Kermit Weeks

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Kermit Weeks
WIKI ACT FOF 01.jpg
Born 14 July 1953
Salt Lake City, Utah
Known for Aerobatics, Author
Spouse(s) Teresa Blazina
Weeks' first homebuilt aircraft, the Der Jager D-IX
Weeks' first self-designed and built aircraft, the Weeks Special

Kermit Weeks (born July 14, 1953 in Salt Lake City, Utah)[1][2] is an American aviation enthusiast, pilot, and aircraft collector. He has competed in aerobatics, designed aircraft, and promoted aviation and vintage aircraft restoration.[3]

Life and career[edit]

The Weeks family moved to Miami, Florida when Weeks was 14, and he began flying model aircraft and competing on the high school gymnastics team. At 17, with only model airplane flying experience, he began building his own home-built Der Jager D-IX (a biplane powered by a four-cylinder Lycoming O-320 engine).[4] During his final year of high school Weeks spent almost all his spare time building his airplane; he finished it in about four years, and test flew it at age 21.[5]

Weeks later learned to fly. He eventually purchased a Pitts S-2A in order to fly in aerobatic competition.[5] In 1973 Weeks began entering aerobatic flying competitions while pursuing an aeronautical engineering degree at Miami-Dade Junior College, the University of Florida and Purdue University.[6]

By 1977 Weeks had built the "Weeks Special," an aerobatic aircraft of his own design, and qualified for the United States Aerobatics Team. In 1978 he was a runner-up among 61 competitors worldwide, earning three Silver medals and one Bronze medal in the FAI World Aerobatic 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[7] and has won several Invitational Masters Championships in worldwide competitions.

During the late 1970s, Weeks started to acquire, restore and preserve antique aircraft. By 1985 he had accumulated enough vintage aircraft to start the Weeks Air Museum in Miami. A non-profit facility, it housed much of his private collection and antique aircraft owned by the museum. Weeks then acquired a 250-acre site near Polk City, Florida, 20 miles southwest of Walt Disney World, for an aviation-themed attraction called Fantasy of Flight.

In 1992, as development plans finalized for Fantasy of Flight, Hurricane Andrew struck the Miami area, virtually destroying the Weeks Air Museum facility (it was repaired and reopened in 1994) and seriously damaging most of the vintage aircraft within it. Some of Weeks' collection, which was damaged by the hurricane including a Grumman F4F Wildcat, P-51C Mustang, AT-6 Texan and a recently repaired Stinson L-1 Vigilant have been restored and are now displayed and flown at Fantasy of Flight which opened in 1995.

On May 26, 2000, Weeks married Teresa Blazina in Sedona, Arizona.

In 2008 Weeks published a children's book, All of Life is a School, featuring airplane characters. In 2009 he won a bronze Independent Publisher Book Award for the book. He followed it up with "The Spirit of Lindy" in September 2012.[8]

In 2012 Weeks was awarded the Lloyd P. Nolen Lifetime Achievement in Aviation Award by the Wings Over Houston Airshow. In 2010 he won the Freedom of Flight Award by Bob Hoover. In 2008 Weeks was inducted into the Florida Aviation Hall of Fame, and in 2006 was named a "Living Legend of Aviation."[9]

Aircraft collection[edit]

Weeks maintains one of the largest private collections of flight-worthy historic aircraft in the world, most of which are at his Fantasy of Flight facility in Polk City, Florida. The collection contains over 140 civilian and military planes including rare originals as well as reproductions of historic aircraft, such as the Spirit of St. Louis.[6] Great emphasis has been placed on historic authenticity and accurate reproductions. Thus, for historical accuracy, the collection's Spirit of St. Louis replica will be fitted with one of the few operational Wright J-5 engines still flying.[10] Another famous replica in Weeks' collection is the iconic Gee Bee "Z", a racing plane originally built in 1931 and destroyed the same year during a world speed record attempt.[11]

Weeks owns one of the four remaining original P-51C Mustangs in the world, with an estimated worth of over US$3 million, In addition to the Earlier P-51C Weeks also owns a P-51D Mustang which came later in the war. Both use the Packard-Merlin V-12 engine (of Rolls Royce design) rather than the General Motors Allison V-12 used on the earlier P-51 and P-51A models.[12] Both the P-51C and P-51D frequently fly together, most notably during the event dubbed Mustangs and Mustangs which takes place every April where the P-51s and a number of antique Ford Mustangs are exhibited side by side.[11] Other original aircraft in the collection include a Short Sunderland Flying boat, of the seven Sunderland aircraft in existence today this one is the only one that is reported to be maintained in airworthy condition, as well as the only airworthy 4 engine passenger flying boat. Weeks purchased the unique and large aircraft in England in February 1993 and after a five month restoration it was flown to the U.S making stops in Ireland, Iceland, and Canada before arriving at the 1993 EAA AirVenture Oshkosh event, following the show it was flown to Fantasy of Flight and regularly flew for the following years however since 1996 it has remained in the display hangar still in good condition, Kermit Weeks has expressed interest several times in recent years on flying the Sunderland again, and as of now it is expected that the flying boat will be returned to the water and air following a complete renovation of the museum in the near future. Also on display is one of six existing Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers from WWII, this aircraft was acquired in Chino, CA in the mid-1990s and flown to the museum shortly afterward, it has remained the only airworthy B-26 since the 1995 crash of the Commemorative Air Force's example which occurred in Midland, TX. Like the Sunderland this aircraft has not flown since the late 1990s or possibly the early 2000s but it is unclear when the aircraft will fly again. Among the Collection is also a Curtis P-40 Warhawk (TP-40N trainer variant) It is the only airworthy P-40 type airplane that is featured dual seating and controls, it makes frequent appearances at surrounding air shows and is also a "movie icon" having been featured in the Films Death Chase and Tora! Tora! Tora!, an extremely rare Gee Bee Model Z race-plane from the 1930s is another example of a unique acquisition, after spending over a decade as a display Kermit Weeks is currently restoring and evaluating the aircraft to flightworthy status and it has so far underwent engine runs and taxiing tests, it was involved in the opening scene of the 1991 film The Rocketeer. Kermit Weeks is also known to have owned the largest number of Grumman J2F Duck aircraft since the U.S Navy having purchased four of the rare aircraft in the past, two of these aircraft have since been sold to other aircraft owners while one is frequently flown by Weeks to this day and has undergone amphibious water landings a number of times, the 4th aircraft is currently under restoration at the museum and Weeks hopes to fly both JF2 Ducks side by side in the near future. A Ford Trimotor, an early civil transport aircraft used by commercial airlines in the 1930s is also part of the collection; it has been used in films including the 1930 TWA promotional film, Coast to Coast in 48 Hours, appearing on screen with Amelia Earhart, and the 1984 adventure film, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in which the plane is shown being piloted by Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones.[11] Weeks has recently purchased the iconic Sikorsky S-38 replica, Osa's Ark. This historical aircraft is the only S-38 that still flies and was featured in the 2004 film, The Aviator.

Most of the aircraft are functional and able to be flown; Weeks has stated that every aircraft in his collection has been flown by him in the past, is being flown currently, or will be flown in the future.[11]

Financing the collection[edit]

Inherited oil and gas royalties[13] provide Weeks with the funds, capital and resources to pursue the preservation of historic aircraft.[14]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Fantasy of Flight website; Kermit Weeks Biography page
  2. ^ Fantasy of Flight website; press release
  3. ^ Thomas J. Finneran. Mr. Kermit A. Weeks: Epitome of Enduring Leadership Characteristics - Passion, Vision and Perseverance. ISBN 1249595282. 
  4. ^ "Kermit Weeks". Sport Aviation: 45. January 1984. 
  5. ^ a b "Kermit Weeks". Today's Pilot August 2004. Retrieved 2012-03-17. 
  6. ^ a b "Kermit Weeks Creator and Owner". Fantasy of Flight. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  7. ^ "Blame Snoopy". Retrieved 2006-11-23. 
  8. ^ "Kermit Weeks' Official Facebook Page". 
  9. ^ "Wings Over Houston presents lifetime achievement award". Retrieved 2012-09-27. 
  10. ^ Weeks, Kermit (2009-07-23). "Travelair 4000 takes to the Air Again!". Kermit's Blog. Retrieved 2009-09-23. 
  11. ^ a b c d "Private Collections". Modern Marvels. Season 1. Episode 28. June 19, 2005.
  12. ^ North American P-51 variants
  13. ^ Weeks' grandfather was a geologist who was successful in developing numerous oil fields in and around Australia. [1]
  14. ^ "Mad For Airplanes". Forbes. Retrieved 2010-12-02.