POLK CITY, Fla. (March 16, 2010) - Since the release of the film "Amelia Earhart" last year, millions have seen the aviation legend brought to life by actor Hilary Swank. Now, fans of the world's most famous female pilot will not only have an opportunity to meet Susan Butler, the author of the biography, "East to the Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart" that was made into a blockbuster movie, but will also be able to meet the fearless female pilots who carried on Amelia Earhart's dreams of flight. Fantasy of Flight has just announced that Butler will serve as a special guest moderator for its March 26 luncheon honoring the WASP-Women Airforce Service Pilots, the first female pilots ever to pilot U.S. military aircraft during World War II.
The intimate, reservations-only luncheon will be held Friday, March 26, from noon to 1:30 p.m. at the Orlampa Conference Center at Fantasy of Flight. Tickets are $65 plus tax per person and include admission to the afternoon symposium and attraction after the luncheon. Reservations are required. For tickets, visit www.fantasyofflight.com/livinghistory or call 863-984-3500, ext. 220. Corporate tables and individual tickets are available.
Proceeds from the luncheon will go to Girls Inc., a national nonprofit youth organization that inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold, and provides vital educational programs to millions of American girls, particularly those in high-risk, under-served areas.
"The Library of Congress theme for Women's History Month is to 'write women back into history' so I can't think of a better way to celebrate the great women of aviation than with this luncheon and symposium," said Kim Long, General Manager, Fantasy of Flight. "From Amelia Earhart who laid the groundwork for women in flight, to her close friend, WASP founder Jackie Cochran, to the four WASP who have so graciously agreed to share their personal stories with us, to Susan Butler who had the foresight to tell Earhart's story like it had never been told before, and for all of the young women of Girls Inc. who will be emboldened and lifted up by the proceeds from this luncheon, we at Fantasy of Flight are proud to share this important era in American history with the public."
Butler was inspired by the life of Amelia Earhart through the passions of her own mother and grandmother, who fell in love with flying long before most people would set foot in an airplane. Her mother, one of the few women pilots of her time, was a member of the Ninety Nines, the women's flying organization which Amelia Earhart helped start. The Washington Post called her Earhart biography, "The single best book that we now have on Earhart's life." Butler now lives in Lake Wales, Florida.
The luncheon is just one part of the activities planned during Fantasy of Flight's Living History Symposium honoring the WASP. From March 25-27, in honor of Women's History Month, four of the original WASP: Bernice "Bee" Falk Haydu, Riviera Beach, Fla., Florence Rubin Mascott, Palm Beach, Fla., Barry Vincent Smith, Avon Park, Fla. and Helen Wyatt Snapp, Pembroke Pines, Fla., will take part in the second of Fantasy of Flight's three-part Living History Symposium Series. Called "A Passionate Pursuit," the weekend forum will celebrate all of the fearless female pilots who left their homes and jobs at the height of World War II to serve their country as the first American women to fly for the U.S. military.
Last week, and more than 60 years since their brave service during World War, the WASP were officially recognized by the U.S. Congress with the Congressional Gold Medal. On March 10, as many as 300 of the original 1,114 WASP convened on Capitol Hill to receive the highest award a civilian can receive from the United States Congress. The Congressional Gold Medal is bestowed only upon those who have performed an outstanding act of service for their country. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law in July 2009 to grant the WASP this great honor.
The symposium will bring to life the experiences of these courageous aviators through several open-forum/question-and-answer sessions with Haydu, Mascott, Smith and Snapp, as well as permanent and semi-permanent exhibits and real aircraft. Fantasy of Flight's WASP exhibition, which includes aircraft as well as four separate bays that feature historical, anecdotal, and inspirational newsreel footage, original photos, and storytelling panels from the 1940s and today, will serve as the backdrop for historic appearances from the real pilots.
Only 1,830 of the 25,000 applicants were accepted into the WASP program, and 1,074 of those women earned their silver WASP wings. Their indomitable founder, Jackie Cochran, became the first civilian to receive the U.S. Army Distinguished Service Medal for her vision and leadership of the WASP program.
During each symposium, Fantasy of Flight will feature "Open Cockpit Days" during which guests are invited to get up close and personal with some of America's most rare vintage aircraft and climb aboard for a once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunity.
Cost of each Living History symposium 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 6-15, 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.
Fantasy of Flight is Central Florida's premier aviation-themed attraction showcasing vintage aircraft from the world's largest private collection; themed immersion experiences; flight simulators; interactive exhibits; a tram tour of aircraft maintenance areas; Restoration and Backlot tours; Fun with Flight center for families and the country's only Aerial Demonstration of the Day (weather permitting) featuring a vintage plane. General admission also includes The Tuskegee Airmen - They Dared to Fly exhibit; the multimedia tribute to the WASP (Women Airforce Service Pilots) - A Passionate Pursuit, a walking audio tour and many special events throughout the year.
Hours are 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. daily. General admission is $28.95 for adults, $26.95 for seniors ages 55 and over and $14.95 for children, ages 6-15, plus 7 percent sales tax. Annual passes are available for $69.95 for adults, $39.95 for children ages 6-15, plus 7 percent sales tax, and are good for one year from the date of purchase. Biplane rides, through Waldo Wright's Flying Service, and hot air balloon rides, are available for an extra charge. For more information about Fantasy of Flight, call 863-984-3500 or visit www.fantasyofflight.com.