Vintage Aircraft Come Home

vintage aircraftVintage aircraft fascinate those who travel by air. Pilots and aviation fans, along with frequent fliers, enjoy visiting air displays and museums to get up close and personal with aircraft that are often older than they are. As time goes on, efforts are being made to bring rare aircraft from World War II back to American facilities where they can be viewed and some even flown.

Central Florida’s Fantasy of Flight, home to the world’s largest private collection of rare and vintage planes, also became home to a World War II C-47 Dakota, also known as the SkyTrain, over the weekend.

Fantasy of Flight
creator and founder Kermit Weeks purchased the plane last year from a private owner in the U.K. and began a seven-leg journey last July to fly the plane back to the United States across the Atlantic.

“We are thrilled to finally bring home the C-47 to our permanent collection,” said Weeks. “Flying her across the Atlantic was an incredible opportunity to relive the days when World War II pilots first brought them to Europe to fight for the Allies, but now, to be able to bring her home to Florida for our guests to enjoy will be even more momentous.”The C-47 is the military version of the Douglas DC-3 airliner, with a cargo door versus passenger door and a reinforced floor to hold heavy cargo and as many as 27 soldiers.

More than 10,000 C-47s were produced, but fewer than 1,000 remain and fewer than 300 are still flying. The C-47 (N1944A) acquired by Fantasy of Flight was used by the Allies during World War II to transport troops and cargo and was instrumental in the D-Day Invasion, Operation Market Garden, the Battle of the Bulge, the Crossing of the Rhine and in the repatriation of POWs at the end of the war.

Fantasy of Flight is located in Polk City, Florida and about a 45-minute drive from Orlando International Airport (MCO). Hours are 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. Fantasy of Flight also has themed immersion experiences; interactive exhibits; a tram tour of aircraft maintenance areas; Restoration and Backlot tours; Fun with Flight center for families and the country’s only Aerial Demonstration of the Day (weather permitting) featuring a vintage plane.

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Photo: Fantasy of Flight

Witness to War: important reading this Memorial Day

war, wwii
Every Memorial Day weekend we remember the soldiers who fought for the United States. For those of us who have never experienced war, however, it’s hard to understand their experiences.

The Witness to War program is a nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the wartime memories of veterans and helping to give civilians a better idea of what they went through. As their website says, “These are the stories of scared 18 and 19 year olds thrust into circumstances of such intensity and violence, that they became the defining moments of their lives.”

Some are video interviews, like Hap Chandler’s thoughts on his involvement in the Dresden bombing, and Jim Paine’s harrowing memory of being the only survivor when his Jeep ran over a German mine. There are also written memoirs and wartime diaries. Some are short anecdotes while others are more extensive. Tucker Smallwood gives us 23 pages of his gripping Vietnam memoir.

All of the stories Witness to War collects will be donated to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project and other non-profit organizations willing to spread their message.

There’s plenty of reading here and a lot of food for thought. So sometime this Memorial Day, take a break from the cookouts and TV and check this out.

[Photo of American soldiers during the Battle of the Bulge courtesy Wikimedia Commons]