Flying Tigers Warbird Restoration Museum
231 North Hoagland Boulevard, Kissimmee 34741
Admission: Adults $9, seniors (60+) $8, children
(6 to 12) $6, all plus tax. Children 5 and under free
Hours: Daily 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (to 5:00 p.m.
Location: About half a mile south of Highway 192
Thats not a pile of junk behind that hangar. Thats
The dusty hangar at the end of a runway at the Kissimmee Airport
is home to the very serious (and expensive!) business of restoring
battered and crumpled warplanes to flying trim once again. Fortunately,
owner Tom Reilly and his wife Suzzie couldnt bear to keep
this labor of love all to themselves, so they opened their treasure
trove of restored planes, historical oddities and, well, junk
to the general public.
You can wander through the hangar on your own, but unless youre
a real military aviation expert, it will probably make little
sense to you. Far better to wait for one of the regular tours
that take you around, through, and under the hodgepodge of planes
and into the workshop where once proud fighting machines are being
resurrected by dedicated craftsmen.
Tours last about 45 minutes but the length varies depending on
the number of people and the number of questions they ask. Feel
free to give your curiosity free rein. The guide will be more
than happy to explain the intricacies of what goes on here. The
style of these tours is wonderfully lacking in theme park polish
and long on easy-going macho anecdotes about mid-air crashes and
400-degree-per-second spin ratios. These guys know what theyre
talking about and obviously love what they do.
And of course there are the planes. Everything from a wood and
canvas 1909 pusher (so called because the engine sits
behind the pilot and pushes the plane through the air) to an A4
Skyhawk (made famous by the movie Top Gun) to a MiG 21 (once part
of the Latvian air force and confiscated from an arms dealer).
The shop is in the process of renovating not one but two B-17s
as well as two Corsairs. Dont worry, theyll still
be there when you visit. It takes about five years to restore
one of these babies. There are occasional visitors, too, like
the nifty little French-built Israeli fighter trainer that lost
its canopy on takeoff and was in for repairs when I visited.
There are also occasional poignant reminders of what war is all
about. On one visit I saw the fuselage of a World War II P-40
that had crashed into a Florida swamp on a training mission. It
was discovered 40 years later, the pilot still strapped into his
seat. Some 2,000 aviators lost their lives in Florida while training
for World War II; in fact, Kissimmee Airport was a U.S. Army Air
Corps base, maintained by a crew of German and Italian POWs.
A lot of old-timers visit here and Im told that its
not unusual for tears to be shed. Its not surprising. After
spending an hour or so poking your head into the cramped spaces
of these old war machines, youll have a deeper appreciation
of the special breed of men who took them aloft to fight for our
freedom. If youre really lucky, you may arrive in time to
see a B-25 bomber rumble down the runway and make a flyover escorted
by a Mustang fighter, just as in its heyday. If you attend the
monthly, week-long vintage aircraft restoration course ($995),
youll be treated to a spin in a B-25 on your graduation.
There is a small, rather helter-skelter, collection of military
aviation memorabilia on display in the Museums office. A
few items are for sale, as are aviation books and souvenirs.
Nearby: Green Meadows Farm, Stallion 51, Warbird
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