Flying allows us to see the beauty of the world from a unique vantage and affords many the opportunity to visit destinations both near and far. Today's
destination is Bartow Airport and the Aviation Museum. The museum was found
serendipitously when I stopped to pick up a friend at the Bartow airport. I wandered into
the brand new building to discover a treasure trove of pictures and artifacts from a time
when the airfield was used as a military training base.
History of The Bartow Army Airfield
In 1941 the mayor of Bartow acquired the land. Subsequently the land was taken over by the United States Government and developed as a training
base for the Army Air Corps. After the war, ownership of the airport passed back and
forth between the Government and the City of Bartow.
The United States government paid civilian contractors to provide initial flight training
and operate the airport for military training. The program was terminated in 1960 and
the airport was turned over to the city one final time. The airport now is a self supporting
through a mix of industrial park, fuel sales, and rent from tenants.
Display cases throughout the museum and the terminal building offer a glimpse into not
only the importance of this aviation training base, but into the individual lives affected by
the base. Stories of the people who developed life long friendships are related through
pictures, printed stories, and video.
One such friendship ended in tragedy when two hometown buddies flying in separate airplanes collided with each other during a practice bombing
over Lake Hancock. Both where lost with and entombed in their P-51B aircraft at the
bottom of the lake. Years later aircraft parts where recovered and are now on display in
the museum. The exhibit is now a constant reminder of the dangers brought by war
both on the battle field and during training to become a soldier.
Lunch and a Rocking Chair
A great way to relax is to watch airplanes take off and land outside the window while eating breakfast or lunch at the Flight Line Grill. Adjacent to
the museum, the Terminal Grill offers comfort food at a reasonable price. After a meal step outside on the large patio and watch the planes fly in and out. Most days you will see a variety of aircraft flying at Bartow airport and you might even see a historic restored aircraft fly by.
Close to Disney and other Central Florida Attractions.
Located off I-4 between Orlando and Tampa you can make this a quick visit during your
vacation in Florida. For those flying into Bartow you can park in front of the terminal and
visit the museum only steps away.
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