, I decided I had to have one.  It is equally as comfortable on water as it is on land and I routinely go from the runway into the retention ponds and back.  One of the fun things you can do with it is go down the runway at full speed, turn the control hard over, and do spins down the runway!

Kermit

Restoration Specialist, Andy Salter, just completed a milestone on one of our onsite airplane projects . . . the installation of a Liberty engine he overhauled himself for our WWI DeHavilland 4!

Andy makes last minute checks!

Andy is an expert machinist and comes from a background of tool and die making as well as car and airplane restoration.  He was involved in the rebuild of the Spitfire we have at Fantasy of Flight as well as several other projects I had done in England before he came to work for me.

Hoisting the Liberty to its new Home!

One of the more tedious parts of the overhaul was hand-scraping the silver babbitted crankshaft bearings, which alone took him three weeks!  Next steps on the project will be to begin installing anything that connects to the engine like fuel lines, instruments, radiator, etc.

Installed!

Andy is also working on another Liberty for our other DH-4 Mailplane so what he’s learned from this project will have a direct carry over to the Mailplane.

I can’t wait to hear one run!

Kermit

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