Replica airboat won't be ready for New Year's flight - FOX 13 News

Replica airboat won't be ready for New Year's flight

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The replica is pulled out for testing. (Courtesy Fantasy of Flight) The replica is pulled out for testing. (Courtesy Fantasy of Flight)
Kermit Weeks' face says it all. (Courtesy Fantasy of Flight) Kermit Weeks' face says it all. (Courtesy Fantasy of Flight)
TAMPA (FOX 13) -

A replica airplane won't be taking to the skies on New Year's Day, despite the efforts of a Polk County aircraft enthusiast and his team.

The replica Benoist Airboat was to fly from St. Pete to Tampa on Wednesday, recreating the original flight that took place 100 years ago and inaugurated the first scheduled airliner service.

Kermit Weeks, of Fantasy of Flight in Polk City, had been spearheading the effort to recreate the plane and its flight. There were no blueprints for the original airboat and the design for the reproduction had to be pieced together.

The reproduction includes an Ohio-made, reverse-engineered "Roberts 6" engine, something no other replication has attempted. But the team could not coax enough power out of the engine in this weekend's tests.

Weeks was able to taxi the airboat across the water, but he was unable to get it airborne, despite making several adjustments to the plane.

"Sad news, folks. It looks like we won't be flying on New Year's Day," offered a post on Fantasy of Flight's Facebook page. "Seems we are dealing with the same problems they did over a hundred years ago."

Weeks' replica Benoist will still be on hand in St. Pete for the ceremony Wednesday, but it won't take to the air. Instead, a Hoffman X-4 Mullet Skiff -- the same one used in 2000's millennial celebration -- will be used to carry out the reenactment.

"Kermit Weeks has made a monumental effort to complete his reproduction of the first airliner in time for the centennial anniversary on January 1," offered Will Michaels, president of the Flight 2014 Planning Board. "We look forward to thanking him on New Year's Day in St. Petersburg, and cheering his flight across the bay at some later date in 2014."

MORE INFO: http://www.airlinecentennial.org/

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