The month of June saw the arrival of not one . . . not two . . . but three Pups!

The first one is great project I purchased a while back called a Buhl Pup. It’s powered by a three-cylinder Szekely engine that puts out 45 hp.  It’s a cute little plane from the Golden Age that I thought would one day make a great character for my Gee Bee Book Series.  It just seems to scream out with personality!  It was developed in 1930 as an inexpensive airplane but the Great Depression took its toll and the company eventually folded after only about a hundred were built.

Is this cute or what?

The other two are WWI Sopwith Pups, which were the predecessor of the famous Sopwith Camel!  The Pup was one of the first Allied aircraft with a machine gun synchronized to fire through the propellor.  Both are powered by original 80 hp LeRhone rotary engines.  I acquired them separately in the 1980’s and used to fly one of them at the Weeks Air Museum facility in Miami.  It’s a very light little plane with a lot of wing area and flies around like a butterfly. Hurricane Andrew took its toll on both of them and, after we got the DeHavilland DH-4 projects back from Century Aviation, I decided to let them rebuild them.

Unloading the wings


I have no idea when we’ll get to them but, if we get the room, it would be nice to assemble one uncovered for display.  One thing is for sure . . . they sure look a lot better than when they left!


After my annual trip to Australia for meetings, I stopped in to see my friend Gene DeMarco with the Vintage Aviator Ltd. (TVAL) in Wellington, New Zealand.  I went to check up on the status of a couple of projects they had been working on as part of a trade I made with his boss Peter Jackson and hopefully participate in the upcoming Omaka Airshow.  I met Peter years ago in New Zealand through Gene and he has since come to visit Fantasy of Flight where I gave him a vision tour, looked at my WWI collection, and took him flying in a Stearman.  Peter is an avid enthusiast of WWI airplanes and we struck a deal for a trade that involved my original and extremely rare Sopwith 1 1/2 Strutter.  Initially I was somewhat reluctant to part with such a rare airplane but he made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.  The Sopwith for two new production WWI reproductions using two original engines that I would supply and they overhaul.

The first aircraft completed was a German Albatros D-Va and is an absolutely beautiful piece of art!

Proud new owner of an Albatros D-Va!

I arrived about a week before two of my mechanics did and got a chance to first get checked out in their original prototype.  Since Gene had to do the initial test flights for the NZ CAA, I flew the prototype while Gene put some time on mine.  A great kid named Bevan Dewes was onsite with a new camera and took some great shots of us flying.  What an absolute blast!

On Patrol with Gene test-flying mine and me in the prototype!

The main thing we did during our flights was tighten up the rigging on the prototype, which was way too loose for my tastes, and then proceeded to do the same to mine.

The Bad Boys are in town!

They did a magnificent job on the construction, which included reproducing the original instruments, radiator, seat belts, etc.  The original in-line six-cylinder Mercedes engine is a joy to hear and fly behind and with it’s low rpm, sounds like a John Deere tractor!  One of the more interesting things about operating it is that you have to twist a screw about every ten minutes on a grease canister mounted in the cockpit to keep coolant from leaking into the engine.  It has a rather interesting starting procedure where the mechanic has to climb up on the tire to grab a handle on the engine to lift the cam for starting, which then has to be lowered after the prop is turning!  True to the original, there are no brakes and a tailskid.  The radiator gauge and cooling shutter handle are outside the cockpit in the slipstream and only add to the whole experiencing of flying this wonderful piece of history!

Cockpit showing the external radiator gauge on strut and shutter control with wooden handle

Once the time was flown off by Gene, I got to start flying it.  Soon after, my guys showed up and we all got a chance to play with some of Peter’s other airplanes.  While Gene gave rides to my guys, I jumped in a number of other airplanes and joined in the fun.

Me flying an original Be-2c

Gene giving a ride to one of my guys in an original Bristol Fighter while I follow in a SE-5a

Not to be one not to partake in the rides, Gene let me play gunner in an Fe-2b they had built using an original Beardmore engine.  Oh my God . . . what a blast!  Literally!  I couldn’t help but not pose for some shots as we did some fly-bys!

Recognize the Gunner?

The Albatros passed it’s test-flights with flying colors and I was now comfortable in the airplane.   We began the disassembly process to take it over to the south island by ferry for the Omaka Airshow.  After arriving, everyone pitched in to re-assemble it as preparations for the show began.  We took the time to visit the onsite museum, which Peter and graciously supplied with many of his airplanes for display.

Albatros on the Omaka show line with seven Fokker Triplanes!

My part of the two-day show was to dogfight with Gene in a rotary powered Sopwith Camel as seven Fokker Triplanes made fly-bys in different formations.  There were other WWI planes flying as well and it had to have been the biggest group of WWI airplanes flying at one time since WWI!  I later got to go up for a photo mission with a helicopter and photographer Gavin Conroy got some unbelievable shots over the countryside.

Phenomenal shot taken over the Omaka countryside!

Although Peter was deep in to filming The Hobbit, he took the time to give everyone a break so he come over and attend the show.  I got the chance to visit his VIP Chalet on the flightline where I got to hang out with Peter and some of the actors.  While in Wellington, I got to visit the Hobbit set twice, which was a fascinating experience.  It’s amazing to see how many people it takes to pull off a major motion picture production like that.  The second time, my guys were with me and we got to watch Gandalf (Ian McKellan) do his stuff.

With Peter and Gene at the Omaka Airshow!

After the show was over, I got to visit with Richard Taylor at the Weta Workshops.  Richard and Weta are the genius behind all the computer graphics that support Peter’s endeavors as well as other films.  They’ve won many Oscars and awards for their work that includes: Lord of the Rings, King Kong, Avatar, and Chronicles of Narnia to name a few!  Richard is working with me on several small projects for Fantasy of Flight and is a great guy.

With Richard at Weta Workshop

As if this wasn’t all cool enough, we also got to check up on the second airplane Gene and Peter’s guys are building for me . . . a WWI British Sopwith Snipe with an original Bentley rotary engine!  The Snipe was the airplane intended to replace the famous Sopwith Camel at the end of the War and was powered by the most powerful rotary ever built.  The Bentley engine has the distinction of being the first engine produced using cast aluminum cylinders with steel liners.  Gene’s guys overhauled both my Mercedes for the Albatros and my Bentley for the Snipe.

When I first arrived, the Snipe was just being covered.

Snipe fuselage being covered at the TVAL workshops

By the time we left, it was painted and being rigged for assembly.  Amazing!  Many small items still need to be accomplished before it’s ready to fly but it will make a great addition to the Fantasy of Flight collection.

Snipe being rigged for the final fitting of bracing wires, etc.

Now, was that a cool trip or what?  When I grow up . . . I want to be me!


Got a chance to check on the progress of our FG-1D Corsair project while on a trip to Australia.  The project is owned by the not-for-profit organization I started back in 1979.  Originally named the Weeks Air Museum, it has now been renamed the World’s Greatest Aircraft Collection to reflect a broader and more inclusive purpose.  I purchased the project in the 1980’s from a gentleman in Seattle, WA and later donated it to the organization.

Checking out the progress on the Main Spar

The airplane appeared in the racing scene after WWII and sported the name “Joe” on the side .  It had an extra fuel tank installed behind the cockpit and was used in the Bendix race from LA to Cleveland.  It’s a fairly complete project but had a corroded upper spar cap that needed to be replaced.  A Warbird restorer in Australia had a project with the wings cut off and needed a good center-section to build a jig for his.

We struck a deal where he would replace our spar cap for the use of our center-section.  While apart, we paid for any additional restoration work that needed to be done, which included a new firewall and attending to some minor corrosion.  All the work has been done except for the final manufacture and installation of the new spar cap and then reassembly.

It should be a fairly straight forward restoration from here on out.  I’m sure my restoration team will begin to get excited about the project once we get it back to Fantasy of Flight.


I attended this year’s Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In in the Grumman Duck, which I brought it over the first day of the show because we had so many things going on at Fantasy of Flight.  Due to weather in northern Florida, the Warbird ramp was essentially empty when I arrived!

An empty Warbird Ramp!

On Thursday of the Fly-In, I was to fly the head of the FAA, Randy Babbitt, over to the Splash-In, which Fantasy of Flight was hosting.  Unfortunately, bad weather moved in that morning and devastating winds (possibly a tornado) hit the site and damaged a number of airplanes and displays.

Day of the Splash-In!

Thankfully, the Duck had been put inside a hangar the night before in anticipation of the approaching weather.  While Fantasy of Flight missed the worst of the weather, it dampened the Splash-In, which was held the next day.

Some of the airplane damage at Sun ‘n Fun!

Randy and his entourage drove over instead and I got a chance to show them around and give them the vision tour of what we’re creating.

Touring the head of the FAA

I got to visit the Fly-In during the week and checked out my dream jet . . . the Phoenom 300!

My Dream Jet!

Hopefully I will be able to justify one, if and when Stayhealthy pays off!


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!


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