Central Florida and Orlando Area
A family holiday to see Mickey Mouse and friends was planned for the February half term, and consideration was made about getting in a few hours of spotting during the trip. Having visited the area on a few occasions previously I had a reasonable idea about what I wanted to see and where I wanted to go, so the main planning involved finding the precise locations for a few of the more remote and obscure places.
Orlando with a family has plenty to keep everyone entertained, so squeezing in a few aircraft locations was going to be a bit of a challenge, here's how I fared.
The pre-trip planning was fairly comprehensive, as I knew I would have to make maximum use of the limited time I would be able to get, so a good start is obviously Andy Marden's US Military Out of Service 2007 (USMOOS2007). This book gives a great insight into the likely locations, and also a reasonable idea on their situation in most cases. Further research enabled me to pinpoint accurately the locations I wanted to have a go at, and with these plotted into my mobile phone's GPS system I was set.
As usual, I was wide awake around 4am on the first morning in Florida (following the 5 hour time change and 8 hour flight), so decided to get up and head out on my first trip. I opted for a reasonable drive out for a couple of preserved aircraft to the north-east of Orlando, knowing I had plenty of time to get out and back before breakfast.
Deltona (in common with many towns in the USA) has a Veterans Memorial Park to commemorate the local citizens who have fought and died in the service of their country. A Bell AH-1F Cobra is well preserved here in the shape of O-15843. I won't show you one of my pictures of this as it was taken around 5am local time (VERY dark o'clock, even in Florida).
From Deltona I backtracked south west to DeBary, where another Veterans Memorial Park is located, this time with a dramatically displayed McDonnell Douglas F-15A Eagle marked as "85-125", in 33rd TFW colours coded EG "Gorillas". This airframe should actually be 76-0076, and if captured in daylight a pretty good photo would be possible. Then back to the hotel in Kissimmee, ready for my $3.99 all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, and a family day at the theme parks.
It was the families intention to go across to Kennedy Space Centre on the east coast to see another space shuttle launch, so we planned a morning visit to a theme park prior to the afternoon launch of Atlantis (STS-122). Disney's Hollywood Studio (the new name for Disney-MGM Studios) was a reasonable diversion for the morning, as there is an ex USAAF Lockheed Lodestar dumped at the entrance to Catastrophe Canyon, part of the Backlot Tour. This plane is easy enough to see, laying in pieces in a red, white and blue scheme with "Mohave Oils" titles.
So, on to Cape Canaveral in plenty of time to witness the launch. Despite the closest public viewing points being a few miles from Pad 39A, this is always a great sight to behold, but they are scheduled to have completed all Space Shuttle missions within the next 3 years, so if you want to see it, don't leave it too long.
Following the launch we popped in to the nearby Valiant Air Command museum at Titusville airfield. A pair of US Coast Guard HH-65 Dolphins were parked up near the control tower, having been on standby here for the shuttle launch, whilst over at the museum the staff were as friendly and accommodating as usual. Recent arrivals include the Rockwell T-2 Buckeye advanced US Navy trainer, a specially modified F-5 which performed research into sonic waves, and a Republic F-105D Thunderchief. Having visited this museum on a previous Florida holiday, I didn't need to spend too long here, but there is a very good selection of military aircraft here, much of it fairly contemporary. A small selection of pictures from Valiant Air Command Museum are shown just to give you a bit of flavour.
If you are visiting the central Florida area on a theme park visit there are a few military aircraft that you are pretty much sure of seeing. The entrance to Orlando International Airport has a Boeing B-52D Stratofortress (60687) preserved, and this is very easy to see. As well as the previously described Lodestar in Disney's Hollywood Studio, the complex at Universal Studios has Grumman Albatross N928J (ex USNavy 137928) preserved at the Margaretville Bar on the Universal Boardwalk.
Another Veterans Memorial Park was on my list, this time in the town of St. Cloud (just a few miles east of Kissimmee on the 192). Again, very easy to find, another Bell AH-1F Cobra (O-17052) is well preserved in a beautifully kept park alongside some other military hardware and memorials.
The next family day out was to Busch Gardens in Tampa, on the west coast. After a great day here I ensured we departed just in time to get to the nearby Tampa Veterans Memorial Park before closing time (officially 17:30, but you want to get there by 17:00 to make sure you have time), as the memorial is located a fair distance inside the main gate here. A poignant display in the gardens here of hundreds of small flags indicating the fallen brings a lump to the throat, and there is also a display inside the memorial building. Four hardstandings here are for the preserved helicopters, but one of them just contained a tiny model OH-6 Loach. The usual full sized resident had been removed for repair following a road traffic accident it suffered a few weeks ago. It is often towed around on a trailer to various events and was hit by a car necessitating some repairs. The three remaining helicopters were still present though, Bell UH-1H Iroquois 68-15562, Bell AH-1F Cobra 15722 and Bell OH-58A Kiowa 71-20748.
Another pre-breakfast jaunt was scheduled for the next day. This time I headed to the east of Orlando to the Vietnam Memorial Park where another Bell UH-1 Iroquois is displayed and an Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is under restoration. Also nearby is a research and technology park, and at the Naval Research Facility another Douglas A-4 Skyhawk is preserved at the gate, looking good in Blue Angels colours.
A fairly major aviation location in the region is Kissimmee Gateway Airport. This used to house the Tom Reilly's Flying Tigers Museum with a varied collection of exhibits and stored aircraft. A few years ago the area was hit by a hurricane causing much damage to buildings and aircraft, and subsequently Tom moved out, taking many of the aircraft with him. The site is still home to Warbird Adventures, who offer flights in their T-6's for those who think that the theme park roller coasters are a bit too tame. The hangar here is also still house the FW.190 restorations that have been progressing for many years, as well as a varied and regularly changing collection of other privately owned warbirds.
The major central Florida collection though is housed at Kermit Weeks' Fantasy of Flight, at Polk City. This collection of well preserved, but mostly airworthy aircraft, as well as a large storage and restoration are is well worth a visit, and can easily keep you occupied for many hours, especially if you take advantage of the timed visits around the workshops, and storage sheds. There are almost always some of the aircraft operating from the apron too, so you are very likely to see some classic warbird activity during your visit.
Flying and on the main apron were these.
A small selection of the hangar and display collection are here.
The storage sheds included these.
The full log of my visit to the area is below. With some decent preparation and planning there is no reason that you too cannot make a good effort at getting to at least some of these locations.
Wednesday 6th February 2008
O-15843 AH-1F (67-15843) at the Veterans’ Memorial
"85-125" EG bl F-15A (76-0076) at the Veterans’ Memorial
Thursday 7th February 2008
Disney's Hollywood Studios (Formerly Disney-MGM Studios)
(42-56069) Lockheed Lodestar Marked as "Mohave Oil", at the entrance of Catastrophe Canyon, part of the Backlot Tour.
6533 HH-65C USCG
6578 HH-65C USCG
Valiant Air Command Museum
Preserved outside the front of the museum
Between the 2 hangars
(15)5563 92 F-4J
At the side of the main display hangar
(54-0)674 C-123K Named "Big Lou"
61-2389 C-7A nose section
Main apron in front of the hangars
(68-)11029 029 O-2A N138RM
(51146) UTVA-66 C-GDLZ
156702 F-810 T-2C
N2400X SBLim-2 (ex Polish AF 627)
(141882) 3 Grumman F-11A Tiger Blue Angels scheme
(91188) FT-28 Grumman TBM-3U Avenger
Main Display Hangar
162182 NH A-6E
(153135) RTC-01 A-7A
(161134) 114 F-14
O-90400 TF-101B (59-0400)
136433 433 US-2B
6164 LG-164 L-13A (46-0164)
(192) Nord 1101 Luftwaffe marks
(14994) F-7 Grumman FM-1
"75937" UH-19B N37788
(12595) L-301 Grumman F9F-5 Panther
“330426” 53-K Piper Cub N1406V (44-80595)
“463221” G4-S P-51
(44-86697) 3L B-25J N62163
(62-5906) 906 OV-1D nose section
(146985) DN-14 F-8K
Friday 8th February 2008
Universal Studios, Margaritaville Bar
N928J Grumman Albatross (137928)
Universal Studios, Disaster! attraction
"EQ 1990" JetStar broken, displayed. Any idea on the identity?
Orlando International Airport
60687 B-52D Displayed
Saturday 9th February 2008
68-17052 AH-1F "O-17052"
Kissimmee, along the route 192
N60WJ Bell 206
“N206HS” Bell 206
Sunday 10th February 2008
N144AF R.44 Along the I-4
N145SG R.44 Along the 192
Kissimmee Gateway Airport
(13)6534 534 US-2B "Key West"
Monday 11th February 2008
C-47 displayed by the I-4
Tampa Veterans Memorial Park
15722 AH-1F (67-15722)
Wednesday 13th February 2008
Orlando Vietnam Memorial Park
Orlando Naval Research Facility
139931 A-4A Blue Angels scheme
Congo River golf on 192 in Kissimmee
N434.H? Cessna painted in zebra stripes
Kissimmee Gateway Airport
Stallion 51 area
Yellow coloured T-6/SNJ
(N351DT) DS P-51D (44-74502)
N504DM 73 Magister Displayed outside
MiG-15 Stored outside, dismantled
N48316 TH-13 (66-8128)
N689HS UH-12D (59-2689)
N55081 393 Ryan Recruit
N455WA WA-4 SNJ-6 112227
N451WA WA SNJ-6 112049
N452WA WA-2 SNJ-6 112034
N2JS 349 N2S-5 Stearman (ex USN 3572)
Friday 15th February 2008
Fantasy of Flight, Polk City
NC9756 21 New Standard D-25 Pleasure Flights
NC79466 Stearman (41-8091) Pleasure Flights
Unmarked Lockheed Starliner displayed at entrance (N974R)
N92KC Beech AT-11 (43-10371) Parked on apron in front of the Orlampa Conference Centre hangar.
The hangar itself contained:-
A P-51 named "Cripes a Mighty 3rd" (presumably N921, 45-11507)
A Grumman Duck (presumably N1214N, 33549)
A Tiger Moth?
An An-2? (presumably Nanchang Y-5 N4301U, Chinese 8331)
NC9125 9 New Standard D-25A
A B-24 Liberator (presumably N94459, KH401, 44-44272)
The storage hangars:-
A Yak-11 (presumably G-AYAK, N11YK)
A Meteor centre and inner wings section (possibly VT229?)
A Douglas B-23 Dragon (presumably 39-0057)
A Ju-52/CASA.352 (presumably T.2B-262)
A Dauntless/Banshee coded 516 and faded 4 (presumably 42-54643)
A Grumman Panther (presumably 123420)
In front of the storage hangars, a few frames left in the open air:-
N40415 Martin 4-0-4 fuselage American Airlines marked
N711ZY Grumman Ag-Cat Rosie O'Grady markings
The main apron contained:-
48375 Catalina N96UC
“YR-PAX” Jungmeister (ex Swiss AF U-57)
Main display hangars
10 white Polikarpov Po-2
47923 TP-40N (44-47923)
KF+XL Storch (ex Swedish AF 3812)
NX1204 P-51C (42-103831)
K4235 KX-H Cierva C.30A
N4297J B-26 (40-1464)
TE476 GE-D Spitfire
33311 245B T-6G (49-33111)
(89741) 4 Grumman FM-2 Wildcat
(43-28059) TB-25N "Apache Princess"
“56-143170” TH-13M (ex USN 143170)
NX26KW 7-F-7 Grumman F3F-2 replica
..... 6 S-2 nose section
(154418) A-7B nose section
“42-16621” BT-13 nose section
29642 SNB-5 nose section
ML814 Sunderland V
NX44FW FW.44 Marked TQ+BC
A6-25 Avro 643 VH-PRU
A B-24 nose section in Officer's Mess (BZ734, 42-40461)
An unknown frame in the Wood Shop
NC1170 Stinson Tri-Motor
54883 JK Piper Cub N5798N (45-4883)
NC105W Lockheed Vega
97286 C-5 F4U-4 Corsair in "Fightertown USA"
N1653 Nieuport 4 replica
..... Morane Brock
49128 Standard E1
..... Thomas Morse Scout
(44-83542) B-17G Named “Piccadily Princess”
MoS1573 Morane MS.30 A1 12 white
Saturday 16th February 2008
Orlando, Downtown Disney
Sikorsky S.62 Displayed outside Planet Hollywood