“I finally got that first one going, which is the heaviest one of the bunch. It's probably about 20 pounds.”
That sparked his imagination.
“I thought, ‘If I do a 3-D, I might as well put an afterburner in it,' ” he said, smiling. “While I was building it, I thought ‘That's open all the way down the center. Why don't I get a blow torch and put in there.'”
There were a few challenges with that, but eventually McDaniel found a way. To demonstrate, he held the propane bottle that is attached to the bottom of the plane. He turned it on. Using a lit cigarette lighter, a primarily blue flame quickly came shooting out.
Was that enough for McDaniel? Did he think he'd taken it far enough?
“After I built the first one, I thought, ‘You know, I need to put one of those up on top of the flagpole,'” he said of a plane with afterburners. “Getting the gas up there is no problem, just run a line up to the center of the flagpole.”
Even with remote ignitions, he has had trouble getting it to work. He'll keep working on that.
In the meantime, “My next airplane model is going to be a P-38.” That's because McDaniel knows some men who were World War II P-38 pilots.
Besides the planes on the mailbox and flagpole, McDaniel has others on poles in his backyard, including four situated in a square shape a few feet apart. The one on the southeast is an F-101, a plane he flew in Rome, N.Y.
On the northwest corner is an F-89 Scorpion, which he also flew in New York. On the northeast is an F-100D model, which he flew on his second trip to Vietnam. And on the southwest is another F-100, painted like the one he flew while assigned to the Air National Guard in Arizona.
Among the metal planes McDaniel has crafted and given away is a B-25 that is atop Bob Webster's flagpole in Seminole. Webster served on a B-25 crew during World War II.
It's not just a conversation starter, it's a reminder.
“I was in three other types of aircraft, but all of my combat was in B-25s,” Webster said. “When I look at it, I remember that it brought me through a bunch of missions against the enemy. It got me home safe and sound.”
Because of a health issue a few years ago, McDaniel no longer pilots a plane. But, he has painted airplanes, shaped them from iron and recently did a chain saw wood carving of himself in flight gear.
It all goes back to the love that started as a child. It's just that the child is now 78.
Do you still stop and watch planes as they fly over?
“Oh gosh yes,” McDaniel said. “It never goes away.”