Famous author, Richard Bach, came by for a visit and checked out our Travelair 4000.  Richard is most famous for his classic Jonathan Livingston Seagull, which is about a seagull that transcends the perceived limitations of his species while trying to get them to go beyond themselves.  He also wrote many other classic books revolved around aviation and is a legend in the aviation and writing community.

Richard and my Travelair 4000

I first met Richard about six years ago when he came to visit Fantasy of Flight during the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In.  He has become a great friend, as we both enjoy aviation and using it to get people to look within themselves and self-discover the potential that lies within.

Probably the other most famous book Richard wrote was Illusions, the Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah. It’s a great story about a barnstormer giving rides during a season in the mid-west that happens to bump into another barnstormer and the adventures of self-discovery that follow.  Famous film director, Zack Snyder, has told Richard he intends to do a movie-version of the story as soon as he finishes filming Superman II for Warner Brothers.

Guess what airplane the reluctant Messiah flew? . . . a Travelair 4000!  Richard has recommended the use the Fantasy of Flight Travelair for the film!  Now, how cool is that? I  sent a video clip of the Travelair flying to Richard and Zack so we’ll see how all this unfolds!

Kermit

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

Travelair 1I recently test flew our Travelair 4000 after a complete top-overhaul by our engine restoration specialist, Andy Salter.  The aircraft sports a Wright J-5, which is the same engine that safely took Charles Lindbergh across the Atlantic in 1927.  This particular airplane had been out of license for eight years so it was great to get it flying again!  Andy is currently working on building up another J-5 to power our Spirit of St. Louis replica.  This is an extremely rare running engine and is possibly one of the very few, if not the only Wright J-5 engine currently flying!

One of the reasons we got it in the air again is there is a possibility of doing some movie work with it within the next year or so.  If this happens, we will use the Spirit engine as a back-up and when any filming is completed, we would then install it on our Spirit of St. Louis replica.  One of the small tweaks we need to do is to adjust the pitch angle on the ground adjustable propellor, as it is a bit coarse right now.  It currently has a higher cruise than normal, but needs a bit more horsepower for take-off and climb.  This can be accomplished by flattening out the pitch angel on the prop to allow the engine to turn up a bit more rpm on take-off, which translates to more horsepower.  Currently, it’s like taking off in a car in third gear.  It takes a bit to get going, but once you get leveled off, and up to speed, it goes!Travelair 2

If you are in the Central Florida area this weekend, you can see it fly at Fantasy of Flight in conjunction with a Barnstormers Event we’re doing July 25th and 26th.  I won’t be able to fly as I will be heading towards the Oshkosh Fly-In that begins next Monday, July 27th to sell and autograph my products in the EAA Wearhouse near Aeroshell Square, Monday through Thursday.

I hope you can make it out to Fantasy of Flight this weekend, but if you find yourself up at Oshkosh, come by and say Hello!

Kermit