Photo courtesy of Marc M. Ellis / H2OPictures
For the first time, two wildly popular, ìhigh-octaneî events will converge on one dayóSaturday, April 17ó at Fantasy of Flight, offering guests twice the fun and twice the entertainment value for the price of admission. First, the three-part Living History Symposium concludes with ìVictory in the Sky,î a tribute to the heroic World War II Flying Aces. Two WW II Flying Aces and P-51 Mustang pilots, Don Bryan and Bud Anderson, will sign autographs, meet guests and share with them their personal accounts of flying the P-51 Mustang during wartime and shooting down five or more enemy aircraft in order to earn this prestigious distinction. Flying Aces including A.T. House and Bob Liles, who earned the title while flying other aircraft, will also be on hand to greet guests and sign autographs.
At the same time, the 13th Annual Mustangs & Mustangs show returns to Fantasy of Flight, the only Mustang event that showcases both restored P-51 Mustang aircraft and Ford Mustang autos of all eras, ages and styles.
ìFor classic car lovers, aircraft enthusiasts, history buffs and anyone who simply loves fast cars, amazing aerial demonstrations and American heroes, there’s no better place to be on April 17 than at Fantasy of Flight,î said Kermit Weeks, founder and creator of Fantasy of Flight. ìThe American Fighter Aces represent a proud chapter in American history. Unfortunately, this incredible opportunity to hear their firsthand accounts of World War II won’t be available to us forever, so we are honored to welcome them to Fantasy of Flight again this year and to reunite them with the amazing P-51 Mustangs that guided them to ‘Victory in the Sky.íî
The Flying Aces, also called Fighter Aces, are an elite group of combat pilots who shot down five or more hostile aircraft in air-to-air combat in World Wars 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.
On April 17, at 10:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. in Fantasy of Flightís Officers’ Club, P-51 pilots Don Bryan and Bud Anderson will share their daring tales of aerial warfare in an up-close and personal forum with Fantasy of Flight guests, followed by an autograph and meet-and-greet session. Flying Aces Col. A.T. House and Bob Liles, who earned Flying Ace status in other aircraft, will also be on hand to greet guests and sign autographs.
Lt. Col. Don Bryan became a Flying Ace in Sept. 1944 while flying for the 328th Fighter Squadron. Piloting a P-51 D-10 he named ìLittle One IIIî after his wife, he shot down two Me-109s near Frankfurt, Germany. His biggest day came in Nov. 2, 1944, when his group encountered 50 German planes over Merseberg, Germany. He downed five Me-109s and damaged two others. He became Commander of the 328th Fighter Squadron in Jan. 1945 and scored his last victory in March of that year, shooting down an Ar-234 jet bomber. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1964 with an official tally record of 13.33 aerial victories and four damaged.
Clarence E. ìBudî Anderson is a WW II Triple Ace who flew the P-51 Mustang Old Crow, while assigned to the 357th Fighter Group ìYoxford Boys,î 8th Air Force, Leiston Field, United Kingdom. His P-51 carried him safely through 116 missions without being hit by fire from enemy aircraft. Anderson was the leading Ace of the 363rd Fighter Squadron with 16.25 victories. With more than 30 years of military service, he was decorated 25 times for his service to the United States. Throughout his career, he served as a test pilot, Chief of Fighter Operations, Deputy Director of Test Flight, served two tours at The Pentagon and commanded three fighter organizations until retiring in March 1972 as a Colonel. During his career, he flew more than100 types of aircraft, and logged more than 7,000 hours. Chuck Yeager, a fellow member of the 357th Fighter Group from World War II, called him ìThe best fighter pilot I ever saw.î In July 2008, Bud was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame.
Lt. Col. A.T. House, a former Marine who re-enlisted in the Army, trained as a pilot and claimed his first aerial victory in March 1942 in his P-40 he nicknamed ìPoopyî while flying over the Torres Strait, north of Australia. By March 1943, House had claimed four more victories in New Guinea. After an additional tour in China, he was promoted to Lt. Col. in 1945, went back to serving in the Army, then moved to the Air Force, from which he retired in 1960. Col. Robert L. Liles joined the Army Air Corps in Nov. 1940 and joined the 16th Fighter Squadron of the 51st Fighter Group in May 1942. Flying his P-40 Warhawk he named ìDukeî after John Wayne, Liles celebrated five confirmed aerial victories, five ìprobablesî and two damaged Japanese aircraft while serving in World War II. He retired as a Colonel in 1970.
Immersion experiences and meticulously recreated historical exhibits reinforce the amazing accounts told by the Aces, taking guests back in time to see, hear and feel what it was like to fly some of Americaís greatest wartime airplanes. The true stories of these courageous pilots are further brought to life through permanent and semi-permanent exhibits, the world’s largest private collection of rare and vintage aircraft, and tours of aircraft restoration and maintenance areas.
Meanwhile, out on the Fantasy of Flight tarmac, guests with a shared passion for the restoration of aircraft and automobiles can marvel as Mustang show cars compete for a ìPeople’s Choiceî award and as rare, restored P-51 fighters perform live aerial demonstrations. As well as watching the hot rods and fighter planes in action, guests also can take advantage of children’s activities, enjoy live entertainment and snap photos with the classic cars and vintage airplanes.
Adding to the dayís exciting events, Fantasy of Flight will also offer an ìOpen Cockpit Dayî on April 17, during which guests are invited to get up close and personal with some of Americaís most rare vintage aircraft and climb aboard for a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.
Introduced during World War II, the P-51 Mustang was a long-range, single-seat fighter plane that was used primarily to escort bombers during raids over Germany. Following its limited use in the Korean War, many Mustang fighters were converted for use by civilians who appreciated the planes’ speed and agility. The Mustang grew so popular among aviation enthusiasts that in the 1960s, Ford Motor Company named its new youth-targeted coupe after the fighter.
Fantasy of Flight also hosts a number of other special events throughout the 2010 year, including the Sun ‘n Fun Splash-In at Fantasy of Flight on Lakes Agnes, April 15; Roar ní Soar, Nov. 13-14 and many more.
Cost of the Living History Symposium and 13th Annual Mustangs & Mustangs 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 6ñ15, 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.