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

Vintage aircraft collection to feature Legends and Legacies Series

vintage aircraft collectionsFor aviation fans, visiting a vintage aircraft collection is about as good as it gets. Scattered around the United States from Richmond, Virginia to Galveston, Texas, aircraft of yesteryear are available to view and some even still fly. One collection, Fantasy of Flight in Florida, takes it all a step further with its Fourth Annual Legends & Legacies Symposium Series, which features new and seldom explored stories of World War II and the Vietnam War, told by some of the aviators who were actually there themselves.

“Each year, the Legends & Legacies experience is different from the last, with new guest speakers, new stories, new interactions with guests, and new topics to explore, including three all-new events this year,” said Kim Long, General Manager of Fantasy of Flight. “The opportunity to hear firsthand from military veterans, especially those who fought in World War II and Vietnam, is a precious gift that we hope to share with as many guests as possible throughout the 2012 series.”It’s a forum for the public to hear firsthand about the experiences of some of America’s most courageous aviators and military heroes through exhibits, real aircraft, and most importantly, their own personal stories, recollections from their family members, and interactions with guests. The multi-day events feature open-forum, question-and-answer sessions as well as meet and greet autograph signings with the guest speakers.

The 2012 Legends & Legacies Symposium Series includes:

They Dared to Fly: Tuskegee Airmen, Feb. 9-11 – In honor of Black History Month, several of the nation’s first African-American military aviators will share their personal stories of what it was like to serve as a World War II pilot in the military during segregated America. Fantasy of Flight has a permanent multi-media Tuskegee Airmen exhibit and vintage aircraft collection, including the P-51C Mustang, provide the perfect backdrop to meet the men who fought America’s enemies abroad while enduring racism at home.

Breaking All Barriers: Amazing Women in American History, March 2-3 - In honor of National Women’s History Month, Fantasy of Flight celebrates the barrier breaking women who took on non-traditional roles during WWII, including the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), the first women to fly military aircraft, and all those entered the workforce for the first time in the spirit of “Rosie the Riveter.”

Unspoken Valor: The Bomber Crews of World War II, April 13-14 – New to the Legends & Legacies line up this year, the event promises harrowing tales from actual crewmen of WWII bomber planes such as the B-25 Mitchell, B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 Liberator, all incredible planes with amazing strengths but potentially catastrophic weaknesses.

D-Day: The Invasion of Normandy, May 11-12 – Guests will relive the most complex military initiative in world history as the men who were there recount their experiences as part of this massive air, land, and sea attack. Months in the making, it required the coordination of thousands of Allied forces, who once set in motion, could not be called back.

Reflections of Vietnam, June 8-9 – Fantasy of Flight’s Legends & Legacies series will explore the Vietnam War, America’s longest conflict and first military failure on foreign soil. Here, those who served will share their personal experiences about this complicated and emotional time in U.S. history.

Letters Home: Love, Courage & Survival, Oct. 12-13 -The final event of the 2012 series is based on the personal handwritten correspondence exchanged between the men who fought abroad and the women and loved ones they left behind. Whether they were high school sweethearts separated by the war or soldiers who met the love of their lives while serving overseas, their letters portray a wartime experience that can’t be found in history books.

Symposium events are included in the price of Fantasy of Flight general admission and are free for annual pass holders. For more information about Fantasy of Flight, call 863-984-3500 or visit FantasyOfFlight.com.