I know when my love of flying started, and I suspect most pilots do. Certainly Kermit Weeks knows, and his love of flying began at a tender age as can be seen in the photo on the right.
As he grew older he let everyone he could know that he wanted to fly airplanes, and a neighborhood airline pilot who took young Kermit to a friends home where a Starduster II home built was under construction.
It turns out the new friend enjoyed having some help (his wife preferred to do other things) and Kermit found himself immersed in a world of aviation magazines, ranging from the Experimental Aircraft Association rag to Trade-A-Plane. In 1969 he joined the EAA, and at 16 started taking flying lessons.
Learning To Fly
Mowing lawns at $5 a pop, it took 8 lawns to buy 1 flying lesson, and at 17 soloed after 6 1/2 hours. But simply following his instructors lessons wasn’t enough for Weeks; on his last landing when he soloed he slipped the aircraft in to the landing, causing the instructor to exclaim “I never taught him to do that!”
Weeks goal? To get checked out in a Citabria and learn aerobatics. He had already taken a ride in a Stearman where the pilot did 2 loops, followed by Weeks doing 2 loops, then 2 snap rolls – again, followed by Weeks doing 2 snap rolls.
An aerobatic pilot was born!
Kermit’s grandfather, Lewis Weeks, was a geologist and after retirement became a consultant for oil companies. Lewis Weeks urged BHP Billiton of Australia to drill in the Bass Straights, 30 miles SE of Melbourne. Instead of a fee he negotiated a royalty of 2.5%; by the mid 70s this royalty amounted to some $3.5M per year.
His grandfather shared his good fortune with 11 heirs, and Kermit got his first royalty check when he was a high school senior. This allowed Weeks to buy a Pitts Special while at college, a 2 seater, and he gave rides while building time and flying aerobatics whenever time allowed.
By the start of his sophomore year at Purdue University Weeks wound up with mononucleosis and hepatitis, both of which are highly contagious. He missed the first 2 weeks of school, said ‘Screw this. I’m out of here. I want to start flying aerobatics; I want to build my next airplane.’ At 23 years of age he headed home and prepared for flying aerobatics.
At age 24 Weeks had completed building his Weeks Special which he flew to qualify for the U.S. Aerobatics Team in 1977.
The World Aerobatics Championships
Not only did he design his very own aerobatic aircraft, and at the age of 25 managed to enter his first World Aerobatic Championships in Ceske Budejovice, Czechoslovakia in 1978 with the airplane he designed and built – the “Weeks Special”.
Of course, back in the 70s we all wanted to look cool, right? Well, as you can see in the picture on the left, Kermit was no different.
But don’t let the look fool you – he was 2nd overall in the world competing with 61 others from 18 countries, winning 3 silver medals and 1 bronze. “I was hooked,” he said. “I was a complete unknown. I surprised myself and all my teammates.”
On his way home from the championships he began designing the Weeks Solution in which he won the gold medal in the world championships in 1982. During a period of 12 years Weeks was ranked 5 times as one of the world’s top 3 aerobatic pilots, and won 20 medals during the World Aerobatic Championship series.
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
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ps: Read more about aerobatic aircraft at these fine blogs:
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Herb Andersen recognized for his contribution to aviation design … – “I would like to express my appreciation to the IAC and all those who have recognized by efforts in the production of Pitts Aerobatic Aircraft from my first meeting with Curtis Pitts in 1970 until my retirement in 1993,” said Andersen. …