POLK CITY, Fla. (Feb. 15, 2010) - One of the only attractions in the country to bring together legendary World War II heroes to share their firsthand accounts, Fantasy of Flight is now expanding the first of its increasingly popular three-part Living History Series Symposiums by adding a luncheon with the Tuskegee Airmen.
The Tuskegee Airmen symposium, called "They Dared to Fly," takes place Thursday, Feb. 18 through Saturday, Feb. 20 and features several open-forum/question-and-answer sessions with three distinguished Airmen - Dr. Roscoe Brown, Lt. Col. Leo Gray and Lt. Col. Hiram Mann - as they share their recollections of wartime military service during segregated America.
New this year, on Friday, February 19, from noon to 1:30 p.m., Fantasy of Flight will host a special, reservations-only luncheon with limited seating in honor of three of the original aviation veterans, the first African Americans to be trained as WWII military pilots.
The luncheon will be held at the Orlampa Conference Center at Fantasy of Flight. Tickets are $65 plus tax per person and reservations are required. For tickets, visit www.fantasyofflight.com/livinghistory or call 863-984-3500, ext. 220. Corporate tables and individual tickets are available.
Now in its second year, the Tuskegee Airmen portion of the Living History Series takes place annually each February in honor of National Black History Month. A fourth member of the Tuskegee Airmen, Lt. Col. Lee Archer, was also scheduled to appear, but recently passed away.
"We are extremely saddened by the loss of Lt. Col. Lee Archer and we offer our most sincere condolences to his immediate family and his family of Airmen," said Kermit Weeks, Fantasy of Flight founder and creator. "His passing makes us all the more aware of how precious these first-hand accounts from our World War II veterans truly are."
Throughout the three-day event, guests can enjoy breathtaking flight demonstrations featuring one of the fully restored aircraft on display at Fantasy of Flight. Fantasy of Flight's permanent multi-media Tuskegee Airmen exhibit, which also includes previously recorded interviews with several of the pioneering Airmen, provides the perfect backdrop for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to meet the brave men who fought America's enemies abroad while enduring racism at home.
Prior to the Tuskegee Airmen, no U.S. military pilots had been African American. In an effort to undermine Congress' 1941 decision to form an all-black combat unit, the War Department created requirements so stringent they thought the posts could not be filled. The effort backfired, however, when thousands of qualified applicants came forward, many of whom had already participated in civilian pilot training at the historically black Tuskegee Institute. Of the original group of nearly 1,000 trained pilots and 15,000 ground personnel that made up the Tuskegee Airmen, roughly 100 pilots and 200 ground crew are alive today.
The second event in the three-part Living History Series takes place March 25-27. In honor of National Women's History Month, "A Passionate Pursuit" will feature the WASP - Women Airforce Service Pilots - a spirited squadron of pilots who left their homes and jobs at the height of World War II to serve their country as the first American women to fly for the U.S. Military. The event will bring to life the experiences of some of America's most courageous aviators through permanent and semi-permanent exhibits, real aircraft, and most importantly, personal stories from real WASP pilots.
The third series event, "Victory in the Sky," will take place April 17 and will feature the World War II American Fighter Aces. This elite group of combat pilots shot down five or more hostile aircraft in air-to-air combat in World War I and II, as well as Korea and Vietnam. Out of more than 40,000 fighter pilots trained during World War II, only 1,314 had the skill and bravery to become an American Fighter Ace. Along with firsthand accounts from the Fighter Aces, Fantasy of Flight's immersion experiences and meticulously recreated historical exhibits take guests back in time to see, hear and feel what it was like to fly some of America's greatest wartime airplanes. The true stories of these courageous pilots are further brought to life by the world's largest private collection of rare and vintage aircraft, and tours of aircraft restoration and maintenance areas.
During each symposium, Fantasy of Flight will feature "Open Cockpit Days" during which guests are invited to get up close and personal with some of America's most rare vintage aircraft and climb aboard for a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.
Fantasy of Flight also hosts a number of other special events throughout the 2010 year, including the 100th Anniversary of Scouting Camporee, March 5- 7; The Blue Max: Scale Remote Controlled (R/C) Challenge and Fly-In, March 12-13; the Sun 'n Fun Splash-In at Fantasy of Flight on Lakes Agnes, April 15; Mustangs & Mustangs-Legends Havin' Fun 2010, April 17, Roar n' Soar, Nov. 13 -14 and many more.
Cost of each Living History symposium is included with Fantasy of Flight admission, which is $28.95 for adults, $14.95 for children ages 6-15, plus 7 percent sales tax. Children 5 and younger are free. Discounts are available for groups of 15 or more. Annual passes are available for $69.95 for adults, $39.95 for children ages 6-15, plus 7 percent sales tax, and are good for one year from the date of purchase. Open Cockpit Days are free for Annual Pass holders and $20 additional for paid guests.
For more information, call 863-984-3500 or visit www.fantasyofflight.com.
Fantasy of Flight is Central Florida's premier aviation-themed attraction showcasing vintage aircraft from the world's largest private collection; themed immersion experiences; flight simulators; 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. General admission also includes The Tuskegee Airmen - They Dared to Fly exhibit; the multimedia tribute to the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) - A Passionate Pursuit, a walking audio tour and many special events throughout the year.
Hours are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily. General admission is $28.95 for adults, $26.95 for seniors ages 55 and over and $14.95 for children, ages 6-15, plus 7 percent sales tax. Annual passes are available for $69.95 for adults, $39.95 for children ages 6-15, plus 7 percent sales tax, and are good for one year from the date of purchase. Biplane rides, through Waldo Wright's Flying Service, and hot air balloon rides, are available for an extra charge. For more information about Fantasy of Flight, call 863-984-3500 or visit www.fantasyofflight.com.