Hybla Valley and Beacon Field
— EW Robertson and HJ Lehman —
From Dream to Flight School
This section of Historic Route 1 boasted two private airfields that began operations in the mid 1920's. When Dr. Hugo Eckener and First Officer Captain Ernst Lehmann flew the Graf Zeppelin LZ-127 on its famous transatlantic voyage to America in October 1928, they spent time in the Washington area promoting the dirigible airship technology. Interested in establishing a base in the United States for the dirigible airships, Dr. Eckener and Captain Lehmann announced that Hybla Valley Airport was the "ideal site" to provide passenger and mail service between Germany and the United States.
Mr. Elvin W. Robertson, President of Mount Vernon Airways, Inc. was ignited with "Zeppelin Fever." He submitted an application to the Virginia State Corporation Commission and in February 1929, Hybla Valley Airport became the first airfield in Virginia to receive a permit to operate an airport.
By 1934, Mr. Robertson had purchased the land and had greatly improved the airfield in multiple ways. Ultimately, Hybla Valley was expanded to four runways, with three being 5,000 feet long. The airship terminus was never achieved due to the world political climate and the outbreak of World War II. After World War II, commercial and private pilot training resumed until 1955, when the airport ceased operations.
Training Hub, Gathering Place
This section of Historic Route 1 boasted two private airfields that began operations in the mid 1920's. Two miles north on Route 1, and three miles south of Alexandria, Beacon Field Airport was located on the City View land tract in Groveton, Virginia. The airfield shared the 204 acres with an antebellum mansion, dairy farm, gas station, and restaurant.
Beacon Field Airport, with no control tower and few rules, started as a neighborhood gathering place for pilots and their planes on a sod field fondly referred to as the "cow pasture" by most pilots. Several flying service groups operated out of Beacon Field, including the Burdette, Jordan, and Coppage Flying Services. They offered rides, aerial photography, and performed acrobatic shows. Also, many traveling stunt pilots frequented the field and put on flying exhibitions.
As the unregulated occupation of barnstorming began to decline under government pressure over concern for public safety, the landowner, Mr. W.F.P. Reid wanted to focus on pilot training instead. The Virginia State Corporation Commission granted the Beacon Field Airport its license on April 11, 1932. Many airline pilots received their flight training under the GI Bill at Beacon Field under the tutelage of the Lehman and Reid Aviation Program. H.J. Lehman was the Chief Flight Instructor at the thriving airport until it closed in 1959.