Something recently told me to get my Lockheed Vega flying!  I’m not sure where the message came from but it seems like a great idea!

I purchased the Vega from Dave Jameson, several months after Hurricane Andrew ripped the Miami Weeks Air Museum apart on August 24, 1992.  I must have been feeling sorry for myself?  :-)

We begin the disassembly process!

While digging out from the destruction, it continued to be displayed at the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, WI.  By the time it made it to Florida for Fantasy of Flight’s grand opening in 1995, it had not flown for over a decade.  At the time, we had other things to worry about and since it looked great we just assembled it for display.

Wing coming off!

Over the years, the original 500 hp Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine was replaced by a bigger and later 600 hp version from an AT-6 Texan with a constant speed propellor.  It’s my intent to restore it back to the original early-style engine and ground adjustable propellor.  Because of the engine conversion, the instrument panel began to reflect later-style instruments and the plan will be to put everything back to as original as possible.

Nice shot of the disassembly from above.

Also, the wheels and brakes were upgraded and fiberglass wheelpants installed.  We haven’t looked into whether or not the original wheels are available, or even if it originally had brakes (It may have originally been built with a tailskid), but brakes will be needed for sure.  I acquired an original set of wheel pants from the Tallmantz Collection purchase in 1985  that we will try and salvage or use as a pattern for new ones.  Dave Jameson may have actually purchased this Vega from Tallmantz, so we might be reuniting them after all these years!

First load – the Wing!

The Vega will be upgraded and made airworthy by Kevin Kimball and his shop about an hour away from Fantasy of Flight in Mt. Dora, FL.  They do great work and have produced several award winning vintage aircraft restorations from this period.

Currently, it’s my intent to keep it in the colors of the Winnie Mae and use it one day as a character in my illustrated children’s book series starring many of the famous planes from the Golden Age of Aviation.  His name will be Wiley and, of course, just might find himself with a patch over one windscreen!

Second load – Bye, Bye Vega!

During the process of talking to Kevin about the restoration, I found out he has always had the dream of making a mold to produce the fuselage which was used in the making of not only the Vega but the Orion, Sirius, Altair and Air Express!

Never to have been one to be satisfied with just one model of a type, I couldn’t help but think, “Wouldn’t it be nice to have a set!”  We’ll see.





This last April, it was finally time to bring our Douglas C-47 home and finish the trip that started last summer in southern England.  We recently completed a new storage facility that allowed us to make some room and get it inside.  I grabbed some of the crew from last summer and headed north to Oshkosh where we had left it on display in the EAA Museum.  By the time we arrived, it had been moved over to the Flight Research Hangar where we could begin working on it.

Back to a familiar place!

Once we got there, we did a quick survey of everything and got started.

About to begin!

Over the course of the next few days, we installed the charged batteries, re-installed the GPS, began inspections, did gear swings . . .

Preparing to cycle the Landing Gear

and began loading up what we needed to take home.

Loading up!

Once completed, we pushed it out into gorgeous weather to fuel it and prepared to make some smoke and noise.

Ready to Run!

The engines ran great and it looked as if we were getting close to flying.  The other pilot that crossed the Atlantic with me, Verne Jobst, was on stand-by a couple hours away but, unfortunately, had recently had some minor eye surgery and found out at the last minute he was not legal to make the trip.  Bummer!  I called Frank Moss in Florida, the father of Glen Moss, who had flown across the Atlantic with us last summer.  Frank and his kids run a DC-3 operation in Florida and is very qualified.  He was willing to help us and arrived the next day.

Unfortunately, after Frank arrived, we learned we were not legal to fly on the annual inspection we had done.  We needed to have an inspection program by approved our local Florida FAA!  This wasn’t something that was going to happen overnight.  Our only option was to request a ferry permit from the FAA to get home and sort out the proper paperwork later.  Unfortunately for us, it was Friday afternoon and the offices were closed!

Sadly, some of our crew went home the next day, as we could only legally fly with “essential crew only” on the ferry permit.  We hung around over the weekend making small tweaks to the airplane and visiting the EAA museum.  Monday morning came and we soon had our permit in hand.

We're legal!

Unfortunately, the weather was about to move in but not before we got a short flight in.  While the weather was somewhat marginal, everything checked out fine.

We got out the next day before more weather moved in but still had weather south of us.  This forced us to head out across Lake Michigan to try and get around the east side of it.

Heading across Lake Michigan!

Crossing the last major water body from England, we dodged some weather in Indiana and eventually broke out into gorgeous weather.

Dodging weather in Indiana!

Flying through the mountains north of Atlanta

After about six hours of flying, we stopped for the night in Douglas, GA where we hooked up with some other warbird owners.  The next day was absolutely beautiful for our last leg to Fantasy of Flight.  We delayed our take-off to arrive in time for our daily Airplane of Day display at 1:30 pm.  Our Grand Arrival was greeted by many supporters and employees, as well as a couple of newspapers and news stations.

The final crew, finally home! Frank Moss, myself, and Wayne Root.

It was great to be home and I want to thank everyone that helped make our trip a successful and memorable one.  We met a lot of new friends along the way and each of us now has a lot of great stories to tell.

It’s interesting how life can be full of surprises.  Just over a year ago, I didn’t even know this airplane existed and now its safely on display at Fantasy of Flight.  A year ago, I never would have dreamed I would be crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a C-47 and would became the reason for me to finally get my instrument rating last January.

Pop, Pop, fizz, fizz . . . Oh, what a relief it is!

Once we get the final FAA approval, I’ll get my type-rating and look forward to showing it off!  One thing is for certain, this will be one adventure I will never forget!




One of my mechanics recently found a really old spark plug in our spare parts that was apparently made by the “Wizard” Spark Plug Company.  He brought it to one of our aircraft meetings and presented it to me because of the “Wizard of Orlampa” title of a DVD years ago that’s for sale in our gift shop.

I immediately got the idea to create a little stand for it, which another mechanic made for me.  The spark plug combined with our mission statement, Light that Spark Within, now resides on my office desk!


A Wizard of an Idea!

Light that Spark Within refers to the potential that lies within each and everyone of us as it manifests into reality.  Kind of like the Universe coming from a Big Bang singularity.

Flight is the most profound metaphor of pushing our boundaries, reaching beyond ourselves, and freedom: not only in the world around us but also within, for we each, in our own way, can relate to reaching for sky and reaching for the stars as well as soaring in our imagination and flying in our dreams.  This will be the Fantasy of Flight future concept and product, where people self-discovery themselves for themselves through entertainment as they Light that Spark Within!  Now how cool is that!





I recently got the opportunity to fly the Commemorative Air Force’s Boeing B-29 Fifi from Lakeland, FL to Tallahassee!  It was my third flight in a B-29 and my second flight in Fifi.  I had the opportunity to fly Fifi the first time when I was bringing my B-25 Mitchell Bomber home from California and stopped at the CAF show in Midland.  I’m a life-time member of the CAF and applaud them for what they do keeping their airplanes flying for the public and keeping the history alive.

On the ramp after Sun ‘n Fun preparing to head north!

My first flight in a B-29 was in mine back in 1984 when we tried to move it inland from Oakland, CA and the salt air to Stockton, CA.  We were on a ferry permit but had a few problems about ten minutes after take-off and had to turn back.  In the end, it had some corrosion in the wing and I decided to disassemble it.  I later traded the US Air Force out of two spare airframes they had sitting at the China Lake NAS so we now have plenty of spares to help in the restoration.

Flying right seat in Fifi!

I’ll never forget taxiing out to the runway at Oakland on three engines because we were having trouble getting #3 started.  We thought we may have over-primed it so decided to taxi out and try to start it when we got out to the run-up area.  This time period was right after they had de-regulated the airlines and, as we cranked away trying to start the last engine, a large 747 airliner bound for Hawaii came taxiing by.  With smoke billowing from #3 as we cranked, a transmission came over the radio from the 747 querying Oakland ground control.  I could imagine the pilot peering down from his lofty perch with glasses down on his nose as he questioned, “Is this one of those new airlines that started up since the de-regulation?”  I cracked up, as even I thought it was funny!

My view from the co-pilot seat!

A few years ago I loaned the CAF one of our QEC’s (quick engine change).  They were doing a complete engine conversion to later engines and I think this was a nice way to repay me.  The new engines are really working well for them and I’m sure we’ll do the same when the time comes to restore ours, which unfortunately won’t be anytime soon.

On the flight to Tallahassee, I got to do the take-off and the landing and pretty much did all the flying.  Of course, we made a fly-by at Fantasy of Flight shortly after take-off.  The best way I can describe the experience is that it’s like flying the Empire State Building!


Our 1932 Pitcairn Pa-18 Autogiro has finally arrived from a Museum in Ohio and is now on display at Fantasy of Flight!  It’s powered by a 90 hp Kinner engine and has a maximum speed of about 95 mph.

The Pitcairn arrives!

I had seen this aircraft first at Oshkosh several years ago and then after the Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In when it was flown over and disassembled in our Fantasy of Flight hangars before heading back north.  I remember mentioning to the owners that if they ever wanted to sell it to give me a call.  Well, that day came last summer and we quickly cut a deal!

The Assembly Process

Once it was all put together, it was time for the final inspections, paperwork, checking the oil, and fueling.

Fueling and final preparations.

Andrew King, who had been the only person flying it and who used to work for me in Miami, went up for a twenty-minute test-flight and put it through its paces.  It was the first time I had ever seen an original autogiros fly and it is surely a sight to behold!  Here’s a link to a video clip of Andrew’s test-flight.

After Andrew landed, we all looked it over carefully and put some more fuel in it.  I jumped in the front passenger seat and, after Andrew took-off, he handed me the flight controls.  It was a bit different than what I expected and tended to jump around a bit.  When I asked Andrew this, he said it had been smoother early on and that maybe there was a blade out of track.

Here’s a link to a video clip of my view from the front seat.  This was all happening during the Sun ‘n Fun Splash-In at Fantasy of Flight and you can see the activity on the lakeshore as I pan over that way with the camera.

Once we landed, we swapped seats and it was my turn!  This was a first for me and a first for Andrew, as he had only flown from the back where MOST OF THE CONTROLS WERE!  Talk about trust!

I taxied down to the end of the runway, spooled the rotor up to about 90 rpm, unset the parking brake, disconnected the clutch that spins of the rotor so it will free-wheel, added the power, and off we went!  It needs to move forward on the runway a bit like an airplane to get the rotor blade speed up to about 125 rpm where it lifts off.

We climbed up and did some maneuvers, one of which I thought would be a bit disconcerting for your average airplane pilot.  I slowed down to zero airspeed, held the stick back all the way, and came down vertically like a parachute!  The rotor continues to spin because of autorotation!  Then when you kick in the rudder, the wing drops and it starts to spin!  Whooa!

After some more airwork I landed in about 40 feet and then did two more take-off’s and landings to get comfortable.  While I have a helicopter rating and would feel perfectly comfortable flying it, the FAA says I still need to get an autogiro rating.  Talk about incentive!

The post-flight Hero Shot with Andrew, Myself, and friend Richard Bach!

The whole experience was an amazing flashback into aviation history and I’m excited about getting my rating and start flying it.  Of course, after we track the blades!

As part of the deal, they surprised me with a book on its history and restoration, a flying suit like Andrew had been wearing, and my very own autogiro hat!  Hey, maybe I can practice running around the ramp with just the hat!  :-)

A Happy New Owner with all the Accessories!

I think it will make a great future character for my illustrated children’s book series as Pretty Polly Pitcairn and expect that she will probably pair up with my other autogiro Juan de la Cierva!

It now seems I have some incentive to get Juan, a Cierva C-30, down from the rafters and restored!  Come on out and check them out!


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