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

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

Progress continues to be made on the  Benoist airplane we are building at Fantasy of Flight for the 100th Anniversary of the first scheduled commercial airplane flight on 1/1/2014.

Restoration specialist, Ken Kellett, is heading up the construction of the airframe and has begun making jigs for the fuselage sides, ribs, and a mock-up of the center-section to get an idea of where everything will go.

Most people that reproduce old airplanes only go half the distance to do it right and end up installing a modern engine and don’t get near the same performace as the original.  This is because of the rpm the engine delivers it’s horsepower and turns the propellor.  Most modern engines turn at a higher rpm for use with smaller propellors at higher speeds.  At the speed realm of the older airplanes, modern engines cannot create the thrust needed like a slow moving large diameter propellor.

That’s not the way we like to do things.  However, there was a problem . . . we couldn’t find an engine to purchase ANYWHERE!

There's a Crankshaft in there somewhere!

I hired Steve Littin of Vintage Auto and Rebuilds in Ohio to scratch build the six-cylinder Roberts engine that we’ll need for the project.

An original cylinder and a mold plug

His company currently builds Rolls Royce Silver Ghost car engines from scratch of the same period and is well-qualified to do the job.  I was able to purchase two four-cylinder Roberts engines but only know of about six original engines that were in museums and unavailable for purchase.

Cylinder Molds

We were able to borrow a six-cylinder Roberts that had been in a crash from Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome to reverse-engineer.  The four-cylinder engines that I have put out 50 hp.  The Benoist uses a six-cylinder Roberts that is basically a stretched four-cylinder to produce 75 hp.  The cylinders and carburetors are identical and the plan is to build the case molds for both the four and six-cylinder engines.

Roughed in Connecting Rods!

It’s an exciting project for everyone.  We’re living our product by pushing our boundaries. It will be great to see how all this unfolds!

Kermit

I attended this year’s Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In in the Grumman Duck, which I brought it over the first day of the show because we had so many things going on at Fantasy of Flight.  Due to weather in northern Florida, the Warbird ramp was essentially empty when I arrived!

An empty Warbird Ramp!

On Thursday of the Fly-In, I was to fly the head of the FAA, Randy Babbitt, over to the Splash-In, which Fantasy of Flight was hosting.  Unfortunately, bad weather moved in that morning and devastating winds (possibly a tornado) hit the site and damaged a number of airplanes and displays.

Day of the Splash-In!

Thankfully, the Duck had been put inside a hangar the night before in anticipation of the approaching weather.  While Fantasy of Flight missed the worst of the weather, it dampened the Splash-In, which was held the next day.

Some of the airplane damage at Sun 'n Fun!

Randy and his entourage drove over instead and I got a chance to show them around and give them the vision tour of what we’re creating.

Touring the head of the FAA

I got to visit the Fly-In during the week and checked out my dream jet . . . the Phoenom 300!

My Dream Jet!

Hopefully I will be able to justify one, if and when Stayhealthy pays off!

Kermit

We hosted a symposium again at Fantasy of Flight for Black History month honoring the Tuskegee Airmen.  They were the black pilots that flew for America during WWI and got their name from the field they trained at in Tuskegee, Alabama.

Hanging with my friends after a flight to honor all that they did

Again, I got a chance to fly my P-51C Mustang for them as the attendees looked on.  They talked about their adventures and exploits as well as the hardships they went through due to the racial prejudice and segregation at the time.  I was honored when they inducted me into their organization as an honorary Tuskegee Airman because of be being the first person to paint an airplane in their colors to help promote their cause.  Their signature markings were the red nose and tail.

Helping tell the story!

Several news stations came out to cover the event and I got a chance to sport the red jacket they gave me!

Kermit

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