Weeks' Fantasy Of Flight Museum
Tom McGhee takes a look at Polk City, Florida.
Situated less than half an hours drive from Orlando, the collection of aircraft at the Fantasy Of Flight Museum includes many unique flyable aircraft as well as some immaculately restored examples. The grass runway and adjoining lake mean amphibious aircraft are able to operate from here and the impressive facilities available here are put to good use.
The set piece displays that first greet the visitor inside are brilliantly done, if a little gloomy. The walk through B-17G "Piccadilly Princess" at Horham Airbase near Eye, Suffolk, is especially noteworthy as it actually feels as if you are on an 8th Air Force bombing mission over Germany during the Second World War.
The main hangar collection is a diverse assortment but all aircraft are in pristine condition. Special mention must go to NA P-51D Mustang "Cripes A' Mighty 3rd" (44-13321) which is still a regular flyer and is probably in better condition now than when it rolled out of the factory well over 50 years ago.
A large collection of training aircraft from around the world are here including a German Bu.181 Bestmann (Wrk no. 461), and from Australia an Avro Cadet 643 (A6-25).
56-143170 is an immaculate flyable Bell 47 (H-13G to the US Army, Sioux to Britain) and is painted with 4077th MASH markings brought to prominence by the movie and TV series MASH. A more unusual helicopter in the form of the 13th example of Hiller's YH-32 Hornet is also here, complete with rotor tip mounted ramjet engines.
Budding fighter pilots can take part in dogfights against friends and family in "Fightertown", a collection of F4U cockpit mockups on the flight deck of "USS Yorktown" which participate in missions against each other.
Outside on the real flightline, the regular flyers and outsize aircraft await. Notable amongst these are the last airworthy Shorts Sunderland (ML814), which was converted from a RAF Coastal Command anti-submarine aircraft into a civilian passenger carrier complete with upper-deck bar area.
Another unique flyer here is the last airworthy B-26 Marauder (N4297J) in the unusually plain markings of the USAAF. A further NA P-51D Mustang (the world famous "Old Crow" 44-14450) is based here alongside a B-24J Liberator (42-50551 "Joe") plus an unusual Beech (N288OD).
This is another worthwhile but pricey museum to visit if you are in Central Florida, with various flying displays, presentations and tours taking place throughout the day as well as an interesting and unusual selection of aircraft to view.
Further information can be found at http://www.fantasyofflight.com.