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