Fantasy of Flight’s Ken Kellett visits Sensenich Propellers in Plant City, Florida.

Sensenich President, Donald Rowell shows Ken the progress made on the beautiful mahogany wood propeller they are making for the Benoist.

Fantasy of Flight’s wood and fabric specialist, Ken Kellett gives a September 2012 progress update on the building of the Benoist reproduction.

I recently got the shipment of my first printing (5000 copies) of my new illustrated children’s book The Sprit of Lindy just in time to sell them at the Reno Air Races!

Putting out signs to promote sales at Reno!

The new book includes characters from my first book All of Life is a School and two new ones – a Dehavilland Mailplane named Geoffrey D. H., and Lindy, who represents the Spirit of St. Louis.

In the story, the characters hear about the Prize for the first plane to fly non-stop between New York and Paris and decide to build a plane that will do it.  As with the first book, we all learn a valuable life lesson by the end.

Aside from taking some artistic license with the Lindy being built by airplanes at Fantasy of Flight in Florida, it is actually very historically accurate in many of the details, including “Lindy” being visited by spirits that helped guide and encourage him at a very low point on his Journey.

My set-up in the entrance of the Main Merchandise Tent!

I decided not to sell books at Reno the last two years because I wanted to get my new book out.  I had already sold over 500 All of Life is a School books a year there for two years and wanted to come back with something new.

While I also sold a number of All of Life is a School this year, most of the sales were for The Sprit of Lindy and I bettered my total sales from previous years; selling over 600 books!  I also had 100 each of the Puff and Zee plush, which were very popular and totally sold out!

Ready for action with books and plush!

The artwork is great and I am VERY proud of how this new book came out.  I included some questions on the back that are chronological to the story where the readers can not only have fun discovering the answers, but learn a little history in the process.

I you have a cute kid, know a cute kid, or ARE a cute kid, you can order The Spirit of Lindy online at https://www.fantasyofflight.com/store/index.asp?cid=9

Kermit

Something recently told me to get my Lockheed Vega flying!  I’m not sure where the message came from but it seems like a great idea!

I purchased the Vega from Dave Jameson, several months after Hurricane Andrew ripped the Miami Weeks Air Museum apart on August 24, 1992.  I must have been feeling sorry for myself?  :-)

We begin the disassembly process!

While digging out from the destruction, it continued to be displayed at the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, WI.  By the time it made it to Florida for Fantasy of Flight’s grand opening in 1995, it had not flown for over a decade.  At the time, we had other things to worry about and since it looked great we just assembled it for display.

Wing coming off!

Over the years, the original 500 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine was replaced by a bigger and later 600 hp version from an AT-6 Texan with a constant speed propellor.  It’s my intent to restore it back to the original early-style engine and ground adjustable propellor.  Because of the engine conversion, the instrument panel began to reflect later-style instruments and the plan will be to put everything back to as original as possible.

Nice shot of the disassembly from above.

Also, the wheels and brakes were upgraded and fiberglass wheelpants installed.  We haven’t looked into whether or not the original wheels are available, or even if it originally had brakes (It may have originally been built with a tailskid), but brakes will be needed for sure.  I acquired an original set of wheel pants from the Tallmantz Collection purchase in 1985  that we will try and salvage or use as a pattern for new ones.  Dave Jameson may have actually purchased this Vega from Tallmantz, so we might be reuniting them after all these years!

First load – the Wing!

The Vega will be upgraded and made airworthy by Kevin Kimball and his shop about an hour away from Fantasy of Flight in Mt. Dora, FL.  They do great work and have produced several award winning vintage aircraft restorations from this period.

Currently, it’s my intent to keep it in the colors of the Winnie Mae and use it one day as a character in my illustrated children’s book series starring many of the famous planes from the Golden Age of Aviation.  His name will be Wiley and, of course, just might find himself with a patch over one windscreen!

Second load – Bye, Bye Vega!

During the process of talking to Kevin about the restoration, I found out he has always had the dream of making a mold to produce the fuselage which was used in the making of not only the Vega but the Orion, Sirius, Altair and Air Express!

Never to have been one to be satisfied with just one model of a type, I couldn’t help but think, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a set!”  We’ll see.

Kermit

 

 

 

This last April, it was finally time to bring our Douglas C-47 home and finish the trip that started last summer in southern England.  We recently completed a new storage facility that allowed us to make some room and get it inside.  I grabbed some of the crew from last summer and headed north to Oshkosh where we had left it on display in the EAA Museum.  By the time we arrived, it had been moved over to the Flight Research Hangar where we could begin working on it.

Back to a familiar place!

Once we got there, we did a quick survey of everything and got started.

About to begin!

Over the course of the next few days, we installed the charged batteries, re-installed the GPS, began inspections, did gear swings . . .

Preparing to cycle the Landing Gear

and began loading up what we needed to take home.

Loading up!

Once completed, we pushed it out into gorgeous weather to fuel it and prepared to make some smoke and noise.

Ready to Run!

The engines ran great and it looked as if we were getting close to flying.  The other pilot that crossed the Atlantic with me, Verne Jobst, was on stand-by a couple hours away but, unfortunately, had recently had some minor eye surgery and found out at the last minute he was not legal to make the trip.  Bummer!  I called Frank Moss in Florida, the father of Glen Moss, who had flown across the Atlantic with us last summer.  Frank and his kids run a DC-3 operation in Florida and is very qualified.  He was willing to help us and arrived the next day.

Unfortunately, after Frank arrived, we learned we were not legal to fly on the annual inspection we had done.  We needed to have an inspection program by approved our local Florida FAA!  This wasn’t something that was going to happen overnight.  Our only option was to request a ferry permit from the FAA to get home and sort out the proper paperwork later.  Unfortunately for us, it was Friday afternoon and the offices were closed!

Sadly, some of our crew went home the next day, as we could only legally fly with “essential crew only” on the ferry permit.  We hung around over the weekend making small tweaks to the airplane and visiting the EAA museum.  Monday morning came and we soon had our permit in hand.

We're legal!

Unfortunately, the weather was about to move in but not before we got a short flight in.  While the weather was somewhat marginal, everything checked out fine.

We got out the next day before more weather moved in but still had weather  south of us.  This forced us to head out across Lake Michigan to try and get around the east side of it.

Heading across Lake Michigan!

Crossing the last major water body from England, we dodged some weather in Indiana and eventually broke out into gorgeous weather.

Dodging weather in Indiana!

Flying through the mountains north of Atlanta

After about six hours of flying, we stopped for the night in Douglas, GA where we hooked up with some other warbird owners.  The next day was absolutely beautiful for our last leg to Fantasy of Flight.  We delayed our take-off to arrive in time for our daily Airplane of Day display at 1:30 pm.  Our Grand Arrival was greeted by many supporters and employees, as well as a couple of newspapers and news stations.

The final crew, finally home! Frank Moss, myself, and Wayne Root.

It was great to be home and I want to thank everyone that helped make our trip a successful and memorable one.  We met a lot of new friends along the way and each of us now has a lot of great stories to tell.

It’s interesting how life can be full of surprises.  Just over a year ago, I didn’t even know this airplane existed and now its safely on display at Fantasy of Flight.  A year ago, I never would have dreamed I would be crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a C-47 and would became the reason for me to finally get my instrument rating last January.

Pop, Pop, fizz, fizz . . . Oh, what a relief it is!

Once we get the final FAA approval, I’ll get my type-rating and look forward to showing it off!  One thing is for certain, this will be one adventure I will never forget!

Kermit

 

 

1 4 5 6 7 8 31