I was recently asked to endorse a product for a Radio Control Airplane version of the famous Gee Bee R-1 Racer!  This was the airplane that Jimmy Doolittle flew and won the famous Thompson Trophy Race in Cleveland, OH in 1932.  They actually built two versions of the airplane: one for racing in the Thompson closed-course pylon races and another for participating in the cross-country Bendix Race from Los Angeles to Cleveland.

I'm now on the side of a box!

We’re fortunate to have a reproduction of the airplane on display at Fantasy of Flight, which has since become one of the characters in my illustrated children’s book series.  The first book is called All of Life is a School and I’m rapidly narrowing down on my second one.

It’s a cute little airplane with an electric motor.  Guess what it weighs with the motor and all the radio control gear in it?  FIVE OUNCES!  They brought one out for the photo shoot and later flew it for me off the ramp.  How cool!

While we aren’t getting paid for the endorsement, we are getting some great advertising on the side of the box to help advertise Fantasy of Flight.

I used to fly R/C airplanes when I was a kid and now joke to people that I crashed so many of them, it got too expensive . . . so I got into collecting Warbirds!

Kermit

We are very excited about a new attraction element at Fantasy of Flight that we just installed. It’s a Confidence / Ropes Course we’ve named Wing Walk Air!

Wing Walk Air!

Last year at the IAAPA Convention in Orlando (International Association for Amusement Parks and Attractions), myself, and three of my top employees were independently drawn to its display and picked up information about it. It seemed a perfect fit for the future of where Fantasy of Flight is headed and in less than a year we had one installed!

Now you’ve got to be asking yourself, “What’s this got to do with airplanes?” It doesn’t! But it has everything to do with our future product, which is to create a place where people self-discover themselves for themselves.

Fantasy of Flight is more about the metaphor of flight and what it symbolizes to each and everyone of us: pushing our boundaries and reaching beyond ourselves. We will just happen to use it and aviation history in the current aspect of what we’re creating as a medium of delivery. And this is a great example!

After putting on a harness that safely follows you around in an overhead track, you climb a set of stairs and get to experience three different levels of fun elements to negotiate. Each element is a slightly different challenge made up of beams, open wooden bridges, and different rope elements.

Checking it out!

Most people have some fear of heights and, while immersed in the experience, you will most likely find an element that reaches your boundary and intimidates you. You get to experience and sense this boundary . . . and then have the opportunity of self-discovering yourself pushing through it! Just like life!

We intend to install pictures of wing-walkers around the experience so you can relate to the crazy things they did while you’re immersed in the experience. We will also get you to reflect on your own current journey of life with sayings such as, “What’s stopping you?” “When was the last time you did something for the first time?” “If not now . . . when?” “If you knew you couldn’t fail . . . what would you do?”

You get the idea! There are always opportunities in life to take a step beyond your perceived boundaries and the Confidence Course is no exception. Too easy for you? Let go of the safety strap and try walking across a shaky beam at 40 feet using pure balance! How about timing yourself how fast you can get through all the elements . . . and they try to beat your record!

Go back and look at the first picture of the Confidence Course and ask yourself, “How long do you think it would take me to negotiate all the elements from top to bottom?” Guess what the record is of one of my employees? Less than three minutes!

As part of the installation, we also included the option of installing a Zip Line that allows patrons to zip over one of our retention ponds.

Zippity do da!

The Zip Line uses a different harness that clips into the same overhead safety track as the Confidence Course but includes rollers that allow you to zip across the pond on cables to a tower on the other side. There, you climb a short set of stairs and zip back the other way. It’s about 600 feet total and is a lot of fun!

We still have to install a nice entrance booth, signage, and some decorative enhancements, but that shouldn’t stop you from coming out and giving it a try. If you want to experience Wing Walk Air RIGHT NOW, check out this link on Youtube – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlhlMxvnebw.

We’re open for business, so come on out and check it out!

Kermit


Recently, I attended the National Business Aircraft Association convention in Las Vegas.  We were having a Board meeting of the Lindberg Foundation and I got the opportunity to visit with new and old friends and get a chance to check out the latest business jets and products.  I had supported the NBAA cause in the past by donating a tour of Fantasy of Flight and flight in a cool airplane for one of their charity auctions.

While there, we presented Jeppesen CEO Mark Van Tine an award for his company joining the Lindbergh Foundation Aviation Green Alliance, which supports and honors the Aviation Industry for promoting environmental challenges within their field.  True to my typical form, no one told me I was supposed to wear a suit and tie!

Presentation to Jeppesen

After checking out the goodies at the Las Vegas Convention Center, I got out to Henderson Airfield to check out the latest hardware.  While there, I couldn’t help but check out my Dream Jet – the Embraer Phenom 300!

My Dream Jet!

Now how cool is that!  One day I hope to be able to justify one, as it’s an aspect of my flying career I would love to experience.

Dreaming of my own personal transportation!

Hey, Kermit, maybe you should work on getting your Instrument Rating first!

Kermit

Most everyone is aware of the two beautiful P-51 Mustangs we have on display at Fantasy of Flight: P-51C, Ina the Macon Belle, and P-51D, Cripes A’Mighty. But did you know that I’ve also had a North American P-51A in storage for many years?  I purchased it in the early 1980′s but, because I had first the “D”, and then the “C” to fly, I never really pursued getting the “A” flyable and focused on other projects.

The project is in great shape and years ago I sent the it out to Art Teeters’ Cal Pacific Airmotive in California to slowly begin working on.  I was in no hurry and the project has been on and off the “burner” for several decades.  Art and his son Dave did the restorations on both the “C” and the “D”, which both won Grand Champion Warbird at the Sun ‘n Fun as well as the Oshkosh Fly-In’s.  It seemed only natural to let them do the “A.”

New Stainless Steel Parts

Recently, I told Art to get back on the project again.  They had just completed the metalwork on another P-51A project and the shop was now up to speed on its slightly different construction.  It seemed only natural to take advantage of their current knowledge.

There came a great opportunity to visit the shop again when I was invited out to Dave Teeters recent wedding!  I had not been out to the shop in years.  One wing is basically done and the other is in assembly.  Currently they are focusing on finishing up the wings before diving in to the fuselage.

Right Aileron in Jig

As we began to think of how we were going to paint the airplane, I decided to do something different.  It seems everyone wants their airplane to stand out from the crowd, whether its the paint job or some special thing about it that no one else has.  Well, I guess I’m no different!

Early in the War, the factory made some of the P-51A’s with cannons instead of guns.  They were built mostly for the British but in researching into it, I discovered there were a few Americans that flew them as well.

Second Wing Half in Jig

Left Wing in Jig

Eventually, we discovered a likely candidate flown in the Mediterranean Theater by a 1st Lt. Dean R. Gilmore in a 111th Photo Recon paint scheme.  It was an airplane called Snoopers with some great artwork on the nose depicting its photo mission status as well as the number of missions it had flown.  Dean was awarded the DFC for one of his Recon missions over Monte Cassino, Italy and went on to fly 91 missions between August, 1943 and May, 1944.  By the time he returned home, he had accumulated a total of 194 combat flying hours and had flown more missions than anyone else in his squadron.

As a side twist to all this, Racing Legend Jack Roush at one point wanted to buy my P-51C but I told him it was not for sale.  He did the next best thing and acquired a data plate and paperwork for an early Mustang and had it basically built up from scratch by Cal Pacific Airmotive.  He originally intended to paint it in Dean’s colors but eventually decided on a paint scheme for another P-51B.

Lt. Gilmore and Snoopers

But this is where the story gets interesting.  After serving overseas, Dean returned to the States to train other pilots in Central Florida, flying out of the Bartow Airbase.  Unfortunately, he was killed on a training mission in a P-51B over Lake Louisa, near Clermont, FL just north of Fantasy of Flight.

Through an amazing twist of synchronicity, I had been asked years ago to do a fly-over for a memorial service in Cripes A’Mighty while family and friends watched from the shoreline.  I had no idea at the time that IT WAS OVER LAKE LOUISA AND WAS FOR LT. GILMORE!

The event was to commemorate a memorial for Dean’s contributions and sacrifices, which now stands at the south shore of Lake Louisa.  To add another bizarre twist to the story , the wreck Jack Roush got his data plate from WAS FROM THE RECOVERED WRECK OF LAKE LOUISA!

Lt. Gilmore's Noseart!

Needless to say, his family is very excited about the project and have offered to help in any way with information and photos.  In the words of famous radio personality Paul Harvey . . . “So now you know . . . the rest of the story!”

If you want to learn more about Lt. Gilmore and his exploits, check out http://www.swissmustangs.ch/72468.html.

Kermit

Last year I was honored by being inducted into the World Acrobatics Society Hall of Fame in Extreme Sports for my accomplishments in airplane aerobatics.  This was also partly due to  my beginning background in Gymnastics, where I competed on my High School’s first year Gymnastic Team and later went on to compete at the college level.  While I never got to the level of my flying, it was certainly an influence in my early pursuit of competition aerobatics.

One of the cool things after being inducted  was that I was now able to nominate others.  I was not aware of this until asked to do so for my category of Extreme Sports.  There was no question who that would be: my good friend Sean Tucker!  I had know Sean over the years from the flying circuit and we were Heli-ski partners for ten years.  He is, without a doubt, the most prolific solo airshow performer in the world and has dazzled millions of spectators over the years as well as given back to the aviation community by inspiring speeches as well as running a flight school to teach aerobatics, flight safety, and unusual attitudes to many pilots.

Two Extreme Sports Awardees's!

This September I was honored to return to Las Vegas to present Sean with his Award.  Go Sean!

Kermit

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