I finally got to fly my Benny Howard “IKE” replica a couple of times recently, but not before a few setbacks.  It took us forever to sort out a brake problem, and then I had to figure out a way to fit in!

“Benny” is a character that shows up in my first illustrated children’s book called All of Life is a School that uses Golden Age airplanes to help tell the story.

Coming 'round a pylon!

The builder of this airplane, Kim Kovach, and the original pilot, were both smaller than me.  I believe the original pilot flew barefoot while Kim modified a pair of shoes to get in.  So I took his advice, grabbed an old pair of sneakers, and headed to the wood shop.

Modifying an old pair of sneakers!

After grinding off the heels down and sawing the toes off, I found that I could get in and operate the brakes without a problem.  There’s not much room to spare, as I find my toes tickling the bottom of the fuel tank!

Heels and Toes ready for Action!

As in the original, your heels and butt actually go down below the floorboards.  I had to wrap up a towel for a lumbar support so I could lean back and get my head down into the cockpit as well, which raised my knees to just below the panel and somewhat in the way of the throttle.

The only modification Kim made to the original dimensions was to extend the 18-inch fuselage width at the instrument panel back to the rear of the cockpit where your shoulders are.  Without it, and even with my shoulders rolled forward and inward, I just barely fit.  It’s hard to believe the original shoulder dimension was only 15 inches!

Taxiing out

One of the things that became immediately apparent was how rough it taxies on my grass runways.  As per the original, there is NO shock absorption built into the landing gear!  Oh well . . . that’s the way it was so that’s the way I’ll fly it!

Head On!

Currently, after about twenty minutes flying it, my arms and legs start to go to sleep so I end up landing sooner than I’d like.  I don’t see any cross-country’s in my future but will keep trying to find a way to make it more comfortable.

The original racer had an impossible to find 6-cylinder Menasco engine so this one has an almost as hard to find 4-cylinder Menasco with two dummy stacks.  It’s got a unique sound and I’m hoping we can fly it more for airplane of the day or special events.

I hope everyone gets out to Fantasy of Flight one day to see it fly!

Kermit

I am very excited to have completed my second illustrated children’s book in the Gee Bee Series, The Spirit of Lindy. After two years of writing, working with the artists, and endless tweaking, I recently sent it off to the printer!

It’s a great story based on the famous flight Charles Lindbergh made from New York to Paris to win the Orteig Prize in 1927.  I came up with the concept, wrote the story, and had two great Disney-trained artists, Dominic Carola (pencils), and Ryan Feltman (paint), do the artwork.  We came together to create a beautiful book that, we all feel, has more potential than my first book, All of Life is a School.

The first book was actually a condensed version of a feature film script I’d written.  At the time, I owned several of the ten airplane characters in the book.  Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to collect another character here and there and eventually realized life was leading me to collect all ten!  I now have seven on display at Fantasy of Fight!  There’s a possibility to collect two others but the third, Curtiss, will have to be built from scratch, as only the original exists and is in National Air and Space Museum in Washington.  Something tells me, I don’t think they’ll be willing to part with it any time soon!  :-(

Cover Art including Questions on the back to help teach History in a Fun Way!

While creating the next book, and to save myself some money, I got smart this time and made sure I only included new characters that I already had in the collection!   This will be my approach for future books in this series, as I’ve got plenty to work with.

Two new characters making their debut are Geoffrey D. H., an enthusiastic DeHavilland 4 Mailplane with a grand idea, and Lindy, based on the Spirit of St. Louis.  Of course, it all takes place at Fantasy of Flight where Gee Bee Zee, Puff, and all their friends pursue Geoffrey’s idea, build the plane, and learn a valuable life lesson in the process.

Geoffrey D.H. makes his debut!

Currently, I’m awaiting a sample copy from the printer to approve before we run the presses.  As with All of Life is a School, the first run will be for 5000 books.  I’m hoping to have them by the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In in late March 2012 but this may be somewhat tight, as the printer is currently on vacation and I’m not sure where I may end up on their schedule.  If I don’t make Sun ‘n Fun, I will definitely be signing copies at the Oshkosh Fly-In in July and the Reno Air Races in September.

So far, I’ve sold over 6000 copies of All of Life is a School out of the Fantasy of Flight gift shop, on the Internet, at airshows and other smaller events.  I’ve had no luck trying to break into the major bookstores so, I’m quite proud to have sold this many on my own.  I actually have signed so many books the non-autographed ones are rarer and probably worth more!  :-)

Lindy is Ready to Go!

Since the book will now be printed in 2012, I’ve missed the deadlines for entering any 2011 contests.  I’m excited to submit it, as I believe it has as much, or more, potential than All of Life is a School, which won a Bronze independent Book Publishing Award!

I have concepts for another dozen books in the Gee Bee Series and now have to think about which one to focus on next!  Once I get The Spirit of Lindy books in hand, the real work will begin trying to promote and sell them!  At least I’ve laid the foundation with the first book and already have an email list and somewhat of a following.

I’m still learning the business, which is all but impossible to break into for a first-time author.  I can only apply what I’ve learned so far and hope to implement some new things as well.  But, hey . . . now I’m a two-time author!  We’ll see.

Kermit

I was recently asked to endorse a product for a Radio Control Airplane version of the famous Gee Bee R-1 Racer!  This was the airplane that Jimmy Doolittle flew and won the famous Thompson Trophy Race in Cleveland, OH in 1932.  They actually built two versions of the airplane: one for racing in the Thompson closed-course pylon races and another for participating in the cross-country Bendix Race from Los Angeles to Cleveland.

I'm now on the side of a box!

We’re fortunate to have a reproduction of the airplane on display at Fantasy of Flight, which has since become one of the characters in my illustrated children’s book series.  The first book is called All of Life is a School and I’m rapidly narrowing down on my second one.

It’s a cute little airplane with an electric motor.  Guess what it weighs with the motor and all the radio control gear in it?  FIVE OUNCES!  They brought one out for the photo shoot and later flew it for me off the ramp.  How cool!

While we aren’t getting paid for the endorsement, we are getting some great advertising on the side of the box to help advertise Fantasy of Flight.

I used to fly R/C airplanes when I was a kid and now joke to people that I crashed so many of them, it got too expensive . . . so I got into collecting Warbirds!

Kermit

Menu Page

After almost a year of design, development, and approval, I am happy to announce that Gee Bee the Little Racer and Friends is now for sale as a game application for your I-phone!  We spent a lot of time creating something of high quality for a reasonable price and the game is based on the illustrated children’s book I wrote called All of Life is a School. I’ve had an I-phone for several years and am embarrassed to admit this is the first application I’ve ever added!  Now that I’m up to speed, I’ve since found many other cool ones.

The description of the game is as follows -

Fly Gee Bee ® ”Zee” and his airplane friends through different fun environments

gaining points by delivering packages, racing the clock, dropping watermelons,

and popping small balloons with your propeller all while dodging obstacles like

hot air balloons, birds, and terrain. There are eight different levels to win medals

and six different airplanes to fly!

Menu Page for upgrades and different characters using bonus points

Download it today for only $1.99 at bit.ly/8Yf7yW or by searching your I-phone applications for Gee Bee the Little Racer and Friends. We just posted a YouTube clip that explains more at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQA7qja7YgE.  Check it out and let us know what you think!

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

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