Saturday, February 2, 2019

Fantasy of Flight Museum, Polk City, Florida

The Fantasy of Flight Museum is an aviation-related attraction in Polk City, Florida that takes visitors back to the pioneering days of early flight, World War I, World War II and beyond. The attraction opened in November 1995, and houses the world's largest private aircraft collection on display. It became the new home for much of owner Kermit Weeks' collection of aircraft that were previously housed at the Weeks Air Museum in Tamiami, Florida and were damaged to varying degrees by Hurricane Andrew in 1992.  Kermit Weeks is an American aviation enthusiast, pilot, and aircraft collector. He has competed in aerobatics, designed aircraft, and promoted aviation and vintage aircraft restoration. 

The museum is only open Friday, Saturday & Sunday from 11am to 3pm. They have tours at 11:30 am and 1:00 pm by two very knowledgeable people.

Red Baron

1917 De Havilland DH-4
Modeled from a British De Havilland design, the DH-4 was the only U.S. built aircraft to see battle during WWI. With few funds to buy new aircraft following WWI, the Air Service used the DH-4 in a variety of roles, such as transport, air ambulance, photographic plane, trainer, target tug, forest fire patroller, and even as an air racer. In addition, the U.S. Postal Service operated the DH-4 as a mail carrier. The DH-4 also served as a flying test bed at McCook Field in the 1920s, testing turbo-superchargers, propellers, landing lights, engines, radiators, and armament. There were a number of notable DH-4 flights such as the astounding New York to Nome, Alaska flight in 1920, the record-breaking transcontinental flight in 1922 by Jimmy Doolittle, and the first successful air-to-air refueling in 1923. 

1911 Curtiss Pusher Model D
Designed by Glenn Curtiss, who had come from a motorcycle racing background and was used to "leaning into" each turn, set the controls in an unusual way. His elevator control worked in the normal sense, where one would pull the control column back for nose up and push it forward for nose down. On this aircraft, your feet do nothing and rudder control is initiated by turning the "steering" wheel. While on the ground, the aircraft could be driven like a car, where turning the wheel to the left would turn the rudder to the left and the nose of the aircraft would turn left. To make a turn in the air though, an aircraft must bank. Curtiss set up his banking control using the side-seat rails (that look like armrests). To fly a Curtiss Pusher, you must unlearn how you were taught to fly and relearn a completely new and different technique.

1918 Standard E-1
Le Rhone 80 hp Rotary Engine
The E-1 was designed in 1917 by Standard Aircraft in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and is constructed mainly of wood. It was acquired by the Army Signal Corps as an airfield defense fighter. The aircraft was considered under-powered and lightly armed with only one machine gun. Some modifications were made and the aircraft was used as trainers. Toward the end of 1918, more aircraft were built with the Le Rhone 80 hp rotary engine. The Le Rhone design is one of the few rotary engines that have any degree of "throttle-ability." The pilot has two levers in the cockpit and a blip switch that controls the engine. With two levers, the pilot can throttle the engine down to a speed of 800 rpm. Below that point, the engine just quits. Since 800 rpm is too fast to taxi and land, the "blip" switch is used to "kill" the engine and slow the aircraft down. When the pilot needs power again, he releases the blip switch and the engine comes to life. With the two levers to control the fuel and air, the pilot is the carburetor.

1932 Gee Bee R-2
This Gee Bee Sportster R-2 is a replica of the famed Granville Brothers Gee Bee racer. It has been all across North America and Europe, flying a hair-raising routine to the delight of aviation minded audiences. Gee Bees competed in all the popular airplane races of the Golden Age. Unfortunately, no original Gee Bees survived the rough and tumble racing years, and the Gee Bees here at Fantasy of Flight are among the few replicas that actually fly.

1931 Gee Bee Z
The Great Depression was tough on the aircraft industry, especially the sale of luxuries like the small sport planes the Granville Brothers built in Springfield, Massachusetts. The decision was made to build a racer for the Cleveland Air Races in hopes that prize money could help support their dwindling sales. Bob Hall started engineering the first racer in July of 1931. It was named the Gee Bee after its builders, the Granville Brothers. In less than six weeks "The City of Springfield" made its first flight at a cost of less than $5,000. The Gee Bee won every race it entered, including the Shell Speed Dash and the famous Thompson Trophy pylon race. 

The remarkable Gee Bees have withstood decades of controversy due to a number of high profile crashes in the 1930s, however, these airplanes also came to represent the highest achievement of the American spirit during the darkest days of the Great Depression. 

1918 Morane A-I
The A-I was the product of a long line of successful Morane aircraft. It entered service in the spring of 1918 in time to see combat during the last few months of WWI. When the Americans entered the war, they received 160 hp Gnome-powered aircraft from the French, including the Morane A-I. Most A-Is were sold to the new U.S. Army Air Service and flew with two squadrons of the Lafayette Flying Corps. 

1915 Nieuport 17
The most famous of the Nieuport designs, the 17 was built by the French in 1915. Constructed of wood, the wing arrangement was unusual. The upper wing had a normal two-spar structure, but the lower wing only had one, an arrangement called a "sesquiplane" or "one and a half plane." The design was originally intended to keep the lower drag of a monoplane but have the structural strength of a biplane. While the smaller lower wing did improve the pilot's downward visibility, it unfortunately would sometimes fail in flight due to the structure twisting under high loads.

Lafayette Escadrille pilots with a Nieuport 17, March 1916.

1916 Sopwith Pup

The Sopwith Pup is a British single seater biplane fighter aircraft built by the Sopwith Aviation Company. It entered service with the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Navy Air Service in the fall of 1916. The Pup was officially named the Sopwith Scout. The "Pup" nickname arose because pilots considered it to be the "pup" of the larger two-seat Sopwith 1-1/2 Strutter. The name never had official status as it was felt to be "undignified," but a precedent was set, and all later Sopwith types apart from the triplane acquired animal names (Camel, Dolphin, Snipe, etc.), which ended up with the Sopwith firm being said to have created a "flying zoo" during the First Word War.

1931 Laird Super Solution
The Super Solution was built for the 1931 Thompson closed-circuit pylon races at Cleveland. It was also flown in the new cross-country Bendix race from Los Angeles to Cleveland. Jimmy Doolittle was chosen as the pilot because of his successful background in racing and blind-flying. Eight aircraft entered the Bendix race and Jimmy won by a commanding lead. After landing in Cleveland, Jimmy fueled up and then flew to Newark, NJ, to set a new transcontinental record. His total trip time for the entire 2450-mile coast-to-coast flight was 11 hours and 16 minutes, averaging 217 mph and beating the old record by by over an hour. The total prize was $17,500 for the Bendix Race and an additional $2,500 for setting a new coast-to-coast record.

1944 B-24J Liberator
The Liberator was designed in 1939 as a replacement for the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. It was the most widely produced U.S. military aircraft to date. It served on all battlefronts in various roles that included bombing, mine laying, photo-reconnaissance, cargo and transport duties. This particular aircraft is one of 1,278 delivered to the RAF and Coastal Command as part of lend-lease. Known as a Liberator Mark VI in the RAF, it is believed to have been delivered in August 1944 to 215 Squadron RAF in Kolar, India, as a replacement for the Vickers Wellington bombers. If this was the case, the aircraft would have participated in the long range bombing missions the squadron made into Burma to destroy the infamous Siam-Burma railway bridges that the Japanese built at the cost of over 24,000 Allied prisoners' lives.

1945 Nord Prints
The Stampe (pronounced "stomp") was primarily built of wood and and was one of the best aerobatic training aircraft of its period. It is still highly valued today as a sport aircraft and can fly circles around its contemporary -- the British-built Tiger Moth. In the 1960s and 1970s, a British four-ship flying group called Rothman's Aerobatic Team used Stampes to dazzle European crowds by performing formation aerobatics, including outside loops with ribbons tied between the four aircraft.

1917 Fokker DR-1 Triplane
During World Ward I, many concepts were tried in an effort to produce aircraft that outperformed the enemy. In early 1917, the British Sopwith Triplane began flying in combat, so the German High Command requested that a triplane be developed for their use. Anthony Fokker, a Dutch aircraft designer, was given the job. The Fokker Triplane has a reputation as a great dog-fighter due to its great climbing and turning ability. No original Fokker Triplanes are left in existence; the last was destroyed in WWII bombings of Berlin.

1954 Polycarpov PO-2
The PO-2 was originally designed in the late 1920s as a training and light utility aircraft. They were used as liaison, light attack, nuisance raider, and propaganda aircraft -- complete with microphone and loud-speaker. During WWII they were used for close air support, bombing and night harassment raids. These raids were emulated a decade later in the Korean War when North Koreans would fly low at night and drop hand-grenades on our troops. They were known as "Bedcheck Charlie."

Natalya Meklin, Hero of the Soviet Union in her PO-2.

1932 DGA-5 "Ike"
Designed and built by Benjamin O'Dell Howard, by the age of 20 Benjamin modified and aircraft for bootleggers and raced for prize money. Each aircraft Benny built was identified with his own official trademark, DGA, which stands for "Da*ned Good Airplane." He then created two of the smallest and quickest aircraft in the 1932 races: low-wing wire-braced monoplanes known as "Mike" and "Ike." Benny's airplanes were among the safest in the hell-bent-for-leather races, never killing a pilot. While many of the original classic racers -- including all the GeeBees -- are long gone, Howard's original "Mike" and "Ike" are still preserved.

Savoy Marchetti S-56

1917 Albatross D-VA
At one point during World War I, the Albatros D-VA was the most feared aircraft in battle, giving the legendary German aces their great success in the sky. Ultimately, it was responsible for "Bloody April" in 1917. The aircraft was renowned not just for its fierceness but also for its beauty and innovation, with a modern shape, streamlined and aerodynamic, and a fascinating construction technique -- wood skinning on the bulkheads. Its legend and beauty made it an ideal candidate for Fantasy of Flight's collection, but no originals remain. This reproduction was crafted in New Zealand by The Vintage Aviator, Ltd.

1945 North American P-51D
The first Mustangs were designed for the British before the U.S. entered WWII. Called the Apache by the Americans, it was the British who named it Mustang. The Mustang's ability to carry large external fuel tanks and and the Merlin's good fuel economy gave the air war in Europe a different look. With over 450 gallons of fuel, the Mustangs had a range of over 2,000 miles and the capability to escort the long range bombers on their entire missions. This aircraft is painted in the colors of the highest scoring Mustang ace, Major George Preddy, who became famous after one mission where he claimed six kills. Preddy lost his life on Christmas Day of 1944 flying a mission during the Battle of the Bulge while chasing a German Focke Wuf 190 at treetop level. Reports of two enemy aircraft were forwarded to American troops in the vicinity, and Preddy was shot down by friendly fire.

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