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!

Kermit

 

We are slowly making progress on a very rare Seversky P-35a, which I acquired it in a trade many years ago with the USAF Museum.   The P-35 was a mid-thirties fighter that saw limited combat at the beginning of WWII in the Pacific.

There are only three of these single-seat aircraft left in the world and this will be the only one that will fly!  The two others are on display at the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio and the Swedish Air Force Museum in Stockholm.

I am very fortunate to have on my restoration crew sheet-metal magician Ricky Reeves.  He has been the main person doing the work.  Once the Stinson L-1 is completed and flying, which is getting close, Paul Stecewycz will join him on the project.

Restoration Specialist Ricky Reeves putting the final touches on the side hatch.

Since we knew this would be a long-term project, we made the decision early on to reverse the normal process of restoration.  Normally, everything would be taken apart, documented, the basic frame restored, and then parts added as they are completed.  Instead, we have taken one part off, restored it, and then taken off another!  Once we finally get down to the basic fuselage and it’s restored, all we have to do is put all the parts together!

Obvious restored parts! The side hatch is for a mechanic to sit in the back!

The airplane came from the Swedish Air Force and has a significant amount of pitting and surface corrosion from being stored in underground bunkers during WWII.  The plane received additional damage in 1992 during Hurricane Andrew, mostly to the skins we will be replacing.  It is our intent to replace all external skins, shine them up, and use as much of the internal structure as possible.

We have some wing jigs made and will begin on them at some time in the future.  We recently assembled some of the parts to show off what has been accomplished so far.

Tail Feathers and Tailcone

If you want to follow the progress, come by Fantasy of Flight and check it out, as it’s part of the Daily Restoration Tour.  It will surely be a piece of art when we get it done and I’m looking forward to not only flying it, but being able to use it as a mirror to shave!

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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