We now have two new Sikorsky’s on display at Fantasy of Flight!

The first is a Sikorsky S-39.  It had been on loan for a period of time but is now part of the collection!  It made its debut to the public at the Sun ‘n Fun Splash-In that was hosted at Fantasy of Flight this past March.

Coming in over the trees!

Recovered from the Alaskan bush and rebuilt by Dick Jackson over 40 years and 40,000 man hours, it is the only example of its kind flying in the world.  To my knowledge there are only three or four known to exist.

It’s great on the water!

Dick brought the aircraft down several years ago for the Splash-In and left it on display for about six months.  I couldn’t help but want to see it on permanent display and after the event we cut a long-term deal to purchase it.  The aircraft is now part of the collection and is a joy to fly as well as operate on the water.

In its element!

It is truly a work of art and must be seen up close to be appreciated.

The next cool Sikorsky to arrive is an S-55 Helicopter!

A Grand Old Lady!

It was used in New York Airways as part of the first ever helicopter airline service in the early 1950’s and flew passengers between New York and the three surrounding airports – La Guardia, Newark and Idlewild (now JKF).

It’s powered by a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine that is similar to what is used in the WWII N.A. AT-6 Texan Trainer.  It won’t fly anytime soon but I’ve been offered parts to help in the restoration from a local business that does turbine conversions.  This one though . . . will stay as it is!

I’m hoping the S-55 will be seen by the public when we open our “Golden Hill” Storage Facility tour at Fantasy of Flight in a few months.

Come on out and check them both out!


I finally got to fly my Benny Howard “IKE” replica a couple of times recently, but not before a few setbacks.  It took us forever to sort out a brake problem, and then I had to figure out a way to fit in!

“Benny” is a character that shows up in my first illustrated children’s book called All of Life is a School that uses Golden Age airplanes to help tell the story.

Coming 'round a pylon!

The builder of this airplane, Kim Kovach, and the original pilot, were both smaller than me.  I believe the original pilot flew barefoot while Kim modified a pair of shoes to get in.  So I took his advice, grabbed an old pair of sneakers, and headed to the wood shop.

Modifying an old pair of sneakers!

After grinding off the heels down and sawing the toes off, I found that I could get in and operate the brakes without a problem.  There’s not much room to spare, as I find my toes tickling the bottom of the fuel tank!

Heels and Toes ready for Action!

As in the original, your heels and butt actually go down below the floorboards.  I had to wrap up a towel for a lumbar support so I could lean back and get my head down into the cockpit as well, which raised my knees to just below the panel and somewhat in the way of the throttle.

The only modification Kim made to the original dimensions was to extend the 18-inch fuselage width at the instrument panel back to the rear of the cockpit where your shoulders are.  Without it, and even with my shoulders rolled forward and inward, I just barely fit.  It’s hard to believe the original shoulder dimension was only 15 inches!

Taxiing out

One of the things that became immediately apparent was how rough it taxies on my grass runways.  As per the original, there is NO shock absorption built into the landing gear!  Oh well . . . that’s the way it was so that’s the way I’ll fly it!

Head On!

Currently, after about twenty minutes flying it, my arms and legs start to go to sleep so I end up landing sooner than I’d like.  I don’t see any cross-country’s in my future but will keep trying to find a way to make it more comfortable.

The original racer had an impossible to find 6-cylinder Menasco engine so this one has an almost as hard to find 4-cylinder Menasco with two dummy stacks.  It’s got a unique sound and I’m hoping we can fly it more for airplane of the day or special events.

I hope everyone gets out to Fantasy of Flight one day to see it fly!


After many months of research and thought, both the airframe and engine of the Benoist are slowly making progress as we narrow down on the 100th Anniversary of the first scheduled aircraft airline flight we hope to re-create on January 1st, 2014!

Fantasy of Flight restoration specialist Ken Kellett has single-handedly made a number of wooden components including; all 100 laminated ribs, all the interplane struts, all the wing spars, and both control sticks.

He began by building a mock-up of the critical center part of the plane where the pilot, engine, propellor, chain-drive, radiator, fuel tank, and main structure are located.  This will give a basic idea of where everything fits in relation to each other.

Mock-up of the center part of the Benoist.

Ken built a jig for construction of the wing panels and currently has the top wing center-section assembled in it and ready for gluing.

Top Wing Center-Section in Wing Jig.

He also began gluing up the ailerons . . .

Aileron in Jig

and is putting the final touches on the two wing floats.

One of the two lower wing floats with a wing rib on top.

Ken has also begun laying out the structure of the fuselage / hull on a large table top jig.  He built a six-foot dummy pilot (me actually) for use is making sure everything is somewhat ergonomical!

Dummy Pilot with one of two control sticks!  Have I lost my mind?

One of the cool things that happened recently was that many of the Benoist descendants came by for a tour one day.  I was out of town but Ken showed them what we were doing, as they are all following with keen interest.

Ken talks to the Benoist family descendants.

Later, after I got back, early engine expert Steve Littin came by for a visit to check on our progress and tell us how he was progressing on the six-cylinder Roberts engine for the project, which he’s building from scratch!

Ken, Andy, Steve (kneeling), and myself discussing the issues of airframe and engine.

Many of the smaller machined components have been made including hardware, oilers, and carburetor parts.

Brand new engine oilers!

Some of the larger ones like the crankshaft continue to be whittled down to finished size.

Roberts crankshaft undergoing final touches!

As seen in a previous blog post, most of the casting patterns have been made and some casting has begun.  Ideally, we’d like to be assembling the airplane with the engine by the end of this year, as the time is flying by and the Anniversary will be upon us in no time!

We offer a wood shop tour every day at 12:45 pm so come on by Fantasy of Flight and check out the progress!



When we got the new trolley’s for our future Storage Bay Tours across the street, my GM for Fantasy of Flight, Kim Long, decided to try a Florida History and Citrus Tour, as many tourists come from overseas and are fascinated by both.

One of our two Trolleys . . . The Orlampa Express . . . touring the Groves!

Turned out, several of our employees were Florida-born “Crackers.”  Not only were they a wealth of information . . . they both now do the tours!

Currently we do two tours a day from the normal Fantasy of Flight entrance, which tour through much of my Orlampa property.  A tour last about an hour and cost about $10 for an adult.  Come on out and check it out!


It’s been over a year since I went on a diet using the Stayhealthy equipment I invested in and am happy to say I’ve kept off over 20 lbs. and kept my body fat percentage in my desired 15% range.  I continue to exercise as regularly and am glad I made a Stayhealthy choice.

One of the side benefits of the diet was really learning what to eat and what not to eat and, while I still enjoy drinking socially and an occasional dessert, I’ve found my eating habits have changed significantly.  One of the main changes is that I eat a lot more vegetables.  My wife has recently begun growing a garden and we eat more fresh vegetables with lunches and dinners.  It’s amazing how much healthier they taste than what you generally buy at the store.

We recently moved the Stayhealthy Kiosk at Fantasy of Flight from our employee break room into the attraction area for our patrons to use.

Our Wingwalker character Penelope H. (Hang On!) Sparstrutter on the Stayhealthy Kiosk that is now in the Attraction!

One of the things we intend to do is to turn it around for privacy purposes as well as put a three-panel backdrop behind it with different texts to educate and provoke thought in the Fantasy of Flight way.

The center and title panel will be a quote from a famous Chinese philosopher and applies to just about everything we undertake in life.

With many dreams and goals, I have learned the profoundness of this saying and apply it to much of my life.  It takes time to learn and do great things and I’ve learned from my experience that patience is a virtue.  Also, it really is not about getting there; it is – ALL ABOUT THE JOURNEY!

The left panel will tell our patrons how Stayhealthy has the potential to help the future development of Fantasy of Flight.

The right panel will entice our patrons to check out their health with the potential of helping their future.

As you can see, we’ve tried to deliver the information in the Fantasy of Flight way where our patrons self-discover themselves for themselves.  We’re not only looking forward to healthier employees, but healthier patrons, and a healthier Fantasy of Flight!


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