FANTASY OF FLIGHT
Alese & Morton Pechter


Remember those "old flying machines" of yesteryear? The Wright Bros.... hard to realize it could fly .... airplane that actually did get in the air? Lindburgh's, The Spirit of St. Louis, that captured the imagination of the world? The British Spitfire of WWII? Think you have to fly back to Washington, DC and visit the Smithsonian to see them? Not any more.

Not too far north from Palm Beach is a new attraction in Polk City, Florida ... just 20 minutes along I-4 from Disney in Orlando ... and you can be immersed in history. The Fantasy of Flight visitor spectacular is awesome. Anyone who loves history, airplanes or just experiencing something exciting and different ...will love a visit here.

We first met Kermit Weeks, the founder and developer of Fantasy of Flight, at the Air and Sea Show in Ft. Lauderdale. We had the opportunity to fly with him in one of his vintage planes, The Duck. When we heard about his collection of such aircraft, so close by, we just had to see it.

Approaching the area, we were taken by the array of buildings, spacious grounds, tall red white checker-board water tower and beautiful grass runways. We had the feeling we were in the era of the great Waldo Pepper. The buildings are 1930s and 1940s Art Deco themed displaying historic aircraft. This is an aviation attraction featuring a large number of vintage aircraft from the world's largest private collection.

But it is much more than just a display of aircraft. ... There is a surrealistic Sense-Around chamber that captures the romance and feeling of flying through the clouds. There is a chronicle of man's attempts to fly, from hot-air balloons to the Wright Brothers first flight. You witness the excitement and drama of an aerial dogfight, from the trenches of the Western Front and can actually board a B-17 Flying Fortress and reenact a flight at 25,000 feet over enemy territory while unloading 500 pound bombs amidst heavy anti-aircraft fire. This immersion experience allows you to see and experience from the beginnings of man's attempts at flight to the jet era.

Another attraction, "Fightertown" has many aircraft flight simulators that provide a realistic feeling of actually piloting an aircraft. From aerial dogfights, banks and turns and take off and landing .. you really feel as if you are in command. We must say that we did not fare too well as pilots ... Even with the preflight briefing, once we had control we managed to crash several times ... never hit any of the planes in the dogfight and had lots of problems landing! So much for our piloting careers. We have a great deal more respect for our fighter pilots and those that take us around the world... But it was fun.

Also available as of November, 1997 is a tethered gas-balloon experience.

Finally, we did get to fly ... in an Ultralight, a first for us. Although we have flown in big and small planes and in hot-air balloons, we had always been concerned about flying in a small, home built Ultralight. Our fears were put to rest when we met Richard Johnson, the man who runs this operation ... he is an experienced instructor, plane builder and pilot. Richard has 26 years of flight experience with over 9000 hours in regular planes and over 4500 hours in Ultralight planes. He offers introductory flights over the field for $25 and will even sell you a kit and instructions to become a builder and pilot yourself.

Once in the air, we really had the feeling of "flying by the seat of your pants." The plane is a two seater with a joy stick and rudder pedals on each side. We traveled about 75 miles an hour ... comparatively slow for air travel .. and at a low altitude ... that gave us plenty of opportunity to enjoy the vistas below... Although there is a windshield in front of you, you really could feel the wind rushing by.

On display in the hanger areas are more than 20 historic vintage aircraft ... including ... WWI aircraft ... Neuport 17, Morane A-I, Standard E-l ...
Golden Era aircraft ... (Late 1920s- 1930s) ... the world's most accurate replica of the famed Ryan "Spirit of St. Louis," Lockheed Vega, and the Ford Tri-Motor ...
WWII aircraft ... British Spitfire MK-16, B-24J Liberator, Bucker Jungmann, Short Sunderland, a Fiesler Storch ... B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Bomber as well as an FM2 Wildcat Fighter.

Dining is available in a pre-1940s Art Deco styled Compass Rose restaurant and the gift shop offers a mix of nostalgic aviation-themed merchandise and Fantasy of Flight apparel and souvenirs. Also available are one-of-a-kind vintage aviation antiquities that can only be found at Fantasy of Flight.

What also fascinated us was what can happen with the vision of just one man. This whole display was conceived by Kermit Weeks. His vintage aircraft fleet represents the largest private collection in the world. His own interest in aircraft began during his youth. By his teens he was already well-versed in the restoration and construction of aircraft and by age 19, he had already acquired his pilot's license. While still in his twenties, Kermit earned world-wide recognition of his aviation skills by winning the United States National Aerobatics Championship twice and winning 20 medals in the World Aerobatic Championships.

Kermit began collecting aircraft from throughout the world in the late 1970s. By the early '80s, he had assembled, airplane by airplane, one of the world's most unusual and historic aircraft collections, many of which were on display at the Weeks Air Museum in Miami, Florida. As the collection grew, Kermit began planning a more comprehensive means of exhibiting his aircraft. The development of the Fantasy of Flight attraction now serves as home base for much of his vintage fleet.

Situated on 300 acres of land near Polk City, Florida, Kermit is not finished yet. He has big plans ahead to expand with a seaplane base and exhibit, and a more deluxe restaurant.

What a great time we had. ... We have been given the opportunity to see part of the world's largest privately held vintage aircraft collection and share moments from aviation's past. Old timer pilots, history buffs, children and grandchildren will all delight in spending a day here.


FACTS TO KNOW....

Admission ... There is an admission charge. At present there are a variety of ticket options available. (They expect to have a complete package price in place soon that will include as many experiences as you want for the day in the Fightertown flight simulator and a flight in the tethered gas-balloon.) Present prices:

Adults (age 13 & older) $10.95
Seniors (age 60 & older) $9.95
Children (ages 5-12) $7.95
Children ages 4 & under Free

Fightertown Flight Simulator With General Admission ticket ... $5.95 per individual flight. Children nine and under are not permitted in the simulator.

Parking is Free

Operating Hours: Fantasy of Flight operates 365 days a year. Open 9a.m. to 5p.m. throughout the year. During peak tourist visitation periods (e.g. Easter, summer, Christmas holiday season) operating hours are extended into early evening.

Location: in Polk City, Florida. ... 10 miles northeast of Lakeland, Florida. On I-4 (Exit 21), 20 minutes southwest of Walt Disney World and almost halfway between Orlando and Tampa.

Phone:..for further information: 941-984-3500



© 1997 Alese & Morton Pechter
E-Mail: 73517.257@compuserve.com

Web design and graphics by: Palm Beach Online