Fantasy of Flight
|Established||November 11, 1995|
|Location||Polk City, Florida|
|Collection size||over 150 aircraft|
Fantasy of Flight is an aviation-related attraction in Polk City, Florida, United States that takes visitors back to the pioneering days of early flight, as well as the First and Second World Wars and beyond. The attraction opened in November 1995, and houses the world's largest private aircraft collection on display. It became the new home for much of owner Kermit Weeks' collection of aircraft that were previously housed at the Weeks Air Museum in Tamiami, Florida and were damaged to varying degrees by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. On April 6, 2014, the attraction was closed to the public, though it is still being maintained and is available for private events. On January 30, 2015, Fantasy of Flight opened a scaled-down museum attraction to display some of their aircraft to the public in the interim while the rest of the facility is upgraded and planned to reopen sometime in the future.
Fantasy of Flight was the only attraction in the world to offer daily aerial demonstrations (weather permitting) of aircraft in its collection. Most of Weeks' aircraft are airworthy and may still be seen flying from one of the facility's grass runways or its seaplane runway. Fantasy of Flight fields more airworthy aircraft than the air forces of Austria, Cuba, Denmark, Kuwait, Portugal, or South Africa. It also fields more airworthy fixed-wing aircraft than either the Royal Navy or the Indian Navy.
The facility features a main building consisting of two large hangars (called "North" and "South") for the aircraft on display, restoration shops, the immersion environments, a gift shop, and the Art Deco-themed Compass Rose Diner. Just outside the main building across from the entrance is the facility's new ropes course and zip line attraction known as "Wing Walk Air."
Outside the hangars there is an adjoining tarmac and two grass runways. On the north side of the runways are a maintenance hangar and conference facility. A "back lot" to the south of the main complex contains warehouses and storage and restoration facilities. More storage facilities are located across Broadway Blvd and are opened to the public as part of the tour. Lake Agnes is also on the property to allow for seaplane operations, with a designated landing/takeoff area on 18/36 and a ramp to taxiway on the eastern shore.
The airfield is officially known as the "Orlampa Inc. Airport" and uses the airport identifier "FA08." The field sits at an estimated elevation of 129 feet (42 meters). It is designated as private use only and special permission is needed to land there. The field is generally closed to all non-company traffic. The airfield consists of two turf runways: runway 4/22 (5090 x 125 ft. / 1551 x 38 m) and runway 14/32 (2500 x 100 ft. / 762 x 30 m). The airfield appears as "Orlampa" on the Jacksonville sectional chart. The name "Orlampa" was originated by Kermit Weeks based on the airfield being approximately midway between the cities of Orlando and Tampa.
Waldo Wright's Flying Service offers airplane rides for sale from the Fantasy of Flight field during parts of the year and operates a Boeing PT-17 Stearman and a New Standard D-25. The Stearman is used for 30 minute long 'hands-on experience' flights, in which the customer takes control of the aircraft at some point during the flight. The D-25 is used for 15 minute barnstorming flights, in which up to four customers sit in the forward open cockpit of the aircraft as a qualified pilot flies the aircraft.
The Fantasy of Flight collection contains the following aircraft, although the aircraft are not always present at the museum. Some are on loan to other facilities, others may be flown to events, and still others may be off display for maintenance or restoration. Most of the collection is contained in the north and south hangars which are now closed to the public, with a smaller portion now on display at the interim museum attraction housed in the old maintenance hangar. In 2012, the "Golden Hill" storage facility attraction opened just across the road from the main facility. A number of aircraft have been re-located into this new building, notably the B-23 Dragon and the B-29 Superfortress nose section, while the buildings were re-arranged in order to allow visitor access, but this section was part of the main facility closure in 2014.
- Aerostar Balloon – N69FF
- Airco DH.4 – On display as U.S. Mail plane.
- Albatros D.Va – reproduction (original Mercedes 6cyl, 200 hp engine) built by Peter Jackson’s aviation shop, The Vintage Aviator Ltd.
- Antonov An-2 – N4301U
- Avro Cadet – N643AV – This is one of eleven remaining Australian Cadets and one of only four which are still flying.
- Avro Lancaster – KB976 – Stored in a number of shipping boxes behind the museum's workshop. Nose was guillotined from the main body after a hangar collapse at Woodford Aerodrome in 1987. KB976 made the last official RCAF flight of this type with Flight Lieutenant Lynn Garrison as captain and Flt Lt Ralph Langemann as co-pilot during an air show in Calgary, Alberta July 4, 1964.
- Bachem Ba 349 Natter – reproduction
- "Barber" Valkyrie – reproduction
- Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing – N52962 – On display at the Florida Air Museum at Lakeland Linder International Airport.
- Beechcraft AT-11 Kansan – N92KC
- Bell 47G Helicopter – N147DP – On display in M*A*S*H 4077 paint scheme.
- Bell P-63 Kingcobra – N91448 – Formerly on loan to the Florida Air Museum, the plane was partially disassembled and returned to Fantasy of Flight on March 13, 2014.
- Benoist XIV – Full size reproduction was built at Fantasy of Flight in an attempt to recreate the first scheduled airline service (using a winged aircraft) on the 100th anniversary of its first flight on January 1, 2014. Though the plane was completely assembled and taxi tested, the plane could not achieve the necessary speed to lift off and was not flown at the event.
- Boeing 100 – Under off site restoration to flight status after being damaged by Hurricane Andrew at the former Weeks Air Museum.
- Boeing B-17G Flying Fortress – On display as USAAF Ser. No. 42-37994 (tail # 237994), "Piccadilly Princess." The B-17 "Susie Q" is in storage.
- Boeing B-29 Superfortress / Boeing P2B-1S (U.S. Navy variant of the B-29) – USAAF Ser. No. 45-21787 and USN/USMC Bureau Number (BuNo) 84029 "Fertile Myrtle". Aircraft transferred from USAAF to USN. Restored cockpit and forward fuselage section on display along with other disassembled fuselage sections in storage at Fantasy of Flight's "Golden Hill" facility pending aircraft's restoration to airworthy at a date to be determined.
- Brown B-2 Racer – reproduction – Original aircraft destroyed in crash in 1939.
- Bücker Bestmann – N181BU – One of two remaining flying originals.
- Bücker Jungmann – N41455
- Bücker Jungmeister – N40BJ – On display in the colors of Romanian aerobatic pilot, Alexandru Papană.
- CAC Boomerang - Under restoration in Australia
- CAC Wirraway
- Cierva C.30A Autogiro
- Consolidated B-24J Liberator – N94459 "Joe" can be seen on the tram tour in the Maintenance Hangar. A B-24 nose is on display in the Officer's Club event facility adjacent to the North Hangar.
- Consolidated PBY 5A Catalina – N96UC is on display on the tarmac. An additional PBY is in storage.
- Curtiss JN-4D Jenny – N2404
- Curtiss Headless Pusher – reproduction
- Curtiss TP-40N Warhawk – N923 – The only factory-built dual-control TP-40 flying in the world today.
- Curtiss Robin – NC8313
- Curtiss Wright Junior – N10967
- Curtiss-Wright CW-19 N19RX – Delivered to Fantasy of Flight in March 2013. Made its first flight in 2014 and still undergoing testing.
- Curtiss-Wright CW-22 N888U was on display at one time in the main hangar but is currently in the Golden Hill Facility
- de Havilland Mosquito - Mk B. 35 - RS712 - Displayed on long-term loan at EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
- de Havilland Vampire – In storage.
- Douglas B-23 Dragon – One of eight remaining in the world. In storage.
- Douglas C-47 Skytrain – N1944A
- Douglas DC-3 - On display, advertising Fantasy of Flight, standing alongside Interstate 4.
- Douglas A-24B Banshee – USAAF version of the USN/USMC Douglas SBD Dauntless, USAAF Ser. No. "42-54643" – In storage
- EKW C-36 – In storage
- Fairey Swordfish IV – In storage
- Fieseler Fi-156 Storch – N156FS
- Fieseler Fi-103 V-1 Flying Bomb – reproduction
- Focke Wulf FW-44 Stieglitz – NX44FW – One of only 50 left in the world.
- Fokker D.VII – reproduction – Under construction off site with original Mercedes engine.
- Fokker D.VIII – N94100 – reproduction, one of two built by Brian Coughlin in New York State, powered with a 160 hp Gnome Monosoupape rotary engine and formerly flown at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome
- Fokker Dr.I Triplane – N2009V – reproduction (the last original example was destroyed in a bombing raid in WW2).
- Ford 5AT Trimotor – N9651 – The "City of Philadelphia," which appeared in the film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
- Gloster Meteor Mk IV – In storage
- GeeBee Model Z – NR77V – reproduction – Original aircraft destroyed in crash in 1931.
- GeeBee R2 Super Sportster – NR2101 – reproduction – Original aircraft destroyed in crash in 1933.
- GeeBee Y Sportster – N3215M – reproduction
- Grumman F3F Flying Barrel – NX26KW – One of four remaining.
- Grumman F6F-3 Hellcat – In storage
- Grumman F7F Tigercat – N7626C – In storage
- Grumman F9F Panther – In storage
- Grumman FM-2 Wildcat – N222FM - The FM-2 is a Grumman design built under license by General Motors.
- Grumman G-44 Widgeon – N404Q – On display at the Florida Air Museum at Lakeland Linder International Airport.
- Grumman J2F Duck – N1214N - A second Duck is in storage awaiting restoration.
- Grumman TBM-3E Avenger – N9548Z
- Hawker Tempest II – N607LA – Under restoration at Fantasy of Flight
- Hawker Tempest V – "EJ693" – Under restoration at Fantasy of Flight
- Hiller Hornet – N125JC – The 13th of the 17 aircraft built and currently the only flyable example.
- Howard DGA-5 "Ike" – reproduction
- Junkers Ju 52 – "G-BFHG" – Formerly owned by Aces High Ltd based at North Weald Airfield. Currently in storage.
- Kawasaki Ki-61 Hien – Disassembled and awaiting long-term restoration. Currently in storage.
- Kingfisher - Under restoration Auckland, New Zealand.
- Laird Super Solution – reproduction – The only flying example of this aircraft in the world.
- Lavochkin La-11 – In storage
- Lockheed L-1649A Starliner – N974R
- Lockheed P-38L Lightning – USAAF Ser. No. 44-26761 in storage as long-term restoration project.
- Lockheed Vega 5A/5C – NC105W – One of five remaining. Currently being restored offsite.
- Martin 4-0-4 – N40415 – In outside storage. Possible restoration to working exhibit.
- Martin B-26 Marauder – N4297J – One of only six remaining, and the only airworthy example of the B-26 Marauder.
- Messerschmitt Bf 108 - Under restoration.
- Messerschmitt Bf 109 – Undergoing offsite restoration in Canada.
- Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 – In storage
- Mitsubishi A6M Zero – In storage as long-term restoration project.
- Morane A-1 – One of four known.
- Morane/Brock Monoplane
- Nieuport 17 – N1920 – reproduction – Appeared in the movie Flyboys.
- Nord Stampe et Vertongen SV.4 – N1606
- North American AT-6D Texan – N3931Y – On display in the colors of the Women Airforce Service Pilots.
- North American B-25J Mitchell – N1943J – On display as "Apache Princess."
- North American P-51A Mustang – Under off site restoration to flight status.
- North American P-51C Mustang – N1204 – On display as USAAF Ser. No. 42-103831 "Ina the Macon Belle" of Tuskegee Airmen pilot Lee Archer.
- North American P-51D Mustang – N921 – On display as USAAF Ser. No. 45-11507 "Cripes a Mighty 3rd."
- Piper L-4J Grasshopper – N5798N – On display as tail number 54883.
- Pitcairn PA-18 Autogiro
- Polikarpov Po-2 – N50074
- Polikarpov I-16
- Republic P-47 Thunderbolt – In storage, still in the original shipping crate.
- Ryan NYP – N211NX – reproduction – One of about a dozen replicas of "The Spirit of St. Louis" of Charles Lindbergh.
- Santos-Dumont Demoiselle – N65269
- Savoia Marchetti S-56
- Seversky P-35A – N106EP Under restoration
- Short Sunderland Mk.5 – N814ML – The last airworthy Sunderland in the world.
- Sikorsky S-38 – Under off site restoration to flight status.
- Sikorsky S-39 – NC50V – Aircraft is "Spirit of Igor" and painted in the giraffe pattern of original "Spirit of Africa."
- Sikorsky S-43 – Purchased in early 2013 and currently visible as part of the restoration shop tour at Fantasy of Flight.
- Sikorsky S-55 – N111VA
- Sopwith 7F.1 Snipe – reproduction (original Bentley BR2, 230 hp rotary engine-powered) built by Peter Jackson’s aviation shop, The Vintage Aviator Ltd.
- Sopwith Pup - reproduction
- Spirit of Peace Rozière Balloon Capsule – On display at the Florida Air Museum.
- Spirit of St Louis, reproduction. Powered by Lycoming R-680 engine.
- Standard E-1 – N49128 – One of two remaining in the world.
- Standard J-1 – N2825D – Appeared in the films The Spirit of St. Louis and The Great Waldo Pepper.
- Stinson L-1 Vigilant – N63230 - Returned to flight status in the summer of 2013.
- Stinson Trimotor – NC11170 – One of only two remaining.
- Supermarine Spitfire Mk16 – N476TE – Most originally restored Spitfire in the world.
- Supermarine Spitfire FR Mk14e - N808U - serial number MV262. In storage.
- Thomas-Morse Scout – N1071B – One of five remaining.
- Travel Air 4000 – NC174V – On display in U.S. Mail markings.
- Tupolev Tu-2 – In storage.
- UTVA Aero 3 Icarus – N906H
- Vought F4U-4 Corsair – On display as BuNo 97286, G5, "Angel Of Okinawa."
- Vultee BT-15 - Under restoration
- Weeks Benoist – N1913B – reproduction under construction – scheduled to fly 2014
- Weeks Der Jaeger D-IX – N30KW – Owner Kermit Weeks' first self-built aircraft.
- Weeks Solution S1-WS – N300KW – Owner Kermit Weeks' self-designed and self-built aerobatic aircraft currently in storage for restoration.
- Weeks Special S-1W – N69KW – Owner Kermit Weeks' first self-designed and self-built aerobatic aircraft based on Pitts Special.
- Westland Lysander – Formerly on display at the Florida Air Museum at Lakeland Linder International Airport, the Lysander was disassembled and returned to Fantasy of Flight in March 2014.
The immersion environments are part of the main facility now closed to the public, but are available as part of the facilities which can be rented for events. Visitors walk through several immersion environments as they enter the attraction. From the lobby, guests walk into the interior of a World War II-era Douglas C-47 Skytrain complete with lighting and sound effects as if the aircraft were conducting paratrooper operations. Guests pass a seated paratrooper in full kit and move forward toward the Jumpmaster figure standing at the open side hatch. Over the hatch blinks a red "Ready" light which switches to a green "Jump" light as the guest approaches the hatch. Through the hatch is the entry to the attraction.
Other immersion environments include a "sensation of flight" simulator, followed by a celebration of the early days of flight. Then, a passage covered by heavy shrapnel-resistant curtains leads visitors into a full-scale representation of the trench warfare of World War I, complete with aircraft overhead. It was, in part, due to the development of aerial warfare that trench fighting became obsolete.
The final immersion display includes the collection's Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress housed in a large darkened room staged to appear as a winter evening at RAF Horham, home of the 95th Bombardment Group (Heavy) during World War II. The full-scale diorama, complete with ground vehicles, outbuildings, and landscaping, represents a maintenance area and one of the B-17's engine cowlings and propellers are removed to maintenance stands in front of the aircraft. Guests can enter the plane via the aft side hatch in the tail, walk through the bomb bay, visit the cockpit, and exit near the nose of the aircraft.
Golden Hill Storage Facility
For years Fantasy of Flight has maintained a storage building opposite the main property on the north side of Broadway Boulevard where aircraft awaiting restoration were stored. In late 2011, work began on a second building to double the storage space with the intention of spreading out the stored items a bit and opening the buildings to the public on a limited basis. Finally, in June 2011 preparations were sufficient to open one building for a special preview over the Father's Day holiday. The response to the limited, self-guided experience was overwhelmingly positive, and the building joined the attraction's public programming in the summer of 2012, with the second building scheduled to open shortly thereafter.
The buildings are known by Fantasy of Flight as the "Golden Hill" facility as a tongue in cheek reference to the Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration, and Storage Facility of the National Air and Space Museum which is nicknamed "Silver Hill" by the NASM staff. Fantasy of Flight guest access to the Golden Hill facility is via over-the-road trolley operated from the main parking lot in the mornings. Guests are allowed to explore the facility on their own with docents present to answer questions. The facility closes at midday due to the lack of comfortable air handling equipment in the steel buildings which can get hot in the Florida sun.
In the summer of 2011, Kermit Weeks and a crew from Fantasy of Flight flew to Cotswold Airport in the United Kingdom to evaluate a Douglas C-47 Skytrain for possible purchase. The aircraft has a distinguished war record including sorties during the D-Day invasion and Operation Market Garden.
At the end of July, Weeks went forward with the purchase. His crew conducted minor repairs and the plane, registration number N1944A, was flown back to the United States by Weeks and his crew. Due to weather delays on some legs of the trip, the journey took a total of 11 days and covered approximately 4500 miles from Kemble, UK to Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Fans of the aircraft, Kermit Weeks, or Fantasy of Flight were able to watch the trip documented daily on Fantasy of Flight's Facebook page as the crew sent back pictures and observations along the way.
The aircraft arrived without incident on August 4, 2011 at Oshkosh. It was on display at the EAA AirVenture Museum for several months before being moved permanently to the campus of Fantasy of Flight in Polk City. On May 1, 2012, the C-47 was finally flown south to Fantasy of Flight, arriving on May 2 after an overnight stop in Douglas, Georgia. The aircraft is now on display at the attraction and open to guest walk-throughs.
Douglas DC-3 attraction sign
Standing along the side of Interstate 4 near the exit for Fantasy of Flight is a Douglas DC-3 painted with the attraction's name to get the attention of passers by. The aircraft itself is not part of the collection and was, in fact, specifically purchased for its intended purpose as an attraction sign. The airframe is far too corroded to make restoration of the DC-3 feasible. The aircraft was displayed for a period of time in a 'crashed' position, nose down in the ground with a mannequin hanging from the tail wheel, apparently a 'man' evacuating the aircraft with a parachute. The mannequin was dressed up for certain occasions around the year, including Santa Claus for Christmas; Uncle Sam for Independence Day; and a Pilgrim for Thanksgiving.
The aircraft in this crashed position received a mixture of criticism and compliments. Some people claimed that the display made the aircraft look bad and set a bad example to airline passengers without an aviation background, while others found the position of the aircraft comical and many enjoyed guessing what the mannequin would be dressed as next. Currently, the aircraft is in an upright position with the mannequin seated in the opened cockpit hatch on the left hand side.
The Compass Rose Diner
Adjacent to the attraction's lobby is an Art Deco themed restaurant called "The Compass Rose Diner" which features the characteristics of diners associated with airports during the 1930s and early 1940s. The restaurant features tall windows, multi-hued terrazzo floors, and the curved architectural lines associated with the Art Deco period. The diner was open to the public and served a short-order menu similar to that of lunch counters popularized during the pre-World War II era. When the main facility was closed to the public in 2014, the diner was closed and much of its equipment sold off, though the space itself is still available as part of the venue's rental offerings.
On March 4, 2014, Fantasy of Flight announced that they would close to the public after April 6, 2014 but continue to stage private events. They further announced that they would reopen to the public in late 2014 as a scaled-down museum, with reduced admission prices, while they simultaneously begin to design and build the main facility into more of a destination attraction that would appeal to a wider audience rather than just aviation aficionados. Ironically, the announcement that the facility would soon be closing its doors to the public has caused a significant upswell in visitors. Crowds have been so large that the facility has had to make use of its overflow parking area on multiple occasions since the announcement. As of 2017 the museum is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and most Sundays.
- Planes of Fame
- Commemorative Air Force
- Battle of Britain Memorial Flight at RAF Coningsby, UK
- Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden near Biggleswade in Bedfordshire, England;
- Champlin Fighter Collection at the Seattle Museum of Flight (formerly housed at Mesa, Arizona);
- The Lone Star Flight Museum in Galveston, Texas.
- The Yankee Air Museum in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
- The Historic Aircraft Restoration Museum in St Louis, Missouri
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- Marauder survivors
- Morane AI survivors
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- Thomas-Morse Scout survivors
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