Fantasy of Flight Aircraft Collection
28º 10’ 52” N / 81º 48’ 33” W
Polk City Florida USA lies between the Tampa and Orlando. Kermit Weeks chose property there to not only house his extensive airplane collection but to build an entire experience. A wealthy man, he built an airfield to resemble a WW II era air base. The visitor observes a retro water tower with its checkered livery, a grass air strip (underlain by an engineered surface to enhance draining) and a lake for landings by aquatic aircraft. Inside there is a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress one walks through and around — as it sits as if being serviced in the field. And then one walks into the first of two hangers. There are more aircraft here, by far, than in most museums. Only national museums rival the scale of this collection. The range of airplanes on exhibit spans aviation history from its earliest times through WW II — no jets here — notably, the majority are kept in flying condition.
There is one aircraft here that drew me like iron to a magnet, the Short Brothers Sunderland Mk V — a four engine flying boat flown by the RAF in WW II. As a bonus one is allowed to walk through the main deck to see the aircraft as used when it was an airliner, not a military maritime patrol aircraft. The aircraft is immense and one can see it as it sits on beaching gear in one of the hangers. What it must have been like to tow the Sunderland to the water, float her and then remove the unwieldy beaching gear? There is not only a Ford Trimotor but one of its contemporary aircraft, a Stinson Trimotor.
There are too many aircraft to list here but there are about four dozen housed in both hangers. Three of the especially historic aircraft are a Grumman F3F (nicknamed Flying Barrel), a Cierva C.30-A Autigiro* and a replica of a Bachem Ba-349 Natter (Viper). There are many more, to be sure, including a Curtiss TF-40 Kittyhawk, Supermarine Spitfire Mk XVI, Lockheed Constellation, Grumman J2F Duck, North American P-51C Mustang and Fieseler Fi-156 Storch (Stork).
Getting there is easily done by driving along interstate I-4 to Polk City. The nearest major airports are Tampa International Airport and Orlando International Airport. Entry is about $20, there is an excellent diner/café and modern restrooms. Extras are also on hand … a tour of a third hangar used for restoration work, a tour of the restoration wood shop, a daily flying demonstration and biplane for-hire rides.
The post scheduled to be published on 2 December 2009 will describe the Fieseler Fi-156 Storch flying demonstration I thoroughly enjoyed watching.
* For more on the Cierva C.30-A Autigiro please see 007! He knows what to fly! — Little Nellie and other autogiros, which published on 7 October 2009.