Either our wood shop is getting a lot smaller, or Ken and the rest of the gang are rocking on the Benoist build. We hit a milestone this week as we hung the starboard wings for the first time. Here, the gang all pitch in to hang the upper:


With both the starboard wings up, you can see why we say the shop is getting smaller. How will we fit both sides?!


Below, Ken fits the planking for the floorboards in the hull. The metal piece to the left is the beginnings of the foot throttle. In the Benoist, the pilot’s right hand controls the stick for the elevator and ailerons, and their left hand controls the rudder stick. They did things a little different back then.


The fuselage is shaping up as well. Below, the seat is being assembled. Makes those airline seats look comfy, doesn’t it?!


Ken’s not the only one working hard either. Andrea has taken on the job of beginning to seal all the wood components.


And here, Andy is machine up more parts for the propeller drive system.


Rick and Dave have put the beads in the fuel tank where the hold down straps will go and have set the cap on that Andy made.


We also heard this week from our friends at Vintage Auto Rebuilds in Ohio.  Check out the progress on the 1913 Roberts engine they’re building us from scratch. The crankshaft is done and it appears that the align boring is as well. We can’t wait to hear it run!




With the January 1, 2014 deadline looming, the pace of work on the Benoist is increasing. Ken has made great progress on the fuselage/hull. He still needs to put the last layer of planking on the hull but not until he gets all the inside sorted out and the hull flipped over. Here you can see some of the stringers in the front that are temporarily in position showing the shape of the nose that gets covered with fabric. The controls are temporarily installed. And of course, Kermit strikes his trademarked pose:


Rick made up a mock-up fuel tank out of aluminum, shown here, to fit the mounting brackets and check for clearances. The actual tank will be made of brass which Rick will fabricate once the sheet brass arrives.

Ken has also been laying out where the rudder and elevator cables run down the inside of the hull, through the top turtleneck, and back to the control surfaces.


Andrea and Dave are working on sorting out the wire cables and adjustment ends, which has turned into a bit more than we expected. Andy is machining away on the drive train that includes the prop hub, prop shaft, and sprockets.


All in all, we’re making a lot of progress, but we can all hear that clock ticking in the back of our heads. Will we make it in time?

We hit somewhat of a milestone last week as Ken cleared out around the Benoist hull jig in preparation for flipping it over!


After rounding up much of the gang . . . we lifted up the hull and began to rotate it . . . trying not to break off any of the delicate pieces that still need more structure attached.


Almost there! It is not as heavy as it’s going to get as it still needs another layer of 1/4″ planking. The finished hull should weigh in at around 350 pounds.


After taking out a jig piece or two . . . we finally got it to settle in right-side up!


Here’s a shot from the front. Check out the two main beams going down the middle of the fuselage. The pilot seat sits on the front of the main beams while the engine sits just behind the pilot in the section without the lightening holes.

There is still a LOT of work to do on this!


Here’s a shot from the rear.

The top deck in the back gets 1/4″ planking and once it goes on . . . there is no way to get inside, so all the wood needs to be sealed and all the control cables need to be routed.

With the fuselage section open around the engine, and from the experience of our “Lark of Duluth” friends up north, we know water will get back there so Ken’s put drain holes in the bottom of all the bulkheads to make sure we can see any water in the hull before take-off as it should all drain to the low spot under the engine.

Our bilge pump will consist of a small bucket and a sponge!


Our own Ken Kellett just got back from vacation and is beginning to plank the Benoist hull in earnest now as these updates from Kermit show:


The front step area gets three layers of 1/4″ x 4″ spruce and the sides and bottom aft of the step get 2 layers. Here’s a closer view of the step area:


Here’s a shot from the front:


The side strips begin vertical and the next layer goes forward and aft. The bottom begins forward and aft because it ultimately gets three layers. Originally, in the construction of old boats and early seaplanes, fabric would have been glued under the last layer of wood to help seal the hull. Because you won’t be able to see it, we will use fiberglass cloth and epoxy glue, which is stronger and should seal it better.

In addition to Ken, we have four others focusing on cables, turnbuckles, a cable tension tester, the fuel tank, and the drive system. The engine guy up north is making progress and will also do the radiator.

Five months and counting! Tick… tick… tick…

We’re sorry about not posting for a bit. We’ve been rolling out a new website that is a vast improvement over our old one. We were going to move the blog of there eventually, but that’s taking longer than we thought, and you guys deserve an update, so here we go!
We had a meeting yesterday on where were are relative to getting our Benoist reproduction ready for the 100th Anniversary flight on January 1, 2014.

The clock is ticking and we’re beginning to feel we’re a bit behind the power curve.


We’ve mobilized everyone in the Aircraft Department to begin making this our PRIMARY focus, as we’ve still got a lot of work to do. Anslo, our built from scratch Roberts engine has also become the top priority at the shop where its being constructed.
We got some sad news from our friends that built a “Lark of Duluth” replica. This was the airplane that eventually became our Tony Jannus airplane and flew during a Duluth, MN Festival during the summer of 1913.


They missed flying their airplane for their 100th Anniversary event but finally got a chance to fly it last week . . . for about ten seconds!

It seems the pressure is on both our Fantasy of Flight CREW as builders . . . and on KERMIT as a pilot!

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