My Friend Kevin
Lacey is my friend. Our paths crossed for the first time in July
2007 when the Connie was transported from Toronto to Empire Aero at
York. He's a retired sheet metal mechanic from the USAF and had
been assigned by Empire
Aero as Lead Mechanic on the Connie Project. Actually, he's
really the Manager of the Project, without the extra pay. I'm
retired. I only have friends. When I say Kevin is my
friend, I'm not blowing smoke. I mean it. When you're
working for a living, you have to put up with some nasty type
folks. Mortgages and bosses and all those good things. When
you're retired, you don't have to put up with anything. Every day
is a sunny day, because I won't accept anything less. I don't
have to do anything, work with anyone, or accept any B.S. What
are they going to do - Fire me? Life is short and the older you get, the higher the standards you demand of your friends and your activities.
and the folks at Empire Aero are our contractors on this project.
They work for us. But, they have embraced this airplane with all
the love and enthusiasm as have those of us at the Museum and the other
Connie lovers around the world. In some ways, it's a business
relationship - but not for me. Like I said, I only have friends.
Kevin - during our first meeting - July 2007
Kevin's hangar scooter - he's known as Tin Man
More than just a little "buffing out." An airplane badly in need of a Tin Man!
addition to his mechanical talents, Kevin (aka Tin Man), is
no slouch when it comes to writing the King's English. I like
that. I flatter myself into thinking I can pen a word or
two. That was until I met Kevin. The man is a poet.
In April 2007, when
the Connie first arrived at Empire Aero - I received this email from
Kevin. The spirit and enthusiasm and "can-do" attitude blew me
away - they were startling and wonderfully refreshing compared to the
treatment we had endured over the previous few years by those who all
seemed to have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed, and were
permanently mad at everyone.
Arrival Rome, NY June 2007
Hello Mr Bogash.
My name is Kevin Lacey. I am the lead structures
mechanic on the lovely lady. I was asked to get involved with this
project and jumped on the opportunity. As her story began to unfold I
began to fall in love with her and am now dedicated to help restore her
dignity and stature. I have worked aircraft structures for 30 years,
retired US air force. I want to assure you that my company, Empire
Aero Center, my boss and company vice president Randy Buol, my
dedicated crew and I have all embraced this project, and your airplane
is in loving and capable hands at long last. I am very much looking
forward to meeting you sir, and we are honored to be a part of this
dream of yours to bring the Super G to Seattle.
(TinMan) Lacey. Empire Aero Center. Rome NY
315 534 xxxx. or at my
home 315 676 xxxx.
After stripping the paint
off the Lady, he wrote a letter to Catherine Scott - the former owner
of the airplane, who has in no way relinquished her love and affection
for the old girl either, or her involvement with the airplane's
restoration. A real letter - with a stamp - not an email. I
had to retrieve it the old fashioned way. With their kind
permission, I reproduce it here. It says it better than poor old
Bob ever could.
I hope and pray that you are well. We are doing fine on this end.
old girl is shedding her paint jobs quickly and we can continue our
moments of discovery. The old art work and lettering and insignia from
decades past are all still there in varying degrees of legibility.
Evidence of each and every owner, still in the shadows of the paint
layers and in places, staining her skin itself. Like chapters in a
book, each layer of paint reveals a milestone that was survived or
endured by the lady. Now she stands in her glory, stripped of the paint
that represented abuse and neglect. She holds her shoulders square
against the hangar's encroaching sunlight. Her chin held high and proud
like a thoroughbred being groomed for the race. She knows she
will never be what she was in her youth, but she responds to our touch.
She knows she is loved, she knows our hearts ache as we uncover each
wound and each indignity that left her in derelict ruin lying mere
inches from the Canadian soil. Her integrity grows as her lovely
facade is slowly restored. Her engines will never again roar with the
music of her soul. The clouds will never again look up to see her pass.
But we will raise her up... and her spirit will soar in us, and all who
gaze upon her. And we will all have a little piece of her in our
hearts, And though she will never again look exactly like she did, I
think that perhaps she was never quite as beautiful as she is becoming.
Your honored friend Kevin
when the Connie was partially reassembled and placed on its landing
gear for the first time in 40+ years, I wrote Kevin that it looked like
a real airplane again, after all those decades. His eloquent
My thoughts too have strayed and imagined the impossible. But I have
seen it all in my minds eye. The belching smoke as she fires her 72
massive cylinders, witnessed by the innocently ignorant jet aircraft
parked near by. The roar of the exhaust and the giant paddles cutting
the air sending a concert of sound for miles in all directions. People
who know will stop what they are doing and sit up straight in their
chairs as they hear her singing in the distance. Her voice causing men
to close their eyes and smile and stare at the ceilings of their homes
and offices. Women and children look on and close their ears with their
hands. Seasoned aircraft mechanics stand in awe of her
presence, filling their senses with her awesome beauty, listening to
her perfect noise. Her grace and majesty command admiration and
respect, wonder and awe. My fantasy goes on, but I must end here
because my reality beckons. I have come to realize, however, that the
impossible is only so, if I can not see it happen. And like you, I can
see it anytime I choose.
Wishing you a blessed day.
Like I said - - - "My Friend Kevin....."
Kevin and some of his proud crew
And proud they should be.
Look at the transformation! Hard to believe. Tin Man indeed.
In August 2009, our Connie was transported from Rome, NY to Seattle.
Prior to disassembly, we held a Reunion of Canadian pilots and
maintenance personnel who had flown or worked on Connies in eastern
Canada. Many had flown this very aircraft. Detailed
pictures of the event can be found here.
Kevin helped me arrange this event and acted as our Host.
Griffiss Field - Rome, New York
Kevin and I remained in contact after the Connie move, and
became Bro's. In the male world, a "Bro" is an especially good
friend - a true Brother. Not too many guys even wind up with a
Bro - I was lucky and had two - Kevin back near Syracuse, and Tony T.,
now in Olympia, Washington.
In September 2016, after retiring from Empire Aero, Kevin decided to
act upon his often expressed desire to come see me in Hansville
(Seattle.) Actually, we both knew, he wanted to come see "his
girl" - the Lovely Lady - now displayed proudly in front of the
entrance to the Museum of Flight. So - onto his Harley he climbed
- and after a long bike trip of over a week (especially for a geezer),
he finally pulled into my driveway.
He spent a week with us, before shipping his bike back home, and taking
a plane back to Syracuse. He decided one way was enough of an
adventure for him. During that time, we went for several rides
in my airplane - and -- of course, went to see "our" girl - CF-TGE -
the Connie in front of the Museum. Kevin was a happy camper!
An accomplished guitar player - my old "gitar" finally got a work out
Flying in my RV-12
Hansville - September 2016
Both Bro's - Kevin and Tony - were guests of mine when I
gave a talk about the 727 restoration to the local AIAA Chapter at the
Back visiting again with his girl - the Lovely Lady
Boy, he was happy!!! And what an honored location.
Museum of Flight - Boeing Field - Seattle
Sadly, after way too short a retirement, Kevin was
diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017. He was so happy to
have made the trip here, that he wanted to show his wife Sue the
airplane too. They started in October 2018, but only got part
way, and it was more than Kev could handle - so they turned around and
Kevin passed away on May 3, 2019.
Rest in peace, Bro. I miss you already.
Copyright 2007 - 2019 Robert Bogash. All Rights Reserved.