Thursday, October 26, 2006

Kermit Weeks

Last week I was in Anaheim, CA for a seminar. I was talking to a guy about powered paragliders and they sound really incredible. It seems so simple to takeoff and land anywhere you like. It was exciting just talking about them.

Then he said that there was a man that I had to meet at the seminar as well. His name is Kermit Weeks. Now, I've heard of this guy before and know a few people who know him. So after a few minutes he comes over and I got a chance to talk to him for a while. What a cool guy.

Kermit has a place in Florida called Fantasy of Flight. It's an aviation museum and airport. By the way, Kermit has a significant collection of airplanes to go with his private airport. He was telling me about his airplanes and his dream for the museum. I was amazed just listening to him. This guy loves aviation and has flown and built a lot of airplanes.

By 1977, Kermit had built the "Weeks Special," an aerobatic aircraft of his own design and qualified for the United States Aerobatics Team. In 1978, he was runner-up among 61 competitors worldwide, earning three Silver medals and one Bronze medal in the World Aerobatics Championships staged in Czechoslovakia. Over the span of a dozen years, he placed in the top three in the world five times and won a total of 20 medals in World Aerobatics Championship competition. He has twice won the United States National Aerobatics Championship and has won several Invitational Masters Championships in different worldwide competitions.

I had to pinch myself to make sure it was all real by the time we were done talking. Here's the guy who's living my dream... (don't worry, I'll make it happen someday).

Kermit told me to give him a call if we were ever in his neck of the woods, and it turns out that it will be next week. I'm going to be in Florida and I'm planning on visiting his museum while we're there. I'll have to let you know how it goes. In the meantime, check out his website at Fantasy of Flight.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The Great Georgia Airshow

The Great Georgia Airshow in Peachtree City, GA was absolutely incredible! My friend, Larry King performed in a SP-95 'Slava'. His airshow partner Phil Harcourt flew an Extra 300. Jim Leroy of Bulldog Airshows was there in his highly modified Pitts S-2S. Les Shockley drove his ShockWave Jet Truck to 378 mph on the runway with lots of smoke and fire.

All in all it was really awesome. It was small enough airshow to be able to see everything in one day, but it was big enough to make that day larger than life. There was a lot going on and the best part for me was that I got to hang out with all of the performing pilots for the whole day.

The day started off with the pilot briefing with the 'Air Boss'. He's the air traffic controller who is on the ground controlling the action and making sure that all of the airplanes are where they are supposed to be at the right times. He coordinates all the flights so that there's always something really cool going on.

The briefing consisted of the weather conditions for the day (which were great), which runway we were using, safety factors, emergency procedures, and pilot schedule. The average age of a person in the room was probably over 50 and there were a lot of aviation heros there.

One pilot was 82 years old and he flew a Piper Cub, and it was one of the best airshow acts that I have ever seen. His name is Charlie Kulp and he does a 'Flying Farmer' routine. The crowd thinks that he's never flown a plane before and he takes off and flies really crazy really close to the ground. The plane isn't fast or powerful, which makes his performance even more amazing. Because he is looping, rolling, and spinning the airplane within a few hundred feet of the ground. I was really impressed.

A highlight of the day for me came when I was picked to help hold a ribbon for Jim Leroy to cut with his airplane. A few of us went out on the runway during his flight and held up poles with a ribbon between them. Jim first flew under the two ribbons, and then on the next pass, he cut them both while he flew his plane sideways! He was flying close to 200 mph less than 25 feet from me. It was really loud and really cool.

At the end of the day, I took off in the Piper Comanche to return to my home airport. I can't wait until I can take off and roll inverted and put on the best show ever for lots of people. That day will come, and I'll keep you posted.

Blue Skies,

Matt