LILBOURN - A local man has found a way for his hobby to help out Hurricane Katrina victims.
For several years, Anthony "Gramps" Sullenger and the Fightertown Design Group have made virtual models of World War II aircraft to fly on computers using the Microsoft flight simulator programs.
Using 3-D software, Sullenger makes three-dimensional computer graphics airframes while his friends from the Internet help out by putting together the flight characteristics data, paint scheme "skins" for the model, sound effects and additional visual effects such as exhaust smoke and flames.
While some modelers sell their work, Sullenger has shared his models for free, building them out of a love for the era's aircraft. "I'm a World War II nut," he said. "That's all I make - World War II planes."
About the same time Sullenger was nearing completion on his latest project, a Chance-Vaught F4U-4 Corsair, Hurricane Katrina hit. "It takes me two or three months to make these planes, so it was already in the works," he said.
Sullenger said Ron "Ickie" Larson, who hosts a flight simulator fan Web site at www.sim-outhouse.com on his servers, came up with the idea of using Sullenger's latest model to raise funds for the hurricane victims.
"Anybody that donated, we sent them the plane (data) as just kind of a thank you for donating," Sullenger said.
With donations from individuals ranging from a couple bucks to a couple hundred, the model soon raised $2,500 in donations which were given to the Red Cross.
Sullenger said the response was remarkable. "The people that donated weren't just from the United States - they were from all over," he recalled. "This is a world-wide thing, flight simming in general."
The plane is now available for $10 as the Red Cross Corsair at www.donationware.net with proceeds still going to the Red Cross.
The model comes with two different paint jobs by one of Sullenger's online friends from the Sim Outhouse site, "Bomber_12th" from Minnesota.
One is a historic paint job from Korean War era. The second paint job is based on a Corsair flown by a veteran pilot who used to do air shows.
"When he flew at an air show he always flew over the disabled veterans home for them because he was a veteran himself," Sullenger recalled. During one of these flyovers the pilot had engine trouble. Rather than bail out and have the plane possibly hit someone's home, the air show pilot rode it down.
"He crashed and it killed him," Sullenger said. "He missed a house by about 300 feet. It killed him and totaled the plane - that was pretty damn brave if you ask me. He just didn't want to hurt nobody on the ground with it."
In honor of this pilot, Sullenger had named the plane "Korean War Hero."
Another flight simmer from Missouri crafted the sound files to go with the plane. "He took actual recordings from a Corsair," Sullenger said.
Members of Fightertown Design Group helped with other components, Sullenger said, such as "Lobo" from Italy who did the model's interior artwork.
Being a community that gathers virtually via the Internet, Sullenger said he would like to give credit to the other contributors using their real names but did not want to give their real names without permission. "And some of them honestly I really don't know," he said.
Sullenger said his nickname is what Gregory Boyington's pilots really called the leader of the VMF-214 Blacksheep during the war "because he was a 'real old' 31 years old." The nickname "Pappy" was "something they called him after the war was over," Sullenger said.
In addition to collecting funds from the Corsair model, the Sim Outhouse staff have delivered supplies to hurricane victims including two gas generators, gas cans, sleeping bags and toiletries, according to Sullenger.
"I am proud of what we've done," Sullenger said.