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

An empty "North Forty" due to soggy ground a day into the Fly-in!

This year’s Oshkosh was a great one, even though it got off to a soggy start.  With a lot of rain prior to the event, they kept the “North Forty” closed to general aviation traffic for several days, only allowing show planes to arrive aand park in the dry areas.

I got a chance to hook up with an old friend, the World’s Greatest Aircraft Collection’s DeHavilland Mosquito!  We were very fortunate it was on display at the EAA Museum and not in Miami when Hurricane Andrew hit in 1992.  It has been many years since it has flown (1989) and once I get some additional hangars built at Fantasy of Flight, I intend to truck it back to Florida where we will go through it and get her flying again.

I got the chance to stop by and visit the KW Research Hangar where they keep all the aerobatic show planes during the fly-in.  This was the first building EAA built at Oshkosh (1983) that wasn’t a shower or a toilet.  What a legacy!  I have been an EAA member since I was sixteen, joining in 1969, and have been on the Board of Directors for almost twenty years.

One of the cooler things I got to do this year was attend a press conference where it was announced that my long-time friend and Heli-ski partner, Sean Tucker (right), and I got accepted to be on the Board of Directors of the Lindbergh Foundation.  As Charles Lindbergh began to fly around the world, he began to notice from the air how technology was beginning to impact our environment.  The Foundation was set up to promote balancing technology with the environment on the 50th anniversary of his famous flight.  It’s a great group of people with lots of opportunities to help out and network with a whole new group of friends!

I also got to read my All of Life is a School book to the kids at Kid Venture.  We had a great time and every kid got to keep an autographed copy!  Now how cool is that?  I finished writing my next book in the series called The Spirit of Lindy (how timely) and have begun the process of developing the artwork.  We hope to have the work finished by the end of the year, which might allow enough time to get it published before Sun ‘n Fun in April.  We’ll see.

With Ray Bensen!

Someone I had not seen since our Wings & Strings music festivals days many years ago was Ray Bensen from Asleep at the Wheel.  They played several times in the seven years we held the festival at Fantasy of Flight and got the crowds swaying and dancing one night at the Fly-In.  It brought back a lot of many fond memories.

With 7/8 scale homebuilt "Storch"

Another cool thing I got to see was the scaled down Storch that was part of an article in the latest EAA Sport Aviation magazine comparing this scaled down homebuilt with my original WWII German aircraft.  They did the photos and interview during Sun ‘n Fun last winter and I found myself on another cover, although I still find myself wondering why no one’s ever asked me to be a centerfold!

Kermit

July Cover of Sport Aviation magazine

blog-shot-kermit-and-franceen-with-storchI had the opportunity to show one of my Monroe Institute Trainers, Franceen King, around Fantasy of Flight last weekend.  Franceen was a trainer for three of the eleven Monroe Programs I took over the last few years and has the second longest tenure as a Monroe Trainer of almost two and a half decades.  I gave her the Vision Tour and let her sit in the Po-2 and Spirit of St. Louis reproduction and listen to the Audio Experiences for each plane.  Later, I flew Airplane of the Day in the Fiesler Storch and gave her a ride.  Between making fly-bys for the crowd, I pointed out Orlampa from the air.

She actually developed the Programs I took with her called Exploration 27 and Starlines 1 & 2 and has been involved in consciousness exploration for many years.  She lives in the local Florida area and before I met her had already visited Fantasy of Flight with her father, who was a pilot during WWII as well as her husband.  She told me when she first arrived and read my saying on the entrance wall, “She felt I was a kindred spirit!”  It was not long after that we first met during my sixth Program at The Monroe Institute.

Franceen was kind enough to help me edit some of the more technical material for the Starlines Chapters of my book The Journey Never Ends, which encompasses ten of the Monroe Programs I took during 2006 and 2007.  Several of my more profound experiences happened during her Programs that we nothing short of phenomenal.  There are other mentions about the Monroe Institute in my blog but you can check it out further at www.monroeinstitute.org.

As far as the book goes, I am pretty much done with the Introduction and the ten Program Chapters and am currently trying to get my head and arms around all the material for the Summary.  It is currently 1250 pages and over 650,000 words so don’t expect to read it all in one sitting!  I have several get-away trips planned to work on it over the summer and am still hoping to finish it by the end of this year.  

One thing I can assure you . . . anyone that reads this book will NEVER look at reality the same again!

Kermit