An airplane once owned by eccentric billionaire aviator and 1930s-era film director Howard Hughes goes on display Thursday in Polk County. The 1937 Sikorsky S-43 "Flying Boat" arrived at the Fantasy of Flight museum and attraction in Polk City this week, and will be on display on the Fantasy of Flight ramp through July 7. The wings of the plane will also be on display during daily tours of facility's restoration shop, starting at 2:15 p.m. Hughes acquired the plane in 1937 for the purpose of setting an new speed record for flying around the world, but abandoned the use of the plane for that mission with the onset of World War II and the invention of faster planes, according to a news release from Fantasy of Flight. Hughes crash-landed the Sikorsky into Lake Meade in 1943, killing two passengers - an incident that was dramatized in the 2004 feature film "The Aviator," in which Hughes was played by Leonardo DiCaprio.
Hughes flew the Sikorsky until 1952, often using it to travel the country and entertain Hollywood starlets, according to the news release. It was also used for water testing during the development of Hughes' gigantic, eight-engine HK-1, nicknamed the "Spruce Goose." Regular admission to Fantasy of Flight is $29.95 and annual passes are $69.95. Fantasy of Flight annual pass holders will be allowed to go inside the plane from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, and 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Sunday.