Was in Wichita, KS for a Board meeting with the Lindbergh Foundation and got a chance to check up on the progress of my Grumman Duck.  The fuselage and hull are basically finished as far as the structure goes.

Duck Float

I purchased this airplane in the late 1980′s from a gentleman named Sam Poole out of Lake Wales, Florida.  I happened to stop in and see it in the mid-eighties when I was coming up to Central Florida looking for a place to expand, which eventually became Fantasy of Flight.

Sam had flown the airplane in South America and at one point held the longest water-taxi record in the world.  He had damaged a float during take-off on a submerged log and didn’t want to take the chance flying it.  So he ended up taxiing it . . . 400 miles down the Amazon!

If I remember the story correctly, he picked up a couple of nuns along the way and when the river began winding forever back and forth closer to his destination, he realized he didn’t have enough fuel to taxi the rest of the way.  He did a somewhat shade-tree repair (which was still evident when I got the plane), got the nuns to roll their rosary beads a few times with a prayer, and flew the rest of the way!

Fuselage Sheet Metal is basically done!

The wings still need rebuilding but the project has been put on a back-burner project for now, as we have the flying Grumman Duck Candy Clipper on display at Fantasy of Flight.  The Duck was one of my first Warbirds and I still remember going out flying out of Tamiami Airport in Miami with some great tower controllers.  I’d show up five miles southwest of the airport, key the radio, and just say, “Quack, Quack” . . . and they’d clear me to land!


We were recently was visited by Dawn Holland, the granddaughter of Lowell Bayles, who was the famous Golden Age pilot that won the Thompson Trophy Race in 1931 in the Gee Bee Zee.

Presentation of Dawn's artwork

Dawn never got to meet her grandfather who, unfortunately, he was killed later that year trying to break the world speed record in the same airplane with a more powerful engine.  Dawn came out and presented me with a painting she did herself of the aircraft in honor of keeping the spirit of her grandfather alive.

Our reproduction of the Gee Bee Zee

I acquired a very faithful reproduction of the aircraft, which is on display at Fantasy of Flight.


Over the three day weekend after Thanksgiving we celebrated having been open for 15 years!

Our initial Grand Opening Gala was on on Veterans Day, November 11, 1995 and included a “thousand of my closest friends.”  People still talk about our amazing opening party where everyone dressed up in WWII Period Formal Dress or Black Tie.  We laid out the red carpet with searchlights, guard gates and re-enactors, Paparazzi photographers when you arrived to valet your car, a champagne reception, tour of the immersion environments, flight-themed laser light show, my welcoming speech, night aerobatics with pyro coming off the wings, fireworks, USO style Big Band, amazing food and drink, an air raid siren with simulated bombing and strafing, a French Cafe with decadent desserts, and then a Rock & Roll Band until the wee hours!  We opened to the public several weekends later after we recouperated.

To help celebrate our 15-year Anniversary we flew 15 different airplanes over the weekend, flying five different airplanes per day.  We also had many things themed around the “15th” for our guests and drew a raffle ticket for a great prize every time I flew one of the planes.  One group from the United Kingdom got in free, got a free lunch, AND won one of the raffle ticket prizes!  I told them they needed to buy a lotto ticket as well!

While I’m very proud of what we’ve accomplised so far in 15 years, which I now see as laying the foundation for our future.  I’m even more excited about the next 15, which will be the implementation of our future and a fun, creative and exciting time.  Starting in 2011, we will hit the ground running to revamp our existing product and facility even more.  We plan to re-theme all the old exhibits, add new ones, as well as add new tours and shows.

I thought it would be fun to share with you the 15 different airplanes I flew over the three days and in their order -

Friday #1 - Piper L-4

Friday #2 - Norde Stampe

Friday #3 - Stinson Tri-Motor

Friday #4 - Grumman TBM

Friday #5 - Grumman Wildcat

Saturday #1 - Bucker Bestmann

Saturday #2 - Polikarpov Po-2

Saturday #3 - Ford Tri-Motor

Saturday #4 - North American AT-6D

Saturday # 5 - North American P-51C

Sunday #1 - Fiesler Storch

Sunday #2 - Avro Cadet

Sunday #3 - Travelair 4000

Sunday #4 - Grumman Duck

Sunday #5 - North American P-51D with Aircraft Department celebrating with Champagne!

With Legoland opening at the old Cypress Gardens site next fall, we hope to ride on the coat tails of their marketing efforts to bring more tourists to Polk County.  Other happenings in the works that will help our long-term success will be the widening of our intersection at Interstate 4, Exit 44, as well as the initial construction of a High Speed Rail and stop down the center of the I-4 corridor.  Orlando to Tampa was THE #1 location for government support of a High Speed Rail System in the United States and the stars are beginning to line up for Orlampa!

We are all having fun developing Fantasy of Flight into something that does not yet exist.  Our future product is all about pushing our boundaries and reaching beyond ourselves and to get to where we need to go, we will all need to do it ourselves in spades!  In the end though, it’s not about getting to the destination . . . but the process and experience of getting there!  And while I would love to have it all done tomorrow, I realize it’s not my timetable and it will happen in its own time.  Not a problem for me as I’m doing what I love . . . and love what I’m doing!

Keep an eye on us and visit us from time to time . . . we’re going to do great things!


Checking my body fat percentage on our new Stayhealthy Kiosk

Several months ago I went in for my annual physical and noticed my blood pressure and chloresterol had started to rise.  I had been watching it for several years while trying to change it with supplements but they didn’t seem to be helping.  Having just been honored as a gymnast, and once in great shape, I was NOT about to go on medication!

I’ve been involved for many years as an investor in a company called Stayhealthy that builds body composition testing equipment.  You can check out the website and products at www.stayhealthy.com.  One of the neat things the company does is to let people put their own logo’s on the equipment, as in the case with our Fantasy of Flight kiosk shown.  Stayhealthy kiosks have been in use by Lifestyles Gyms, the US Government, major Universities and Shopping Malls.

I recently purchased the latest Stayhealthy kiosk for use at Fantasy of Flight.  It is currently set up in our employee break room but we soon plan to have it available for our customers in the Fantasy of Flight entrance area.

Not only does the kiosk check for color blindness, breathing rate, and blood pressure, it is also a scale and weighs you.  And while all that’s nice,  its main function is to check body composition.  It not only tells you your body fat %, but your lean muscle mass %, as well as your hydration %, and graphs it over time on a very inexpensive membership website.

Using the equipment while on a diet gives you accurate information in real time which is also useful later for maintaining a long-term lifestyle.  Body Composition Monitors (currently the BC-3) can purchased  for around $300 and are the most accurate on the market.  If you’re with a diet company, they usually supply them while you’re on their programs.  While other companies make body composition equipment, ours is used by the professional diet companies.  Stayhealthy has done lots of research over the years with major Universities and is at the cutting edge of the technology.

One of the things Stayhealthy has done, that no one else has, is come up with a method to replace the inaccurate and outdated BMI (body mass index) charts you see in the doctors office that use height and weight.  Watch for our new Stayhealthy index in the future!

When the CEO of Stayhealthy told me he had lost 35 pounds since last January using our equipment, I signed up for the program!  I thought, what a great way to check out my investment AND get healthy in the process!  Boy was I in for a shock!  I really got an education about the obesity problem we have in the United States.  It’s not really about weight, which most major diets focus on, but body fat!  It is not uncommon to be on the diet while beginning to exercise and notice no weight loss.  That would normally be very frustrating but what’s cool is that with the equipment, you watch your body fat going down while your lean muscle mass is going up!

Once I got into the diet, I WANTED to work out!  It was so cool to watch my body change before my eyes and I got excited about the whole process!  There was plenty to eat and it completely changed the perception of what I now consume.  I can’t believe how much crap there is out there.  It’s sad really but once you educate yourself, you can easily stay healthy.

I thought I might lose ten pounds, maybe fifteen, with the hopes it would help my blood pressure.  I began the diet at 196 lbs. and eventually dropped to a low of 165!  That was about 25 pounds of body fat with my body fat percentage dropping from 24.5% to 12.8% in two months!  I’m now off the diet and have maintained below 170 lbs. and 14% body fat!  This included Thanksgiving and I am well within the healthy range.  My blood pressure dropped from my doctor office visit of 144/90 to an average of below 120/80 with readings as low as 101/63!  My Hydration went from 75% to over 80%!  The really cool part is that you basically retrain your body how to metabolize what you eat by rebooting your pancreas and I’m beginning to eat stuff in moderation that I used to and my body just burns it up!

And I just missed my chance to run for Governor of California! (FYI – I’m wearing tucked in gym shorts)

While the diet I went on is not directly part of the Stayhealthy company, it is one of several companies that use and swear by our equipment.  You can check out the diet I used at www.livewellus.com.  Having dropped 25 lbs. I now feel like I’m dancing through life like a butterfly!  I can’t believe how much unhealthy fat I had on me, mainly in my body cavity.  And while I may not jump back on the high bar anytime soon, I now at least look as good as I did in my twenties!

It was probably the best health decision I ever made and I feel and look great!  The only down side is I hate to shop . . . and now I need to go out and buy some new clothes!


I just got notice they posted a link to my speech from the Living Legends of Aviation Gala last January and wanted to share it with everyone.  Not so much for  the Award, which I already posted on my blog, but for the message it conveyed.  If you watch it you will see why I’m so passionate about what I’m doing with Fantasy of Flight.  I had typed my speech out for reference prior to the Gala to use for reference but when I arrived early at the Beverly Hilon, I poked my head in as they were setting up for the event and they asked me if I wanted to use the teleprompter!  I had never seen one before and got a chance to practice my speech once.  It was a lot of fun and I thought I went on to do a great job later that evening!

The link includes an introductory video they played to set me up, introductions from Sean Tucker and Bob Hoover, and then my acceptance speech.  Check it out at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQ5xEX9nyGw.


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