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

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


While on a recent California business trip this September, I got the chance to check up on a couple of airplane projects as well as acquire another great addition to the collection.

Over the years, I’ve had several projects worked on by Carl Scholl and Tony Ritzman’s Aero Trader facility at the Chino Airport.  They were responsible building up my North American B-25, the Apache Princess, which received Grand Champion Warbird at the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In and Reserve Grand Champion Warbird at the EAA Oshkosh Fly-In.  After Hurricane Andrew devastated the Weeks Air Museum in Miami in 1992, I sent my Douglas A-26C attack bomber out to them to rebuild.

A-26 under restoration

When I purchased the airplane back in the mid-1980′s, it was very original and probably the most authentic A-26 in the world.  While flying it back from California, I happened to stop at an airshow in Texas and while showing someone the airplane, flipped on a couple of switches in the back and found that the rear gunner turrets still operated!  I was impressed.

Rear gunner position for the upper and lower remote turrets

My airplane had the distinction of having flown in both WWII as well as Korea and sported the colors of Whistler’s Mother for many years.  Other A-26′s went on to be used during the Vietnam war, giving them the distinction of being the only American combat airplane to have participated in three wars.  Seeing the opportunity to take what was already the most original A-26 in the world to an even higher level of detail, I told them to disassemble and go through the entire airplane.

Bomb Bay detail

While the airplane appears to have been originally built with the glass bomber nose, which the “C” model designation signifies, it also came with four gun packs under the wings, housing a total of eight .50 caliber machine guns.  I’m not sure whether or not it was originally built this way in WWII or modified for Korea but we intend to continue researching this as well as its original colors.  Combined with the four .50 guns in the upper and lower turrets, it was not an airplane to mess with.

Three of the four guns mounted per side that are housed in streamlined pods

Three of the four guns mounted under one wing, which are contained in streamlined pods

I also got a chance to check up on a project we’re about to start on for a Rosie the Riveter display we’ve been designing for Fantasy of Flight.  It’s one of the new attraction elements were striving to create that immerse people in history around a theme common to the human experience and in a way they self-discover something about themselves for themselves.  It will involve a factory assembly line for B-29′s and that’s were Aero Trader comes in.

B-29 nose for a new Rosie the Riveter Display!

I purchased a B-29 nose years ago and we intend to clean it up, as if it was being built on an assembly line.  I don’t want to give away too many details of our plans but keep an eye on our progress!

I also had the chance to check out a rather historic helicopter: a Sikorsky S-55, which had flown with the world’s first Helicopter Airline out of New York City to La Guardia Airport and other local destinations.  The owner and I had talked over the years and he recently called to tell me he decided to sell it.

With my new (well, OK, old) Sikorsky S-55!

Having decided to include early helicopters in the collection, I couldn’t resist checking it out.  It had flown as recently as the late nineties but had a light blade strike, which will require going through everything to be safe.  While it will be a long-term project, I couldn’t resist acquiring this great piece of history!

Due to space considerations, I will leave it in California until we get our new storage facility completed.  Look for it to arrive at Fantasy of Flight sometime in the early Spring of 2012!

Kermit

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