Ormand Beach (OMN) was nice a little airport to put up for the night. We parked overnight at Sunrise Aviation and took a cab down to South Atlantic Avenue. Although we intended to stay at the Best Western on the beach, we ended up staying in a condo rental called Georgian recommended by our cab driver. The Georgian is a recently renovated condo community with beach access. The decor resembled and gave the impression of living on a cruise ship. The studio apartment itself had a kitchenette, a bedroom and a living area with a sofa bed (with convenient shades to keep the light off the bedroom if necessary from the morning glare or for privacy) and a sheet of heavy glass french doors opening out into a balcony facing the beach and Atlantic Ocean. At $74 per night this was a steal, the lowest price we had paid for a room on this trip! There were plenty of restaurants within walking distance. After dinner it was pleasant to walk on the beach and hear the sound of the waves crashing gently on to shore.
The next day we arrived early at the airport. We wanted to be fueled and off before Nemo arrived. There was a sliver of hope, we could get the best of Nemo. We were one hour further south than we originally intended to be. But there was always hope. The skies at Ormand Beach were clear with no sign of the oncoming storm. Almost. This was the last leg of our journey. If we could stay ahead of Nemo, we would be able to get home by evening.
After topping off at the self serve, we departed and raced north. With tailwinds, there were times when we recorded almost 144kts ground speed. At times, I thought it was possible. I could see gaps in the radar images. If we got to Lumberton before the storm arrived, there was still a chance we would be able to get home that evening. The best route north was to stay ahead of the storm, and this meant over the ocean. What chances did we have over open water? We had already returned our vests at Fort Pierce. Instead we tried to sneak behind and headed towards Jesup Wayne County Airport (KJES). It almost looked like we could get as far north as KJES or so we hoped.
Seeing an email informing of the closure of Hyde Field piqued my curiosity. While living and flying in California, there were several occasions when the local aviation groups coalesced, strategized, and organized events and fly-ins to support endangered airports. Santa Monica, Oxnard and Oceano airports come to mind. And how can we forget the abrupt midnight bulldozing of Meigs Field in 2003? Out of curiosity I started to research the reasoning behind this abrupt closure. Although I have flown out of Potomac Airport (VKX), one of the “Maryland 3” airports, I have never flown into or out of Hyde Field. As I pondered the closing announcement, an intriguing idea started to take shape: How about doing a flight into Hyde Field and recording a landing before it closes?
Washington Executive Airport (W32) or Hyde Field, is a public-use general aviation (GA) airport located near Clinton, MD. It is one of the “Maryland 3” airports located within the Washington, D.C. Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ), and subject to the Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA) restrictions imposed by the FAA. The third airport being College Park (CGS).
Hyde field was built by Arthur Hyde and opened in 1934 as a training field for United States Army aviators to support primary flight training during WW2. The earliest known depiction in a sectional chart was in the 1941 Washington Sectional Chart, which depicted Hyde Field as a commercial / municipal airport. Earliest known aerial photo from 1943 depicts the airfield as having four runways. A 1960 Jeppesen Airway Manual depicts two runways. Hyde Field currently has a single runway. Due to the onerous SFRA restrictions leading to declining revenues at the airport, in 2008 there were plans to shut it down and redevelop the land. The airport has been on sale for the past 15 years with the latest sale in 2020 falling through and ending up in bankruptcy court.
A recent AOPA article from Feb 2022 on following John Wilkes booth’s escape route notes: “Civil War buffs and conspiracy theorists will want to visit the Surratt House Museum, three miles northeast in Clinton, Maryland… The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum is located 17 miles southeast of the airfield. Mudd was the doctor who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth on the morning after Lincoln’s assassination…. Booth fled south from Mudd’s to Pope’s Creek, where he boarded a boat to cross the Potomac River into Virginia. Today, that spot is close to Captain Billy’s Crab House and Gilligan’s Pier (a steak and seafood restaurant that is operated seasonally). Enjoy a lunch of Maryland blue crabs at one of these waterfront restaurants and contemplate Booth paddling across the river in the dark of night, trying to make his escape.”
A little after 10 am, Marianne and I set off from Maryland Airport (2W5) in the Citabria, not the same one I did my tailwheel training, but a similar one. It really is a fun aircraft to fly, and it was great to be back in the air in it. A couple of touch and goes to refamiliarize myself again with stick and rudder flying, and off we went for the short hop to Hyde Field. The weather gods had relented. It was calm, and pristine day with clear blue skies. Rain was expected later in the night and next day, but for now, it was perfect flying weather. We couldn’t have asked for a better day for our brief flying adventure.
We had already negotiated our arrival into Hyde Field with the airport manager, filed a FRZ flight plan, received clearance, and within a few minutes we arrived at our destination. The runway was already in a sorry state for lack of maintenance. And no, we did not visit Surratt House Museum, or contemplate Booth’s escape across the Potomac over crab cakes. We did walk around the airport checking out the abandoned and dilapidated hangars and contemplated the loss of the airport to GA. Out of the more than 100 aircraft based at the airport, only 30 still remain according to the Airport Manager. By the end of the month, they too will be gone, as developers tear down everything and begin construction of residential houses. After topping off at the self-serve fuel station, we retraced our path and the short return trip back to Maryland airport.
It was a trip down memory lane for Marianne who had originally based her aircraft there decades ago. When I had reached out to her to gauge her interest, she was immediately enthusiastic to participate in the adventure. It is saddening to see the airport close, but the location, the closeness to Washington DC, mere steps away from Andrews Air Force Base, the stringent FRZ requirements, residential neighborhoods, and a host of other factors likely contributed to the fate of the airport. GA Airports constantly face such challenges and will continue to face them.
Come 5pm November 30, 2022, Hyde Field will be no more. This single landing is symbolic at best, but a show of support for an airport that once served its purpose.
“A Mediterranean resort off the coast of Southern California”
Now that my Instrument training was finally over, I was ready for new adventures. The past few months had been hectic and nerve racking. Instrument training is very demanding and I am glad that, it is finally behind me. Browsing through “Fun places to fly in California” I thought I may as well start with the first airport listed there, which happened to be Avalon. I have wanted to fly to Avalon for sometime now. I had been under the misapprehension that I needed some kind of checkout prior to attempting to fly there. As it turned out, the flying club I rented from had no such restriction.
Don’t remember when last I did this (file and fly an IFR flight plan), maybe way back in 2005 (see Partial Panel). By the way this almost would have become a Partial Panel flight if we hadn’t switched aircraft!
Arriving early at the airport, we discovered that the aircraft had a steady “Low Vac” annunciator display on. Running the engine for a while did nothing for it. The plan was to file and fly under instrument flight rules (IFR). Thunderstorms were in the forecast for the afternoon. When are they never? That in itself was challenging, so definitely didn’t want to work with fewer avionics.
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