Destination: Fantasy Of Flight, Florida

Destination: Fantasy Of Flight
A Florida Attraction That Soars On A Higher Plane

 

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Fantasy of Flight is not just another vintage aircraft museum, it’s much more. Justly, the fascinating facility can boast that it is an attraction on a higher plane.

A unique destination for visitors to Central Florida, the Fantasy of Flight attraction is located in Polk City, between Orlando and Tampa, and is a great experience for all ages.

Not only can you enjoy the many hands-on exhibits and priceless airplanes that immerse visitors in the history of flight, but also you can have your own amazing adventure. The place has its own runway where you can take a biplane ride, and it also offers hot air balloon rides for folks looking for a unique experience with unforgettable memories.

I watched several thrill seekers take on the spirit of the Red Baron as they adjusted their goggles and fastened their seat belts in an open cockpit. With a scarf whipping and the wind in their face, they went back in time to become part of the Golden Age of aviation. The biplane ride took place in a 1929 New Standard D-25, and the folks described it as a “gentle scenic flight that was a breathtaking experience.”

For more adventurous souls, a loop-de-loop thrill ride can be arranged on a Boeing Stearman PT-17. All weather permitting and for a nice price.

Down on the ground, the Fantasy of Flight boasts the world’s largest private collection of vintage aircraft, thanks to the vision of founder Kermit Weeks.

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An award-winning pilot, world-renowned aircraft collector, and author of the children’s book "All of Life is a School," Weeks created a place that the entire family can enjoy. Kids love to romp through the hangars to see the variety of flying machines. Seniors delight in recalling those days of early flight when there was still joy in taking a plane ride. And everybody marvels at the history unfolding before their very eyes as they see aircraft from the dawn of flight to the present. There are wonderful displays and exhibits throughout the hangers. Plus they offer a glimpse inside the machine and engine shops where the parts for the planes are maintained.

You can’t call Fantasy of Flight a museum, although it’s packed with historic exhibits, putting the spotlight on the heroic Tuskegee Airmen, and recognizing the Woman Air Force Service Pilots, known as the fearless WASPs.

It’s not a stuffy, stodgy institution. It is an impressive showcase of the aircraft that Weeks has taken years to assemble. The collection has airworthy planes from various eras, and Weeks flies them regularly.

Great tour guides make the visit ultra-interesting. Our guide Jack enlightened our group with his knowledge about every plane that was showcased. There are planes from Europe, where air flight was being developed around the same time the Wright Brothers took off in KittyHawk, North Carolina.

One of the many highlights for me was seeing a replica of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis, and discovering how small it was. It’s an exact copy of the single motor airplane which the iconic aviator flew solo from the U.S. to France, making history in the 1930’s. With a panel board in front of him, Lucky Lindy could not see outside, unless he put his head out the side window– like a dog riding in a car.

Looking at some of the earliest planes, it doesn’t seem possible that these strange contraptions could fly. There’s a reproduction of the Curtiss Pusher Model D, first built in 1911, which had tricycle landing gears. Other magnificent planes on display were the Fokker DR-1 Triplane, Grumman Wildcat, B-25 Bomber, and Supermarine Spitfire, the most popular WWII fighter. And for movie buffs, the actual Ford Tri-Motor plane that was used in Spielberg’s Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom is on display.

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On the outside of the Fantasy of Flight main building, the philosophy of founder Kermit Weeks is prominently displayed.

It reads: “Since the dawn of time, man has been fascinated by flight. That fascination is a physical reflection of what we all long to return to. We all fly in our dreams and when we wake, we long for that inner freedom.

I hope the Fantasy of Flight will help light that spark within to continue you on your journey. We’ve seen the last 100 years, let’s create the next.

Flight, more than anything else on this planet, symbolizes man’s desire to go beyond himself. Let’s use it to inspire mankind to take the next step on its journey.” And that journey starts with a visit to Fantasy of Flight.


Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.

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