The Fantasy of Flight aircraft exhibition is located just outside Polk City in Central Florida. It is about an hour’s drive and some 40 miles from Orlando. Getting there is reward enough for the effort as you drive through Florida’s scenic countryside.
The first sighting of the facilities can be rather unexpected because of the art deco buildings. My initial impression was of entering a Hollywood movie lot. Once you get in first impressions disappear. Whether you are an airplane fanatic, aviation history buff or simply curious, Fantasy of Flight is a trip through airplane paradise.
It is a great way to spend the day – for kids and adults alike. There is so much to see and do, so be prepared to spend the day at the Orlampa (a mash up of Orlando and Tampa) airfield. The aircraft are mainly housed in two large hangars – North and South.
You could stroll around on your own, which is brilliant because you won’t be rushed from one exhibit to another. There are interactive displays and cockpit sections you can enter. They also have flight simulators you can try out. Every afternoon there is a flight demonstration of one aircraft with ground commentary about the aircraft in flight. As if that were not enough there are numerous vintage and classic cars in one of the display sections.
There is a great tram tour of the restoration and maintenance areas. The tram trolley is called the Orlampa Express and starts from the front entrance in the parking lot. It takes you out and down the road to Golden Hill where there are more aircraft and engines being restored or repaired.
If you have the head and heart for it you could try the Wing WalkAir experience. You do this out in the open and features a 600-foot zip line suspended four stories above water and a three-level ropes course complete with 33 mid-air challenges to be performed while tethered to a 45 foot high line.
For a fee you can go up in one of two open-cockpit biplanes for a 15 minute ride. Sitting in the front with the wind whipping against your face and the roar of those radial engines in your ears is quite something. The pilot will also perform a couple of old-time aerial manoeuvres that you will never forget. It is really cool.
The staff are genuinely helpful, pleasant and knowledgeable. They are founts of all sorts of technical information and the histories of individual aircrafts. Things are explained in a language a non-technical person can understand. Their passion for all things related to these wonderful flying machines is really infectious you get caught up. Some of them are actually dressed in period uniforms to keep the ambience going.
Since there is nothing else around the airfield, the Compass Rose restaurant is your only option should you feel hungry or thirsty. The bright and airy eatery is onsite and serves rather good food and you are surrounded by some great drawings and nostalgic interior decor.
With over 100 rare vintage aircraft Flight of Fantasy is one of the largest private collections in the world. Fantasy of Flight, reportedly, has more airworthy fixed-wing aircraft than either the Royal or Indian Navies.
You could call it a museum but all the exhibits are not just shiny and for show. They are all airworthy and actually fly, else Kermit Weeks, the owner, doesn’t bother acquiring them. I have never seen a museum like this nor have I had so much fun while learning.
Image Credit: cobalt_grrl