After many months of research and thought, both the airframe and engine of the Benoist are slowly making progress as we narrow down on the 100th Anniversary of the first scheduled aircraft airline flight we hope to re-create on January 1st, 2014!

Fantasy of Flight restoration specialist Ken Kellett has single-handedly made a number of wooden components including; all 100 laminated ribs, all the interplane struts, all the wing spars, and both control sticks.

He began by building a mock-up of the critical center part of the plane where the pilot, engine, propellor, chain-drive, radiator, fuel tank, and main structure are located.  This will give a basic idea of where everything fits in relation to each other.

Mock-up of the center part of the Benoist.

Ken built a jig for construction of the wing panels and currently has the top wing center-section assembled in it and ready for gluing.

Top Wing Center-Section in Wing Jig.

He also began gluing up the ailerons . . .

Aileron in Jig

and is putting the final touches on the two wing floats.

One of the two lower wing floats with a wing rib on top.

Ken has also begun laying out the structure of the fuselage / hull on a large table top jig.  He built a six-foot dummy pilot (me actually) for use is making sure everything is somewhat ergonomical!

Dummy Pilot with one of two control sticks! Have I lost my mind?

One of the cool things that happened recently was that many of the Benoist descendants came by for a tour one day.  I was out of town but Ken showed them what we were doing, as they are all following with keen interest.

Ken talks to the Benoist family descendants.

Later, after I got back, early engine expert Steve Littin came by for a visit to check on our progress and tell us how he was progressing on the six-cylinder Roberts engine for the project, which he’s building from scratch!

Ken, Andy, Steve (kneeling), and myself discussing the issues of airframe and engine.

Many of the smaller machined components have been made including hardware, oilers, and carburetor parts.

Brand new engine oilers!

Some of the larger ones like the crankshaft continue to be whittled down to finished size.

Roberts crankshaft undergoing final touches!

As seen in a previous blog post, most of the casting patterns have been made and some casting has begun.  Ideally, we’d like to be assembling the airplane with the engine by the end of this year, as the time is flying by and the Anniversary will be upon us in no time!

We offer a wood shop tour every day at 12:45 pm so come on by Fantasy of Flight and check out the progress!



When we got the new trolley’s for our future Storage Bay Tours across the street, my GM for Fantasy of Flight, Kim Long, decided to try a Florida History and Citrus Tour, as many tourists come from overseas and are fascinated by both.

One of our two Trolleys . . . The Orlampa Express . . . touring the Groves!

Turned out, several of our employees were Florida-born “Crackers.”  Not only were they a wealth of information . . . they both now do the tours!

Currently we do two tours a day from the normal Fantasy of Flight entrance, which tour through much of my Orlampa property.  A tour last about an hour and cost about $10 for an adult.  Come on out and check it out!


It’s been over a year since I went on a diet using the Stayhealthy equipment I invested in and am happy to say I’ve kept off over 20 lbs. and kept my body fat percentage in my desired 15% range.  I continue to exercise as regularly and am glad I made a Stayhealthy choice.

One of the side benefits of the diet was really learning what to eat and what not to eat and, while I still enjoy drinking socially and an occasional dessert, I’ve found my eating habits have changed significantly.  One of the main changes is that I eat a lot more vegetables.  My wife has recently begun growing a garden and we eat more fresh vegetables with lunches and dinners.  It’s amazing how much healthier they taste than what you generally buy at the store.

We recently moved the Stayhealthy Kiosk at Fantasy of Flight from our employee break room into the attraction area for our patrons to use.

Our Wingwalker character Penelope H. (Hang On!) Sparstrutter on the Stayhealthy Kiosk that is now in the Attraction!

One of the things we intend to do is to turn it around for privacy purposes as well as put a three-panel backdrop behind it with different texts to educate and provoke thought in the Fantasy of Flight way.

The center and title panel will be a quote from a famous Chinese philosopher and applies to just about everything we undertake in life.

With many dreams and goals, I have learned the profoundness of this saying and apply it to much of my life.  It takes time to learn and do great things and I’ve learned from my experience that patience is a virtue.  Also, it really is not about getting there; it is – ALL ABOUT THE JOURNEY!

The left panel will tell our patrons how Stayhealthy has the potential to help the future development of Fantasy of Flight.

The right panel will entice our patrons to check out their health with the potential of helping their future.

As you can see, we’ve tried to deliver the information in the Fantasy of Flight way where our patrons self-discover themselves for themselves.  We’re not only looking forward to healthier employees, but healthier patrons, and a healthier Fantasy of Flight!


I headed out to the Canadian Rockies again for my annual Heli-ski Trip with family and friends.  The Bugaboo Lodge was where Heli-skiing really all got started back in 1965 by an Austrian mountain and ski guide named Hans Gmoser and his company Canadian Mountain Holidays.

One of the Bugaboo Spires on the first run of a very cold morning!

They originally began flying with Bell 47 helicopters (MASH-type) but now fly twin-engine turbine powered Bell’s.  The scenery is breathtaking and the famous Bugaboo Spires can be seen above the lodge at the head of the glacier at the end of the valley.

One of the great things about the Canadian Rockies is the altitude we ski at is lower than in the States.  The lodges are around 2500′ and the tops of the highest runs are around 8000′.  As a comparison, the bottom of the mountain I ski at in Utah begins at 8000′.  This translates into more oxygen for the Heli-skiers and thicker air for the helicopters to operate more efficiently.

Our chariot arrives to take us closer to heaven and more fresh powder!

There are a number of lodges to choose from and several offer Heli-hiking in the summer, which I want to check out one day.

Everyone goes through safety training upon arrival and goes over the details of  the avalanche beeper training, which we all wear.  Everyone now carries a backpack with a radio, a snow probe, and a snow shovel in case of an accident.   Once this is done, it’s off to the slopes for fun in the powder!

What it's all about!

We eat lunch out on the mountain, which is delivered by a second smaller helicopter. Guides also use this helicopter for checking snow conditions and occasionally blasting to set off avalanches under controlled conditions.

Lunch on the mountain!

Most lodges have four groups of 11 skiers and a guide per helicopter but a few have three groups.  There maybe a few times where you wait for a lift while the helicopter refuels but you then get the opportunity to take a rest and enjoy the scenery.  As long as the weather conditions are good, I’ve always gotten more than my share of great skiing.

Bored waiting for the helicopter? I made a face in a Snow Cookie!

Heli-skiing is not without it’s hazards.  One of the really fun aspects is tree-skiing.  To me, it’s the ultimate video game because every run is different and you never know what’s coming up next.  You follow the technique race car drivers use in a car crash.  Don’t look at the wall (or the trees) . . . look for the open spots!  Sometimes they’re a bit narrower than you’d like and you end up catching a thorny branch or two.

A hazard of skiing in tight trees . . . thorny branches!

There’s a basic rule they tell us that I’m pretty good at following, “If you can’t see over it . . . don’t ski over it!”  

Of course, everyone thinks about avalanches.  The weather and snow conditions can change quickly over the week but the guides are well-trained and alert to the current conditions.  They’ve learned much over the years and their knowledge has increased safety.

Several years before I began heli-skiing, some of my family came to the Bugaboos for their first ever trip in 1994 and witnessed the worst accident in CMH history.  They had just finished a run called Bay Street as Group One and, while waiting at the bottom, watched Group Two begin to come down from the top.  Several of the skiers, with limited English, went a bit beyond where they were told to ski and the whole mountain slid from the top.  Fortunately, the slide stopped just short of Group One at the bottom but, unfortunately, nine skiers in Group Two lost their lives.  Out of respect, they’ve never skied the run again.

Bay Street!

While there are still dangers, the risks have been minimized over the years and thousands of skiers still flock from all around the world every year to enjoy the great sensation of skiing lots of untracked powder.

Last run of the week with the Bugaboo Lodge (and the Bar) waiting at the bottom!

At some point I may have to give it up but, at 58, I still feel I’ve got a few great years left in me!



We recently completed another Storage Facility across the street from Fantasy of Flight to compliment our first one and are excited for several reasons.  First, it will give us some well-needed breathing room and give us the ability to make room in our Maintenance Hangar for the Douglas C-47, which we recently flew over from England and left on display at the EAA Oshkosh Museum.  Second, we purchased two road-legal trolleys to be able to take Fantasy of Flight patrons over to tour them as part of our normal ticket price!

Orignal facility on the left and the new one on the right.

Each building is 20,000 square feet!

There will be an opportunity to not only shuffle some of the airplanes on display in the Fantasy of Flight hangars but also give the restoration shop some long-needed space.  For the die-hard aviation enthusiasts, they will soon get to see a lot more of the collection!

For those of you that purchased the Wizard of Orlampa DVD we sell in the gift shop, you got to see a brief glimpse of how packed the current building is with airplane parts.  You have to crawl over stuff to get around as there is very little floor space to walk.

Small glimpse of the current facility showing Lockheed 14, B-29, and B-17 fuselages!

Pallet Racking has been assembled around the perimeter of the inside and my guys have started moving airplanes over from Fantasy of Flight.  The now disassembled AT-11, that had been stored in the Maintenance Hangar, became the first tenant.  Soon we will begin thinning out the first building and filling the new building, and in a manner that will allow our patrons, and my guys, to actually get to everything!

New building with Pallet Racking around the perimeter, AT-11 in the distance, and our Gas Balloon Gondola hanging from ceiling!

Since most people in the aviation world are aware that the National Air & Space Museum has their off-site Silver Hill Storage Facility in Maryland, I’ve decided to call ours the Golden Hill Storage Facility!  Now I’ll never admit to it, but there might be a subtle innuendo there!

Golden Hill Express!

I’m not going to make any predictions as to exactly when we’ll be open for business, as there is a LOT of work to do.  Give us about three months and we’ll have a better idea.  One thing is for sure . . . when we do open for business it will be posted on my blog!



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