Fantasy of Flight...
One of the places
we've never visited before.....
The biggest problem we have with our Florida holidays is trying to fit all the things we'd like to do in between the things we must do (the maintenance and upgrading of our villa is our priority), attempting to achieve the best use of precious time available.
We now try to do something different each visit and during our September 2011 trip, I managed to convince my better half that a visit to Fantasy of Flight would be in my best interests !!
From our villa, it's not a long journey, about a half-hour drive down the I27 / I4 towards Tampa. It's site can't be missed, as there's a Douglas DC-3 'parked' within sight of the road (on the right) and decent signage.
First impressions ?? - An airport in the middle of nowhere!!
Things improved markedly indoors - the ticketing area and cafe are 1950's themed very effectively - entrance to the actual aerodrome is a walk through the body of a Douglas C-47 paratroop carrier "in flight" with full sound effects. As you approach the side hatch, a red 'ready' light changes to green 'jump' ....
There are 2 main hangers packed full of propeller driven aircraft covering the beginnings of manned flight through (mainly) to the end of WW2 when jets became the norm....
What is so very unusual about this place is the fact that nearly every 'plane is maintained in full flying condition, the 'hands on' nature of the place and the enthusiasm of the staff !! We both wandered around taking loads of pictures, me being mainly interested in the engines on display and Sue the 'planes.
I thought Sue might have been bored during our visit, but 'lost' her and found her being given an inside view of the Spirit of St. Louis.. She had shown interest and one of the curators - for want of a better word - had offered a closer look..
This is definitely a 'hands on' experience !!
When you arrive, you're given a timetable of events during the day which you can attend or ignore at your will. There are conducted tours of the mechanical (engine) and woodworking shops - both very interesting as they are actively involved in the restoration and construction of replica aircraft.
During the afternoon, one of the 'exhibits' is usually flown by the owner (Kermit Weeks), a tram tour takes you around the storage hangers where further restoration projects await and you can have a flight in an open biplane (at extra charge).
They are presently building a flying replica of the aircraft which initiated the first paying airline passenger flights in the world (between St. Petersburg & Tampa) with the aim of re-creating the inaugural flight on it's 100th anniversary - 1st January 2004. - (picture from the Fantasy of Flight website) -
All in all, we both thoroughly enjoyed our day at Fantasy of Flight and will be returning during a future visit to Florida !!
Although complete, the Benoist did not fly at the celebration to mark the first passenger air service across Tampa Bay .. It continues to refuse to plane at sufficient speed to attain flight !!!
returned April 2014 for another enjoyable day culminating in a biplane flight to
celebrate my 65th birthday :-) Regrettably, Fantasy of Flight will be closing April 8th but promises
to re-open at a later date !!