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!

Kermit

As most of you know Hurricane Andrew devastated the Weeks Air Museum in Miami in August of 1992. As we were digging out of the rubble in Miami and rebuilding the Museum down there we slowly began the development of Fantasy of Flight here in Central Florida. Many of the airplanes were either sent out for repair or slowly moved to Central Florida. A new group of enthusiasts continued on with the Miami facility as the Wings Over Miami Museum.

My last flyable airplane on display in Miami was a Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bomber. Over the years, the Hurricane damage was repaired with the intention of flying it to Fantasy of Flight. Well, last week was the big date to test fly the aircraft and hopefully bring it up. I had last flown the TBM since just before the Hurricane over 15 years ago and needed to get recurrent at the same time I was test flying the airplane as the FAA requires a re-currency check on any airplanes over 12,500 lbs. The first flight went great and my only concern was I had recently been flying my little Grumman Wildcat fighter and when I got the TBM off the ground I thought the control stick had somehow been set in concrete! I couldn’t believe how heavy the controls were compared to the Wildcat. It all slowly came back to me and I became comfortable very quickly.

While I got my recurrency check complete, I was not able to fly the airplane home as it developed some ignition problems. We had to take the magnetos off as well and order a new set of spark plugs. As soon as that is fixed, we will get the airplane up to Fantasy of Flight! I drove home with the check-pilot and we then jumped into the Ford Tri-Motor and I got recurrent in that. So, if you come to visit in the future there is a chance you may see the Grumman Wildcat, the Grumman TBM or the Ford Tri-Motor in the pattern!

I am also about to head off around the world with a first top in Maui to work on a book about my 10-Program experience at the Monroe Institute. If you think you might be interested in exploring Inner Consciousness and Out of Body experiences, check out www.monroeinstitute.org. I hope to have most the book, “The Journey Never Ends!”, edited by the end of this year.

I’m then off to New Zealand to spend some time with Peter Jackson (director of Lord of the Rings and King Kong). He is a WWI airplane nut like me and has an amazing bunch of airplanes being built up. I loaned him 3 WWI German Mercedes engines and will get to see the first one running on the stand while I’m down there. He is using them for patterns and is in process of building engines from SCRATCH! We also just send him a crankshaft for a Hisso for one of his SE-5′s he built. I hope to get to fly one while I’m there. I had also loaned him the front and rear turrets off my Lancaster Project as he is under development to redo the “Dambuster” film! He had about eight full-size Lancs built out of fiberglass. I am sure he will do a great job and can’t wait to see the film!

Then I’m off to Australia for some business meetings, but not before I stop in and look at my Kingfisher and P-39 projects in Wangaretta, north of Melbourne. I continue on to London to check on the final stages of my Hawker Tempest V project, which we are bringing up to displayable condition. Everything has been rebuilt to airworthy standards but we are currently just trying to get it displayable for Fantasy of Flight. I have two Napier Sabre engines for it and one day hope to make it fly!

I get home just in time to catch up for a few days and then head to Oshkosh to promote my book, “All of Life is a School!” It’s all about the Journey so enjoy what you love to do!

Kermit