We weren’t in the air for long when he told me “Oh by the way, I haven’t been handling the controls for a the last couple of minutes.” As we went through all the maneuvers, he talked calmly, repeating over and over what we first learned on the ground, telling me when I had to pull the nose up or should look over my left shoulder at the magnificent view.
Then came the “S” word.
I wondered fleetingly if I could opt out of bringing the plane to a stall. The pitch and turns of the lazy eights had been frightening enough that I had turned down his offer to try one more.
But during the stall, when the plane, as promised, “knew” when to bring its tip down as we climbed too quickly and lost speed, my fears dissolved into the bright blue morning sky. Thrill replaced chill.
This I was ready to try again: true “seat of the pants” flying, where you could hear and feel the plane responding with whistles and shutters. Before I knew it, we were landing amid a dramatic cloud of smoke — to give my husband a start, Rob joked, before it was his turn to climb in.
Besides flying, Fantasy of Flight offers other adventure opportunities including hot-air balloon rides and a new four-story Wing WalkAir ropes course and zip line with 33 separate challenges.
Don’t miss self-touring the core attraction, a mammoth facility that recreates wartime flight environments with a bit of Disney drama and lets you into vintage cockpits and simulators. Stroll around two hangars where some 40 aircraft are parked (self-guiding audio tours are available), and ride along on a heavily informative tram tour of restricted, behind-the-scenes hangars and storage areas. Newest is a large storage area that holds the wings, engines, fuselages, and other disjointed parts of aircraft awaiting reassembly.
First opened in 1995, Fantasy of Flight continues to grow with new acquisitions and exhibits such as The Tuskegee Airmen — They Dared to Fly. It also hosts special flight-related symposiums throughout the year.
The core attraction’s Fun with Flight sends children’s sense of adventure soaring with virtual flying experiences in a hot-air balloon and hang glider, along with other relevant hands-on activities. Specialty tours address interests such as wood shop and restoration, plus there’s a daily aerial demonstration in a vintage craft.
At the Compass Rose Diner, architecturally a cross between an art-deco airport terminal and a 1930s soda fountain, you can catch a snack between all the activities.