Orlampa, FL, USA - January 2014

Located between Orlando and Tampa, Florida is Fantasy of Flight, a private collection of aircraft belonging to one man - Kermit Weeks. Inside the art deco hangar is just a small portion of what is the world's single largest collection of airplanes. Don't call it a museum though, according to Mr. Weeks, museums are where airplanes go to die. Fantasy of Flight is an aviation attraction! I paid a visit there in January 2014.

The Fantasy of Flight facility uses a lot of art-deco styling. Peronally, I thought it looked nicer than the typicial "airplane in a plain box" appearance of many collections. (Trevor McTavish)

After buying your ticket in the art deco entrance, visitors are directed into a gallery that includes a stroll through 1800s Paris as a balloonist prepares for an assent, a smoke-filled visit to the trenches of the Great War and a climb through a real-life Boeing B-17G. This is the only area of Fantasy of Flight that's set up as a theme park. It's neat, but if you are only interested in the airplanes (like I was), it's a little over the top. (Trevor McTavish)

Leaving the darkened galleries, you proceed into the first of two hangar bays. This one filled with flyable airplanes (mostly) from the 1930s. I think it's pretty clear that Mr. Weeks has a soft spot for Golden Age air racers. One thing I really liked was that the hangars were both very bright with lots of natural sunlight. (Trevor McTavish)

My first thought upon entering the hangar was, "So that's where all those planes ended up." Over the years, I've seen many of these airplanes appear in the pages of the EAA's Sport Aviation magazine but then they seem to disappear. Apparently Mr. Weeks liked them so much he added them to his collection. (Trevor McTavish)

In addition to some Gee Bees, there was also this 'Ike'... (Trevor McTavish)

...and this Laird Super Solution - a favourite of mine too. (Trevor McTavish)

Another airplane I liked was the Curtiss Robin, which was almost identical to the one all the way across the country in Seattle's Museum of Flight. Vintage cars add a little ambience, but again, this is not a museum and there is not really a lot set up in the way of displays or interpretive materials. What was clear to me was Fantasy of Flight is a (very) rich man's toy box and he's nice enough to let us look at the toys he keeps there. (Trevor McTavish)

Another favourite 1930s airplane of mine are the venerable Ford Trimotors. This particular one appeared in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom back in the 1980s. It also shows something unique about Fantasy of Flight; the airplanes can range from stunning show pieces to looking like they just came in from a hard day's work. (Trevor McTavish)

I really liked the variations in colours and textures, like the bright colours of the Pitcairn and Curtiss contrasting with the corrugated surface of the Ford. (Trevor McTavish)

The corrugations were also interesting on their own. (Trevor McTavish)

Filling about one-third of the hangar bay, and towering over all the other airplanes is Mr. Weeks' Shorts Solent. This massive flying boat came over from England in the mid-1980s and I don't think it has flown since. That's really no surprise, it's not like you can just hop in and take a flying boat like this around the pea patch. There's a fantastic amount of work in preparing the airplane, launching it, and then recovering it. It takes a large crew. For example, the Martin Mars was launched in the spring and brought out of the water in the autumn. (Trevor McTavish)

As an award-winning aerobatic pilot, Mr. Weeks obviously has an interest in aerobatic airplanes and when it came to aerobatics in the 1930s, the Buckers Jungmeister and Jungmann were the best of the best. Today, they are sought after both for their history and their flying performance. (Trevor McTavish)

Another thing that becomes apparent as you walk around Fantasy of Flight is that the collection also serves to indicate where Mr. Weeks has travelled. In this case, an Avro Tutor trainer (and its VH- registration) indicates a trip to Australia. (Trevor McTavish)

Other airplanes hint at where many of Mr. Weeks' early airplanes came from - the Movieland of the Air museum in California. Once owned by famed stunt pilots Paul Mantz and Frank Tallman, Mr. Weeks purchased much of the collection when it came up for sale in the late 1970s. In California this particular airplane had been outfitted with a camera rig and used for aerial filming. I thought it was nice that Mr. Weeks kept it in those markings. (Trevor McTavish)

I believe another airplane from the Movieland collection was this Ryan NYP replica. If it was, it would be the one built and flown for the Jimmy Stewart movie, The Spirit of St. Louis. (Trevor McTavish)

Another airplane from The Spirit of St. Louis movie was this Standard biplane, which according to the sign was once flown by Charles Lindberg himself. The sign also said that during filming, Lindberg paid a visit to the movie set and took his old biplane for a short flight. (Trevor McTavish)

Another eye-catcher is this bright red Pitcairn autogyro. Mr. Weeks is a licensed fixed-wing and helicopter pilot but not an autogyro pilot so he's never flown it. I'm pretty sure it is safe to say there are very few pilots left in the world who have flown a 1930s-vintage autogyro. (Trevor McTavish)

Of course the bright colours and unique markings caught my attention too. (Trevor McTavish)

It seems that almost every museum has some kind of "kiddie corner" to claim there's an educational portion to the collection. Fantasy of Flight is no different and in a small side room there were two airplanes hanging from the ceiling and a couple activities. There were barely any lights on when I walked through. Interestingly, the two airplanes were both owned by a young Mr. Weeks. (Trevor McTavish)

I know the idea of this room was to inspire kids and encourage an interest in aviation, but as a visitor to so many aviation museums across the continent I have to say that Fantasy of Flight's "kiddie corner" was the least inspiring of all. But again, this is a private collection and the half-hearted educational room served to reinforce this fact. (Trevor McTavish)