Orlampa, FL, USA - January 2014

For me, the best part of Fantasy of Flight was the all access tour of Mr. Weeks' storage warehouses. Most of Mr. Weeks' collection isn't flyable, or even restored but I enjoy seeing artefacts in museums that haven't been polished up. To me, I guess, there's a bit of authenticity lost, a break with the past and the story it could tell. The engineer in me also likes inside the airplanes, to see how a Junkers differs from a Boeing, a Fokker or a Grumman.

First on the list of airplanes was this Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina. It flew into Fantasy of Flight years ago but it's apparently so rotten it could never flew again. (Trevor McTavish)

Only about 200 feet from the PBY, and maybe 500 feet from the start of the tram ride is the engine warehouse. Remember that airframes are the easy part to come by? Here Mr. Weeks has amassed a collection of engines to keep his planes flying for years to come - Merlins, Allisons, BMWs, etc. (Trevor McTavish)

He also has an impressive collection of old propellers. None of these will ever fly again but they can all be used as templates in the manufacturing of new ones. (Trevor McTavish)

As the tram ride resumes, you cross to the other side of the grass airstrip to the flight hangar. Along the way you pass a Lockheed Super Constellation. Like the PBY, this plane will never fly again. Most of its usable parts were traded to get another Super Connie flying. The grass runway is also interesting in that it has all the below-surface grading and support a concrete runway would have. It's just topped with soil and grass to maintain the natural flow of water and to make it safer when flying airplanes without effective brakes (or even tail wheels). (Trevor McTavish)

Inside the flying hangar are some of Mr. Weeks' regular fliers. In this case, one of his Grumman Ducks. He's done quite well with his Ducks, starting off with something like six of the amphibians and trading them off for other, more unusual airplanes - like his P-35. (Trevor McTavish)

Another airplane I wanted to see in the collection was the Fieseler Storch. These planes are just so cool, with their 40 or 50 foot takeoff distances and helicopter-like slow flight. Later in the day this Storch was pulled out of the hangar and flown for a 15 minute demonstration flight. (Trevor McTavish)

Further back was this First World War German Albatross. Actually it's an exact reproduction from New Zealand. If you look even further back you'll see Mr. Weeks' Consolidated B-24 Liberator. This one flew in here, but hasn't flown since, although the tour guide indicated that some work was being done to get it back in the air. (Trevor McTavish)

It's not easy getting the Shorts Solent flying boat out of the hangar and into the nearby lake, so I'm pretty sure that when Mr. Weeks has the desire to go splashing around in the water he takes either his Duck, or this reproduction Sikorsky S-39. The unique giraffe camouflage was accurate on an S-39 flown by the Johnson family during an aerial safari of Africa in the 1930s. (Trevor McTavish)

After all those one-of-a-kind airplanes, a Grumman TBM-3 Avenger just seems to be so ordinary. It might be ordinary, but with all the parts available for it, I'm sure it won't be too long before this one is back in the air. It might actually be waiting only for a new paint job. (Trevor McTavish)

Back on the tram, the tour finally heads across the highway and to the warehouses. Out in a field sit a bunch of cast aside Douglas airliner parts and a pair of A-26 wings. (Trevor McTavish)

There are also three of these unusual items. At first I wondered if they were parts of a Consolidated Liberator or Privateer, then I discovered they were actually the gondolas from Second World War blimps. The US Navy flew dozens of blimps on anti-submarine patrols, many of them originating in Florida. (Trevor McTavish)

Inside one of the warehouses was this Boeing B-17G. It has been proven that a bomber as big as the B-17 can be restored, but it takes a pile of money and years of constant hard work by a commercial restoration shop. Will Mr. Weeks ever get this one restored? Only he could answer that. (Trevor McTavish)

To be honest though, I would much rather see Mr. Weeks get his Boeing B-29 back in the air. I'm not sure how much damage was done to Fertile Myrtle when Hurricane Andrew hit Mr. Weeks' collection back in 1992, but what is on display looks to be relatively unscathed. Apparently Mr. Weeks has also found parts from a second B-29 to help when restoration time comes. (Trevor McTavish)

Just in case the moving company forgot where a large chunk of Second World War bomber was headed, this message, painted on the mid-fuselage of the B-29 should have helped. It was just one of many signs relating back to the move from Miami to Orlampa following Hurricane Andrew. (Trevor McTavish)

Another, more obvious sign from Hurricane Andrew was the one attached to this engine stand. It was probably left like that because the twisting of the stand has made it impossible to remove the engine. A similar sign on the Douglas B-23 Dragon mentions that thanks to Hurricane Andrew both the B-17 and B-23 had unscheduled flights. The B-23 was found one mile away from where it was tied down. (Trevor McTavish)

One thing that instantly caught my eye was when I came across a really cool airplane, such as this Swiss C-3605 target tug. My thought was "Cool, he's got one of those..." but then I would turn a corner and spot a second one. (Trevor McTavish)

Another of these "He's got two of those" planes was the Tupelov Tu-2, or its Chinese equivalent. (Trevor McTavish)

The last one was this partially restored Grumman Duck. If memory serves, the sign says Mr. Weeks had sold it to someone and then bought it back. I don't recall if the person died, or ran out of money. Either scenario is common in the airplane restoration game. (Trevor McTavish)

One thing Mr. Weeks doesn't have a lot of are jets. Whether they don't interest him, or they're in storage in the many unpacked shipping crates, I don't know, but there was a Swiss Vampire in the back of one of the warehouses. (Trevor McTavish)

There was also a British Meteor. One of the tour guides mentioned that Mr. Weeks has actually slowed, or stopped the restoration of some of the planes scattered around the world because he simply doesn't have enough storage space for them. Unrestored, they can sit in shipping crates or crammed into warehouses, but flying airplanes have to stay assembled in buildings with runway access. (Trevor McTavish)

The only American jet I found on the property was this rather sad-looking Grumman Panther. I'm sure Mr. Weeks picked it up just so it could join a collection of Grumman Cats. As a modeller and photographer I really liked the hard worn paint finish. (Trevor McTavish)

The well-worn wing of the Panther could be found on one of the many storage shelves. In this case it shares space with the wing of a Japanese Tony, tail feathers from an A-26 and the float off another airplane. (Trevor McTavish)

Another discovery was a Swordfish, one of those saved by Canadian Ernie Simonson back in the late 1940s. This one was nice to see because it still had the canopy. (Trevor McTavish)

Don't be fooled by this Mitsubishi A6M Zero. There's nothing restored about it - just a coat of green paint. I suspect that Mr. Weeks was always being asked if he had a Zero and had this one put together so people could see that he did. (Trevor McTavish)

There were also the remains of another Japanese fighter, a Kawasaki Ki-64 Hein. How much of one of these planes would actually make it into a flyable restoration? I'm guessing 0%. (Trevor McTavish)

And speaking of wings, I got excited when I spotted this wing centre section. As a modeller I'm used to recognizing only parts of airplanes, so I instantly recognized part of a Lockheed Model 14, or Hudson. I was right and I soon discovered other parts of this airplane... (Trevor McTavish) the fuselage and wings. The only key to its previous identity was the Canadian registration. CF-TCO started off with Trans Canada Airlines (hence the TC in TCO) and ended up as a photo survey machine with Kenting Aviation. It would be truly remarkable if this particular plane somehow made its way back to Canada. (Trevor McTavish)