Flyer Kermit Weeks

King of airplane collectors

Created date

July 26th, 2019
Found Kermit Weeks at Fantasy of Flight in 2013

Kermit Weeks, founder of Fantasy of Flight. A former aerobatic champion, Weeks is a highly skilled pilot and an avid collector, with some 140 airplanes in his collection. 

If there’s anyone who personifies the pursuit of passion, it is definitely aviator and airplane collector Kermit Weeks. Founder of the Florida-based Fantasy of Flight museum and airfield, Weeks has amassed an extraordinary assortment of vintage airplanes that attracts tourists from all over the country.

Comprising more than 140 civilian and military airplanes, the Fantasy of Flight fleet is one of the largest privately owned collections in the United States. And Weeks—a former aerobatics champion and aircraft designer—can fly every one of them.

Since he was a boy growing up in Salt Lake City, Utah, Weeks had a fascination with airplanes. Eventually, this casual love for the subject blossomed into a something of an obsession.

Built to fly

At just 17, Weeks began designing and building his first airplane, which he flew four years later. In 1973, he started competing in aerobatic flying matches and, at age 24, designed and built the “Weeks Special” aerobatic plane, qualifying for the U.S. Aerobatics Team.

Over the next 12 years, he placed as one of the top three flyers in the world five times, winning 20 medals in World Aerobatics Championships. And it was during this period that Weeks tapped another vein in the field of aviation—buying and restoring antique aircraft.

By the 1990s, Weeks had built an impressive collection of airplanes, and he wanted to share it with the public. In 1995, on a 300-acre tract between Tampa and Orlando, he built a sprawling complex of hangers and a 5,000-ft runway. 

The property even has a private body of water for landing vintage seaplanes. 

Fantasy of Flight was born.

‘Pieces of history’

“A big motivating factor in opening Fantasy of Flight was my desire to share my love of aviation with the public,” says Weeks. “I put enormous resources into acquiring, restoring, and preserving these airplanes because they’re pieces of history that I thought would inspire people.”

As it turned out, he was right. Unlike most museums, which build their exhibits around dry, overly detailed historical descriptions, Fantasy of Flight takes a more interactive approach, telling the stories behind each airplane in hopes of stimulating the visitor’s imagination.

“Most people don’t care about old airplanes,” confesses Weeks. “That’s why I don’t bombard them with boring facts about technical specifications. I want the visitor to connect with the aircraft and imagine himself in the cockpit.

“The result is a more immersive experience—one that everybody can relate to.”

And there are plenty of planes in the Fantasy of Flight hangers. Weeks’ collection spans almost a century of aviation, going back as far as 1909. 

Some of the gems include World War I aircraft such as the Albatros D-Va and the German Fokker DR-1 Triplane. Among those planes representing the Golden Age of flight (1920s-1930s) are the 1929 Ford 5 AT Tri-Motor and an exact replica of Charles Lindbergh’s Spirit of St. Louis.

But most extraordinary is Weeks’ stable of World War II bombers and fighter planes, which consists of legendary aircraft like the Grumman Wildcat, the North American P-51D Mustang, the Martin B-26 Marauder, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, and a Supermarine Spitfire Mk 16, to name a few.

“My personal opinion is that you can never have too many planes,” quips Weeks. “There’s nothing like acquiring an old, worn-out aircraft and watching it come back to life throughout the restoration process. Every time I do this, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I’m saving something important—something that I can share with other people.”

The latter is at the heart of Fantasy of Flight’s core mission. 

In addition to guiding visitors through aviation’s storied past, Weeks strives to inspire his guests by emphasizing the crucial role that dreams and determination have played in man’s pursuit of flight.

“Everyone can relate to reaching for the sky and reaching for the stars, as well as soaring in our imagination and flying in our dreams,” he says. “Aviation pioneers like the Wright brothers thrived on this and worked to make their dreams a reality. 

“In part, that’s what made flight possible. Yet, I also want visitors to leave the museum knowing that this formula applies to most anything in life.” 

To learn more, visit fantasyofflight.com.

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