My Benny Howard “Ike” replica recently arrived at Fantasy of Flight.  It is a faithful reproduction built by Kim Kovach of Detroit, Michican and is powered by a 4-cylinder Menasco engine.  The original airplane used the impossible to find 6-cylinder Menasco so the two rear exhaust pipes on this airplane are dummies.  Kim did a great job building it and it will make a great addition to the Golden Age racers on display at Fantasy of Flight.

Benny has since been assembled and is now on display with all his friends from my illustrated children’s book All of Life is a School. I have now collected seven of the ten characters in the book!

Benny as depicted in my book All of Life is a School

I first saw this airplane several years ago at Oshkosh and made a mental note it would be great to acquire one day.  Surprisingly, Kim called me and we tentatively cut a deal on the phone based on whether or not it would fit me.  I flew through Detroit on a trip and barely squeezed into it.  The only deviation from the original was to continue the 18-inch width at the instrument panel back to the rear of the cockpit where your shoulders are.  I’m glad he did this as there was no way I would have fit into the 15-inch original!  Even now I have to roll my shoulders forward to get in.  To fit in height-wise, there are not only detents in the floor for your heels but a cushioned seat that also allows your butt to sink below the floorboards!

Benny's Cockpit

On a side note, I’ve written my next book in the Gee Bee series called and recently began the process of working with the artists.  I got smart this time and only wrote in new characters, which I already had in the collection!  Look for more about this new book with some preliminary drawings in future blog posts.


I recently did a research trip for the Benoist Flying Boat we are building for the 100th Anniversary of Flight on January 1st, 2014.  Since there are no original drawings of the airframe or existing aircraft in exixtence, employee Ken Kellet and I took off to see what we could find.  As mentioned before, the Benoist uses a rare and unavailable 6-cylinder two-cycle Roberts engine of 75hp, which we hope to also recreate.

We first arrived in Washington D.C to visit the National Air and Space Museum and the Hazy Center to look at similar aircraft.  We were allowed to go through their historical archives, finding pictures and other bits of information that will help us.  They was very accomodating and allowed us to arrive before they opened and inspect a similar Hugo Eckner Flying Boat hanging in one of their galleries with a lift.  This aircraft also used the same engine as the Benoist.  I took lot’s of pictures.

We then took off by car to head up to Hammondsport, NY to visit the Glenn Curtiss Museum where there were two other similar period aircraft.  Continuing on we stopped to check the progress of the Fokker D-7 Fred Murrin is building for me.  The main structure is basically complete and it’s coming along slowly but nicely.

1913 reproduction Curtiss "E" Model Flying Boat at Curtiss Museum

1919 Curtiss "Seagull" at Curtiss Museum

After a day at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidental Library taking pictures of Roberts engine drawings we visited with Steve Littin of Vintage and Auto Rebuilds just outside of Cleveland, OH.  He builds early Rolls Royce Silver Ghost car engines from scratch and is willing to help our desire to build a new Roberts engine for the Benoist Flying Boat.  Steve recently visited Fantasy of Flight and, after discussing the project, took my 4-cylinder Roberts back to Ohio with him as well as all the drawings and manuals we took pictures of to begin the process of figuring out how we’re going to build a new one.

Kermit and Steve Littin with 4-cylinder Roberts engine

I was fortunate to recently acquire a second 4-cylinder Roberts from an auction in England, which just might end up in our 1910 Curtiss Pusher reproduction.  I figured since we’re going to be Roberts engine experts at some point, why not?  I also made an agreement with Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome to borrow their 6-cylinder Roberts, which is currently on display in the St. Pete Museum.  It will be sent to Steve for disassembly for reverse engineering purposes and we all look forward to learning about, building, and running this fascinating engine!  I can only imagine that it’s got to sound like a Harley on steroids!

On a side note, I got a chance to see the original Curtiss Seaplane Schneider Cup winner at the Smithsonian.  The land plane version of this with wheels (R3C-1) was the basis for the “Curtiss” character in my illustrated children’s book All of Life is a School.

"Curtiss" R3C-2 Schneider Cup Racer at NASM

I also got a chance to see the original “Roscoe” at the Crawford Museum in Cleveland, OH, which is also a character in my book.  I was somewhat surprised when I saw it to find it painted gold!  When I wrote the book, I must have got it confused with one of Roscoe Turner’s later racers, which was silver.  Since I was just about to put in the order for another 5000 books, I went to the trouble of changing the color.  I guess that makes the next batch the “Gold Edition!”

Original "Roscoe" Turner Racer at the Crawford Museum

I’ll post updates on the Benoist and Roberts project as we progress.  Once we get this research part done the fun part begins: building!


I recently added a new character to the list of real airplanes kids can see when they visit Fantasy of Flight.  It’s a replica of the Benny Howard airplane “IKE” featured in my illustrated children’s book, “All of Life is a School.” I acquired it from Kim Kovach who faithfully built it up to original standards after having the opportunity to measure the real one, which still exists.

One deviation from the original is that it’s powered by a 4-cylinder Menasco engine instead of the very rare, and impossible to find, 6-cylinder version used on the original.  The only other modification was to continue the width of the fuselage at the instrument panel (18″) back to the seat back.  The original airplane was actually 15″ at the shoulders!  I went up to see if I could even fit in it before I purchased it and just barely fit!

“Benny” is safely stored in a hangar in Michigan with plans are to truck it down and put it on display sometime this June!  This will bring the number of on-site characters from the book to seven out of ten.  Had I known I would be collecting them all in the long run, I would not have written so many into the book!


Reno 2009 b smallI just got the numbers in from my Gee Bee Book sales at the Reno Air Races and I’m really excited.  Last year I sold out of 550 books and this year I sold another 500+ books! 

I wasn’t sure what kind of response I would get because of all the books I sold last year but they kept selling.  There were many new buyers as well as some past buyers that wanted more.  Many of the past buyers came by to tell me how much their kids loved the book and wanted to know when the next one would be out.  I took that as a challenge to try and get the next one published in time for Oshkosh and Reno next year!

This person purchased 10 Books for his family and friends!
This person purchased 10 Books for his family and friends!


I have already begun researching and writing the story, which will be called “The Spirit of Lindy!”  Again, it all begins at Fantasy of Flight and you can probably imagine what might happen.  I will be introducing at least two new characters and have a couple of cute ideas that will make it a fun story.  The message in the book has the potential to be more powerful than All of Life is a School. 

The animators I used for the first book just finished about 20% of the latest Disney film, “The Princes and the Frog!”  So, it seems I am working with the best.  Stay tuned for more updates!



I just got the final results in from my Oshkosh sales.  While I didn’t sell as many Gee Bee Books as last year, I definitely sold more product!  Last year was the first year the book came out and I sold 420, although I did run out of books with three more days left of the Fly-In.  This year I sold 350 Gee Bee Books, as well as, 100 Audio Experience CD’s, and 120 Wizard of Orlampa DVD’s.   EAA rolled out the red carpet for me and gave me my own spot, Kermit’s Corner, in the EAA Wearhouse Merchandise building near Aeroshell Square.

kermit's corner

I introduced two showings of the Wizard of Orlampa in the EAA Museum Theater and got a great response.  When I arrived for my second showing on Thursday morning, the AV guy came out and told me it was the biggest crowd he had seen all week!  All the seats were filled with many people sitting in the aisles!  I also got a chance to read the Gee Bee Book several times at Kid Venture and gave away six Gee Bee Books as prizes.

Handing out three Gee Bee Books after reading to the crowd!

Handing out three Gee Bee Books as prizes after reading to the crowd!

On Thursday night, at the Young Eagles event, I was an auction item and my Vision Tour package including an airplane flight raised $4000!  All in all it was a great trip!


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