Rosie the Riveter held the door open for me.
That’s the first time that’s ever happened, and it happened because, for the first time, I was visiting Fantasy of Flight in Polk City. The visit was long overdue, but now that I’ve been there I’m sure it won’t be long before I return. Think about it: There’s nowhere else on earth where you’ll find the world’s largest private collection of vintage aircraft.
If you’re a fan of aviation, of history, of craftsmanship, of military history, of art, of design, and of human drama… Fantasy of Flight has all of this and far more than you can imagine. From meeting Rosie at the door, the experience is immersive and impressive. There are too many museums where cold, unapproachable artifacts are shielded behind glass. There’s no connection.
At Fantasy of Flight, there’s immediate admiration of the pioneers of aviation and the men and women who put their lives on the line to advance the science of aviation and, at times, to advance the cause of freedom in Europe and around the world. It’ll take far more than single blog to convey what you’ll see here, but here are a few of my favorite moments:
• Entering the museum by stepping into (and ‘skydiving’ out of) a soaring World War II aircraft.
• Climbing into the cramped fuselage of a B-17 where a soundtrack of engine noises, 50-caliber machine guns, and radio transmissions made me feel as if I were over Germany in 1944 – and propelled my respect for the crews who did this in real life. Incredible bravery.
• Seeing the range of restored aircraft, from a Curtiss Model D to a recreation of the Spirit of St. Louis to a squat Gee Bee to a M*A*S*H* 4077 (Bell) helicopter.
• A narrated aerial demonstration (weather permitting)
• Special displays honoring the Tuskegee Airmen and the WASPs (Women’s Airforce Service Pilots).
• Interactive exhibits for kids that may spark their interest in aviation
• The daughter who was pushing her wheelchair-bound father through the hangars to give him another look at the aircraft he once flew.
Above all, as a student of history, what I appreciated most was the work of Kermit Weeks. This is a first-class destination where every visitor learns about history (whether they want to or not!). Not only has Weeks made Fantasy of Flight entertaining and educational, as I saw on video clips and exhibits, he tips his hat to the engineers, crews, and pilots who have keep America flying for more than a century.
From themed immersion experiences to flight simulators to bi-plane rides to a tram tour of maintenance and restoration areas, this is a first-rate attraction from take off to landing.
Do not miss this one.
If You Go
Hours: 10-5 p.m. daily
Prices: $28.95 adults, $26.95 55 and over, $14.95 ages 6-15
Contact: (863) 984-3500