My hat goes off to Kermit Weeks

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My hat goes off to Kermit Weeks

Postby OGJ » Wed Nov 10, 2021 5:13 pm

My hat goes off to Kermit Weeks and another well done Kermit, with over 4 hours of videos on the “Duck” plus another 45 + min on the Duck by others, see below, after the article by Today's Pilot, about who is Kermit Weeks?

Today's Pilot, August 2004 , Pilot Portrait - Kermit Weeks

Kermit Weeks began building his first aeroplane at 17, won the United States National Aerobatics Championships twice and was placed in the three overall in the world on five occasions. He went on to found the world-renowned Fantasy of Flight attraction in Florida - yet he has even more ambitious plans for the future, as he explains to Steve Bridgewater.

Entering the Fantasy of Flight attraction at Polk City, Florida, the visitor is transported into a different world. You walk through an aircraft fuselage which reverberates to the sound of imaginary engines, as cold air rushes from the open doorway and a shadowy figure beckons you to 'jump.' As you walk down a spiral corridor the sounds of rushing air and projections of moving clouds give the impression of parachuting sedately down into another world. This amazing experience is just part of the first phase of what former aerobatic pilot Kermit Weeks hopes will lead the way for the next generation of theme park attractions.

There can be few pilots in the world today who have achieved as much in their careers as Kermit Weeks yet still have so many plans for the future. In April of this year I was fortunate enough to be invited to spend some time with Kermit, to hear about the twists and turns of his life which led to where he is today and to discuss his ambitious plans for the future. Although he skis, on both water and snow, and plays the guitar, banjo, fiddle and piano, aviation remains Kermit's number one passion and I was keen to discover why. "Everybody has a passion that drives them in life," he told me. "It is this passion that takes them down the paths which determine their life. At the time we don't realize it is happening and it is only when we look back at those paths that we actually realize they exist." It's amazing how the brain stores away minute details of these 'paths', as Kermit explained. "The first step I recall on my path occurred when I was a child, growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was sitting at home listening to the radio and on came a song called Snoopy and The Red Baron. I liked the song and it set me thinking about aviation and history and -for me -that was where it all began. It was like a big light bulb lit up inside me. I went to the library and read every book I could find on aviation, especially the aces and the air- craft of World War One. "From then on my life revolved around airplanes. I've always been fascinated in technical things as well. I like to build things and I like to design things, so perhaps it was natural that these two interests should merge."

When Kermit was 14 he and his family moved to the Miami area of Florida and he met a whole new crowd of friends. "I started flying control-line model airplanes soon after we arrived in Miami," he said. "That led me to start flying radio-controlled models. The next step on my path was when some- body introduced me to a gentleman who was building his own home-build airplane. I remember thinking to myself 'Gee, I like to build stuff and I love aviation -so this is a match made in heaven!' "So, when I was 17, and still at high school with no flying experience, I began building a home-built airplane called a Der Jager D-IX. It was a German-looking biplane powered by a small Lycoming 0-320 engine, and because of my fascination with World War One it was the obvious plane for me to build." During his final year at school Kermit spent almost all of his spare time building his airplane, and although college and university took him away from the project for a while he eventually finished it in about four years and got it flying.

Today the aircraft takes pride of place above the reception desk in the Fantasy of Flight offices. "I'd begun building my first airplane even before I'd taken my first flying lesson so I guess I knew it was some- thing that I really wanted to do:' he said. "When the time came for me to learn to fly, I soloed in six-and-a-half hours and this may sound crazy to some people but it felt like I'd been a pilot before, in another life.'

Aerobatic Gymnast.
Like so many pilots Kermit learnt to fly in what he refers to as a 'Spamcan' so one of his first goals after getting his PPL was to get a tailwheel rating and get checked out in a Citabria. "I had competed on the high school gymnastic team so I was used to flip- ping around the gym, therefore when I began flying it was perhaps only natural that I would gravitate towards aerobatics," he surmises. "Once I'd got the hang of getting the Citabria up and down safely, a friend and I concentrated on teaching our- selves aerobatics using Duane Cole's book Roll Around a Point as instructional material. From there we started competing and while it had become obvious very early on that I was never going to win any Olympic medals for my gymnastics I was actually getting quite good at aerobatics. I was clearly being led into aerobatics as the next step on life's ladder." In order to finish building his aero- plane Kermit had quit his university course in Florida but was later accept- ed for a course at Purdue University in Indiana. "Purdue had a great aero-engineering school as well as a good aviation maintenance course," Kermit said. "This meant I could study aircraft welding and sheet metal work. Of course I'd already built an airplane by now and used these skills but I wanted the qualification. I pretty much started from scratch with my aeronautical engineering degree but in my second year life had a different plan for me." Although he is now a very wealthy individual, few people realize Kermit was not born into a rich family. "I never grew up with money," he told me. "But my grandfather made some discoveries of oil in Australia and these started to pay off in the late 1970s. All of a sudden, due to this good fortune, I found I could afford a purpose-built aerobatic airplane. I bought a factory-new Pitts S-2A two-seater for $28,000. I couldn't believe I had that kind of money available to me at that. time!" Kermit had the opportunity to buy a single-seat Pitts -which was cheaper - but he wanted the second seat so he could share his passion with others. "I am very fortunate to be able to do what I do and I want to give something back," he said. "I come from a philanthropic family and it was important for me to give something back to others and I couldn't do that in a single-seater.'

The Next Step.
During his first summer recess from Purdue Kermit took the Pitts to as many aerobatic contests as he could and gradually built up his experience. After the break he returned to university but within a few days he fell ill. "I was feeling sick for a few days," he recalls. "I had a fever and my temperature was 103 so I missed a class and went to the infirmary on campus to get checked. The doctor called me back the following day and told me I had hepatitis and I was contagious so they threw me into an isolation ward. I felt fine, but I missed the first two weeks of classes. Then I dropped electrical physics, then I dropped calculus, and then I threw my hands up in the air and said 'This is just not happening fast enough.' So I left and life led me in another direction."

Pilot Portrait.
Determined to make a success of his aerobatic career Kermit rented a small workshop facility and set about designing a purpose-built aerobatic airplane which would become known as the Weeks Special. "Any time during the design-and-build phase of the Weeks Special, if I had a question about structural loadings or overall design I could turn to Curtiss Pitts and his engineer who were based just 20 miles away," said Kermit, smiling as he recalled the happy days he spent with Curtiss. "Curtiss was a mentor during that period and he is still a great, great friend. His engineer, Gene Deering, was the person who helped me with one or two structural issues that I knew were beyond my capabilities at the time. I'd go down to their hangar and Gene and Curtiss would do the analysis and tell me what I needed to do to resolve the issues," Today the Weeks Special hangs in the restoration hangar at Fantasy of Flight, waiting to be repaired after it was damaged in a hangar collapse (more of which later). From a distance the Weeks Special might look like a Pitts but when you get close it is very different. "There was a lot of similarity with the Pitts, with airfoils etc, because of my experience, but the aircraft was designed from scratch and is not a modified Pitts," Kermit tells me with pride. "It was designed and balanced around a 200hp engine and constant speed propeller, the bottom wings were swept and the aircraft had symmetrical ailerons." With the Weeks Special completed Kermit set his sights on a place on the US aerobatic team. "I sold the two-seat Pitts and started training in the Weeks Special in the unlimited class category at world class level," he says. The hard work soon paid off as he made the team and went to his first World Championships in Czechoslovakia in 1978. "I surprised both myself and everyone else," Kermit told me, with that proud smile reappearing once again. "I came second out of a field of 61 competitors and won three silver medals and a bronze. I couldn't believe I was 25 years old and was placed second in the world flying an airplane I'd designed and built myself! I was so excited that I began designing my next aerobatic aircraft -the Weeks Solution -on the plane home from the championships! "I flew two world championships in the Weeks Special and four in the Solution and in those six competitions I was placed in the top three overall five times winning 20 medals. I was also US national champion twice. I probably could've won more but I only competed every second year. That was the year they made the national team selection. On the 'off year' I would go to Reno, as the two week- ends clashed, and catch up with my race buddies.'

Symbolic Flight.
"I realize now that a lot of my fascination with aerobatic flying is a reflection of how I look at life,' Kermit told me. "In a lot of ways aerobatic flying is the epitome of what flight is all about. Flying, to me, symbolizes freedom and aerobatic flying is the ultimate freedom as you're flipping around, defying gravity and doing things you can't do on the ground. I also feel flight is symbolic of what we are all here in life to do -by that I mean to learn and grow and push our personal boundaries. "I was lucky as I was able to push those boundaries not only as a pilot but also as a designer and builder. Developing the airplanes I was always looking for more vertical performance, more roll rate, more, more, more! To me that symbolized pushing my boundaries in this outer world, yet at the same time I was pushing my inner boundaries as a competitor. The reality in life is that we rarely compete against other people, you're only ever competing with your inner self -it's all about learning and growing and under- standing ourselves." Even when he was flying in world class aerobatic championships Kermit was only really competing with himself.

"There were times when I just flew the greatest, and I was so proud of myself, yet the competition standings just didn't show that. Yet there were other times -specifically the gold medal I won in the World Championships in Austria in 1982 - when I went out and had the worst mental flight I have ever had. I was on the ropes all the way through the flight and nearly flew out of the box on one of the maneuvers. Yet I won the gold! Life can be funny like that."

Museums And Experiences.
It is this discovery of our inner self that Kermit says he wants to portray at his Fantasy of Flight attraction, located half way between Tampa and Orlando in Polk City, Florida. Explaining his vision to me he becomes ever more animated and his voice more excited. "As we've already said flight, more than anything else in the world, symbolizes freedom, pushing our boundaries, reaching beyond ourselves and trying to become all we can be. There are so many great stories in aviation history and the symbolism of these can mean something to us all whether we're aircraft enthusiasts or not. "The reality is that we all fly in our dreams. Whether you remember it or not when you wake, we are subconsciously influenced by it. We absorb so much in our lives that we don't think we can retain it all in our heads, but it all sticks, waiting for the time it is needed. There is so much more to life than people realize, there's so much more around us that people aren't aware of. "The idea of Fantasy of Flight is to use what I love as a means to an end to touch other people, but the fantasy of flight ultimately goes to an even higher level. In its simplest, defined form it is something that everyone relates to. All I'm doing is putting a name to it. Nobody has done it before. It is the fantasy of flight that draws us beyond what we think we are, to become more of what we truly are." Pointing around to the surroundings Kermit tells me: "This is not who we truly are. Everybody's on a journey, everybody's here to learn and grow, to experience life and to discover who we truly are. Regardless of who you are something draws us beyond 'today' to become more 'tomorrow.' I'm defining that as Fantasy of Flight because of this metaphor of flight, and the fact that we fly in our dreams. There may be a bit of an ethereal thread to what's going to happen here and I think that's what is going to touch people." Kermit has often been described as the most prolific airplane collector in the world and his aircraft date from the earliest days of flight to the Korean War. Until recently his collection boasted an example of every US fighter from World War Two except the P-47 Thunderbolt, but he has recently acquired one of these to complete the set! One thing you can be sure of though, Kermit's vision is far from an airplane museum. It is "a cross between a museum and an attraction - more of an experience," he said. His history in the 'museum' industry goes back to 1985 when he opened the Weeks Air Museum at Miami in Florida. After building an impressive collection of airframes from allover the world disaster struck in 1992 when Hurricane Andrew demolished the hangar and badly damaged many of the aircraft inside including the Weeks Special and Solution. But long before the hurricane hit Kermit had begun plans for what is now known as Fantasy of Flight. "Literally as soon as the doors were opening at Miami in 1985 I began looking for property to build Fantasy of Flight,” he said.

"Before the Miami facility had opened I had out-collected the space I had available, mainly because of the Tallmantz collection of 36 aircraft I acquired in January 1985. I also leased the building and I thought to myself 'why should I plough any more money into some- thing I'm not going to own?'" Life had a different plan. By then Kermit had been collecting airplanes for six years and decided he was in the business for the long haul so he began looking for a new base and Central Florida, with its strong tourist industry, was the obvious location. Something Kermit learned early in his time at Miami was that an airfield is a wonderful place to fly airplanes from but it's not necessarily a great place to attract a lot of people to. "1 know everybody in the museum industry..' he told me, "and nobody is making a dime if you take away grants, subsidies, donations and the like. Sadly people are not prepared to pay to see what they love. So I realized that if I was going to become successful -and I know I'm going to be phenomenally successful beyond my wildest dreams -the product could not be about airplanes and/or history alone. "So, once I came here to Polk City I realized I needed to do something different if I was going to get people through the door. My museum at Miami was a tin hangar with ropes and signs -like any other airplane museum, but in this highly competitive market, especially in this area with Disney and the like on the doorstep I had to be different. What I needed to do was come up with a product that everyone who came in though the door could relate to. That was when the metaphorical light switched on in my head and it dawned on me -rather than using airplanes as an end product -why don't we use them as a means to an end? "The reality of it is the one thing we can all relate to and that is going beyond ourselves at some point. I can't imagine anybody not wanting to be more tomorrow than they are today. "Because of this I think the opportunity is there to take the attraction industry to the next level by combining the medium of flight and every- thing it symbolizes with the medium of the entertainment industry. I can- not think of a better combination in which to touch people in a profound way. "Up the street [at Disney/Universal] 40 million people come annually to see their attractions. They have a great product, but they're soon coming up on being 50 years old. I feel there is an opportunity to take that experience to a new level. There are plenty of tourists to go round, I just want to offer them something different. "If somebody like me, with the vision and means, can come along and create that new attraction I really think it is an unbelievable opportunity.

I plan to take as much advantage of that opportunity as possible and I'm looking forward to it." "We want to emotionally involve you in the experience:' Kermit revealed. "Our goal is that when you come out of that experience we have bumped you to the point where you say 'That's kind of interesting.' What I don't want to do is bump you in any particular direction -the direction you take your thoughts and what you get out of the experience is entirely down to the individual's mindset. "That next step on your life journey is not my choice, it's yours, and I just want to bump you to take that step. Eventually, when people leave I want people to take their blinders off and to take a new look at their worlds - both their outside worlds and their inner worlds. "Our inner experience is half of our experience:' says Kermit as he clutches his hand on his heart. "This physical body that we inhabit during our time in this world is really just a cross- roads between the inner world and the outer world. "Everybody who comes to Fantasy of Flight is going to get out of it exactly what they want depending on where they are in their life journey. Some people will read more into it than others, some will think it's a really great museum others will think it is a really cool attraction, but won't be able to put their finger on what it is that's so cool, while others will 'get it' straight away."

Fantasy - The Future
So what will future visitors to Fantasy of Flight actually see? "We hope to include all forms of aviation history here, including lighter- than-air craft and seaplanes, and eventually everything will be housed in its own period environment," said Kermit. "For example, our Early Flight area will have a half-size replica of the Grand Palais in Paris, with full-size balloons inside along with early dirigibles floating in the air in a Parisian-style setting. Any airplanes we fly from that period would be based on an air- field setting -like the one in the film Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. "Moving on to the Great War we will have two World War One airfields on opposing sides. Then from the golden age of flying -the 1920s and 30s - there will be lots of different styles of hangars housing aircraft from the period. The area in front of the cur- rent facility and on the other side of the runway will be late '30s and early '40s into World War Two. "Down on the lake we're going to recreate a 1930s Pan Am Clipper base. Hopefully, one day in the future we'll even do lighter-than-air operations with blimps flying from early dirigible hangars. Right now we're laying the foundations for the future. What you see here today has been designed to be my workshops, it was never designed to be part of the attraction, and it will eventually become part of the back-lot tour. "The park will be in the large open area you drive past on the way through the entrance gates. The first of the new hangars is being built right now and is the first stage of what will become the park area. I also own some other property in the area, which I hope to use to complement what we are doing here." Kermit and his team are also working on a TV series and are looking at creating some animated cartoon characters. In fact we're aiming to do everything the big boys up the street do!" says Kermit. "There are a lot of great mediums available for us to get our message across to people and touch them. It's an exciting time. For the aviation industry this is a golden opportunity that even I am only just slowly awakening to. We have an opportunity to use what we love to really spread a great and profound message."

Necessary ‘Bumps’
"It's kind of funny," smiled Kermit. "Twenty years ago I had no idea where I would be right now. And to be honest with you, had life shown it to me I probably would've been intimidated and would've backed into my shell. But life has just shown me little glimpses as I've been going along and I've slowly seen more and more opportunity opening up in front of me. I feel like life has led me along with a carrot. Sure, life's kicked me a few times -the hurricane was one example, getting hepatitis was another, but these kicks have been for a reason. The hurricane was life's way of telling me to get out of Miami. Had the hurricane not hit; even though I'd owned this land in Polk City for four years I would've made a much slower transition away from Miami. It was a necessary bump. Had I not got hepatitis I would've completed my degree at university, but I would probably never have made the US aerobatic team. If I hadn't done that I wouldn't have competed and won all of the awards that I did. Consequently I would never have designed and built my airplanes. "I've always been very open to listening to life's little messages and I think that is part of what my Fantasy of Flight ethos is all about." In between his hands-on work developing the attraction Kermit still finds time to fly the aircraft he owns. He currently has around 5,000 hours logged in all kinds of planes including single-engine kit-planes, Great War fighters, aerobatic biplanes and his mighty Shorts Sunderland flying boat. The day before this interview he had been flying American Volunteer Group (AVG) Flying Tigers veterans in his unique dual-control Curtiss TP-40N Warhawk and later in the week he was hoping to fly his P-51C Mustang. Kermit Weeks is an inspiration and it was a pleasure to share his company. His plans for Fantasy of Flight are ambitious but if anyone has the willpower and means to achieve them it is the inimitable Kermit Weeks.



1st. — James Ernest Brown was a mechanic on the original “Candy Clipper” Duck in Bataan where it was rescued and talks to Kermit about it. Sadly James Ernest Brown passed away in Jan. 2004
Jim Brown - WWII Bataan Mechanic - "Candy Clipper" - 35:45 min

2nd. — Lieutenant General Joseph Harold Moore, retired, talks to Kermit about flying the original “Candy Clipper”. Sadly Lt/Gen. Joseph Harold Moore passed away from lung cancer in 2006 at the age of 92yrs. & 8 months.
Joe Moore - Original Pilot - "Candy Clipper" - 35:54 min.

3rd. — Samuel Eugene Poole, Jr., a former Duck owner & pilot, who sold Kermit one of his Ducks tells of some of his South America experiences with the Duck. He was the youngest B17 pilot to fly in combat in the European theatre and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross three times during his military service. He retired from aviation with over 20,000 flight hours. Sadly he passed away at the age of 91 in Dec. 2016. (Kermit has 2017 which is a mistake)
Grumman Duck and the Awesome Adventures of Sam Poole! - 35:06 min

Grumman Duck in Flight - 10:58 min.

Grumman Duck - Full Flight - Tail View - 11:03 min.

Grumman Duck - Flight w/Voice-Over & Cockpit Tour - 42:04 min.

Grumman Duck - Part 1 - Kermie Cam - 15:37 min.

Grumman Duck - Part 2 - Kermie Cam - 10:53 min.

Grumman Duck - Part 3 - Kermie Cam - 16:30 min.

And a few more Duck vids:

Grumman Duck Rescue - With Bill Floten 13:25min.

Grumman Duck Walkaround Mid America Flight Museum 14:56min.

Grumman Duck and Albatross Formation Mid America Flight Museum 15:25min.

Sorry but this one is in Greek but for a R/C Duck, I found it impressive. 3:59 min.
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