Beacon Field Airport®


Elevation 249 feet, Fairfax County, Virginia          GPS 38 46'20.40"N :  77 4'54.07"W

©2024,  all rights reserved.   No part, portion, or whole of this website may be copied, reproduced in any form without the express written permission of the website owner.

Beacon Field -- April 27 2024. Landscaping courtesy Saul Centers.
The high elevation of the old Beacon Field affords excellent opportunities for 
magnificent sunsets, excellent stargazing and moon shots !!

 Meet Lt Amanda Lee the first
  female Blue Angels Demonstration Pilot !

Courtesy US Department of Defense, photo by Chief Petty Officer Michael Russell

May 23, 2024. Beacon Field --

Meet Lt. Amanda Lee, the first female US Navy Blue Angels Demonstration Pilot, in the just released Amazon original documentary Blue Angels (IMAX) now streaming on  
Relive the intense training the pilots undergo to prepare for each year's show!  Buckle your harness for the incredible flying formations performed by this elite group of Navy and Marine Corps pilots in the F/A-18s.  Precision flight taken to a new height, the F/A-18s are flown with wingtips separated narrowly by only 18 inches to achieve the Blue Angel Diamond.

Equally impressive is "Fat Albert" the C-130J Hercules that is the workhorse carrying the team's maintenance and support personnel to more than 60 events annually.   Pulling off a near vertical takeoff takes your breath away.    Bravo Zulu !!

Photo above:   The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) visual information does not imply or constitute DoD endorsement.  

 Tribute to Carol Ann Hager Faith
 Beacon Field Aviatrix, Instructor, and CAA Examiner

27 April 2024— Arlington National Cemetery.

Friends paid tribute to Carol Hager Faith (1921-2022) at her funeral April 27th, 2024, in Arlington National Cemetery (Virginia).     Carol, daughter of noted journalist Alice Rogers Hager, was well known in Washington Society and  learned to fly at 17 years old at Beacon Field under the tutelage of Betty Ashburn.      She received her license in 1939 certified by Thomas L. Gates.
Carol was a native of Los Angeles with well educated parents.  Her father hailed from Montana and her mother was from California.

Flying was great fun for Carol and she embraced her talent wholeheartedly.   Her parents bought her an Aeronca which she used to commute to college in Michigan from Virginia.

We had the unique opportunity to talk with Carol at length about her flying days.  

4/27/2024 Arlington National Cemetery
Carol Faith, Beacon Field
She went to Byrd Field (Richmond) in early May 1941 to get her commercial ratings.  She told us how she lived in a boarding house that had very little food and that she starved the whole time.  Training under “Squeek” V.W. Burnett, she returned to the Beacon area and passed the Commercial Flight Test with Inspector Albert Cassidy at College Park.

Celebrating her success she and Margaret Bowman flew to the Aeronca Factory (Middletown, OH) and exchanged her plane for a new Aeronca Super Chief.   Photo from the newspaper below left taken May 22,1941, accompanied an article on her flying achievements courtesy Aeronca Corporation.

Carol Faith and Margaret Bowman, Courtesy Aeronca Corporation, 1941
Carol achieved certification as a Flight Instructor and began her career in July 1941 at Beacon working for Betty Ashburn.    She charged $2.00/hour regular and $3.00/hour for the CPT Civilian Pilot Training Program for military service.  
During the war year 1942, she accumulated many hours of flight time working 8 hours a day thru the winter and flew over a dozen different types of airplanes.   For warmth, she had to take heaters in to the cockpits.

She married a Navy pilot who was stationed at Anacostia in 1942, and they moved to El Paso Texas.    With a wry smile, Carol relayed how she ferried Vultee BT-13s in Texas having received little instruction on the warbird operation.  Having a family and much domestic on the plate, her flying activity decreased and her last logbook entry was May 30, 1954, in the Mayor of El Paso's, Harry Cameron’s, Piper Cub. 

 1925 Eclipse Revisited!
 aboard the US NAVY rigid airship USS Los Angeles

issued October 1933 at the Chicago Expo --  USS Los Angeles
APRIL 5th, 2024 Beacon Field --

Nearly 100 years ago, the US Navy's Observatory scientists used the USS Los Angeles to document the 1925 solar eclipse at altitude and to demonstrate the utility of its rigid airships.   Moored and hangered at NAS Lakehurst New Jersey,  the airship (LZ-126) was delivered from Germany's Zepellin Aircraft Manufacturing Company just months before the January 1925 eclipse.  The rigid airship was put into service as the USS Los Angeles (ZR-3).   

It was reported that the scientists used spectographs, special cameras, and huge amounts of clothing to avoid frostbite.   

Read more of this story on the National Air and Space Blog  here .

Don't miss the April 8th Eclipse !!

 First Air Mail Flight Marker !
 Little Known National Park Site

Courtesy National Park Service

Januiary 28th, 2024. Beacon Field --

In 1958, the AERO Club of Washington erected this marker at 342 Ohio Drive SW, Washington D.C. to commemorate the first official air mail flight that had occurred 40 years earlier on May 15, 1918 on the polo field that was located here.   On National Park Service property, this mostly unknown smaller monument consists of a bronze plaque mounted on a rock placed near the asphalt walkway on the Potomac River side of the Tidal Basin.   

Cherry Blossom season is coming soon....if you are in the area plan a stop by the marker !     Click here to go to the NPS information site .

Street view of this hidden marker, 14th Street Bridge in the background.
Celebrate 80th Anniversary of WASP !
 Smithsonian honors Women Airforce Service Pilots

November 12th, 2023, Historic Beacon Field --

Beacon Field Airport was ahead of its time in the 1930’s having been recognized as a woman operated airport and one of only two in the United States.  FBO manager and instructor Betty Ashburn, broke the cloud layer and cleared the skies for women in aviation!

Learn more about women aviators making history in the new blog at the Smithsonian:   The Musuem’s Military Women Aviators Oral History Initiative.   Click here.   Take note especially of Rosemary Mariner who became the US Navy’s first female fighter pilot and commander of an operational aviation squadron. 

Courtesy Smithsonian National Air & Space. L->R: US Navy's FIRST Female Aviators: ENS Marianne Conaster, ENS Jane Skiles, LTJG's Barbara Allen and Judith Neuffer, 1974.
Courtesy Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum

August 5th, 2023 Beacon Field --

The Smithsonian National Air and Space is honoring the 80th anniversary of the establishment of the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program put forth by General Hap Arnold.    Formally approved August 5th, 1943, which merged the previous Women Auxilliary Ferrying Squadron (WAFS) and the Women's Flying Training Detachment (WFTD) into one agency.

Sadly, even though the WASP flew a total of 60 million miles in military aircraft, they were not granted military benefits or burials.    LEARN MORE on the Air and Space website. 

Deer take over old Beacon Field !!
Click photo for Video

Deer enjoying fresh veggies in the City View fish pond.
July 27, 2023 --- Beacon Field.    Much has changed since the flying days at Beacon Field.  The roar of radial engines and low level buzzing of the vanished airport have been replaced by abundant wildlife who have adapted to cohabitat with a very dense populus in the Beacon area.   Many of the Beacon pilots were hunting enthusiasts who flew off to mountain airports where deer with plentiful.   They would be amazed to see how the farming disappeared and the tree growth and density have increased exponentially. 

Foxes, deer, raccoons, and coyotes are frequent visitors.  It appears that many of the visitors are now permanent residents !

We have launched a YouTube channel for Beacon Field Airport History to post this and other related videos !  

Velta Benn
 Beacon Famous Aviatrix and Good Friend

Historic Beacon Field, July 6, 2023 -- Velta Benn, Beacon Field flyer and great friend of Harry and Mary Lewis Lehman will be enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame "Aviation Giants" on September 22, 2023 at the National Building Museum.  More details here.

This special WASP (Women's Airforce Service Pilots) was a northern Virginia native who answered the call of duty in 1944 and applied for the Army Air Forces women's pilot training program ferrying military aircraft.    She graduated in September 1944 and after active duty went on to become a FAA private, commercial, instrument, and multi-engine Examiner,  with over 50,000 hours flying time.

Velta Benn, Wasp Class W-44-7
Courtesy National Air & Space
Jet into Spring !! 
Aviation Adventures of U-2 Pilot Merryl Tengesdal (Col. Retd USAF)
REGISTER for the National Air and Space Museum Spring Adventures lecture online and in person Wednesday May 3rd, and meet USAF Col. Merryl Tengesdal (Retired) who made history as the first Black woman to fly the Lockheed U-2 Recon aircraft !! 

here is a link on YouTube for viewing

Colonel Tengesdal also just released her new book
SHATTER THE SKY available on amazon

HOT Air Goes Up !!!!
Balloons, Blimps -- Are Part of History at Beacon Field

Period Goodyear Blimp (courtesy Pinterest)

February 26, 2023 Beacon Field --

The location of Beacon Field Airport, 3 miles south of Washington, D.C., at an altitude of 249 feet above sea level gave Beacon the opportunity to host
many different airborne visitors who flew into Beacon on their way to visit government leaders in Washington, D.C. 

This visitation increased considerably after WWII with fighter aircraft and several types of lighter-than-air blimps and airships bringing military and industrial officials to Washington, D.C.

One of the most popular visitors was the well-known GOODYEAR Blimp which brought Company executives to Washington from their Ohio offices. Goodyear skillfully  moored their blimp at the eastern end of the long runway which was adjacent to US Route #1 so all that traveled north or south would see the famous blimp!

Smithsonian just posted a very interesting blog on a famous air combat WWI Balloon Buster, Frank Luke, Jr. from Phoenix Arizona.    Read it here !!  

Celebrating 175th Anniversary
 of City View in 2023 !!

City View I
February 1, 2023 Beacon Field -- In 2023, we are celebrating the 175th Anniversary of City View which originated in 1848 as a country get away and farm.  The first City View home (at left) was built in 1878 and burnt to the ground in 1918.  

City View II  (below) was completed in 1920 commanding presense along US 1 with a significant architectual design.   Contemporary rigid lightning rods and flexible galvanized cables anchored in the ground provided safety from lightning strikes.    None were ever recorded or seen.

City View main foyer with staircase leading to top 3 floors
City View II with observation lounge.
Mount Erin
Local Historic Site Demolished

March 19, 2022 – Historic Beacon Field

Sadly this past week, Mt. Erin, one of the most iconic brick historic homes and estates in the Beacon area was unceremoniously demolished after standing for more than 200 years.  Listed on the Fairfax County History Commission's Inventory of Historic Sites, the Mt Erin estate included 74 acres of which became Beacon Field Airport.

Mt Erin touts one of the most colorful, turbulent, and vibrant history of any estate in the area.   The 19th century recorded suspected murder, arsenic poisoning, fraud, arson, neighbor disputes, timber theft, vociferous litigation, cyclone, and a tragic 1864 US Army cannon misfire that killed two children on the estate.     

Mt Erin Demolition, March 2022, photo courtesy Jay Roberts
Mount Erin - 2022 Aerial

Thomas Tracy, a respected master music teacher at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, bought the 362 acres in 1811 from James Irwin who operated a ropewalk on the property.   Tracy held Mt. Erin to his death in 1821, whereupon passed to his nephew on the condition he became a US citizen.   The nephew died eight years later leaving his estate to wife and family.   The Mt Erin property ownership was contested and turmoil ensued.  

Mt Erin was home to the 50 acre Mount Vernon race track that operated in the mid-1800’s complete with club house for eating and drinking.  Considerable activity was reported in the local newspapers but the racetrack did not prevail.

Ultimately the Tracy estate was formally divided into sizeable parcels, the largest of which was bought 1855 by Samuel Pulman who set the example according to the Alexandria Gazette, as “the best cultivated farm in the county….where all of the best labor saving machinery is used” to run the fifty cow dairy farm.  The Pulman’s hosted evening dinners and “sewing bees” attended by local well known families to benefit the church.    

Mount Comfort Cemetery, Virginia Hills Subdivision, and Beacon Centre are just a few of the modern day sites that occupy what was historic Mount Erin.

Mount Erin had many owners and its’ history is rich with intrigue, mystery, and grand prominence that seems worthy of a ten-part mini-series “Moonlight at Mount Erin”….

Mt Erin plat Courtesy Fairfax County VA GIS Mapping
Mount Erin in its Glory. Courtesy the Va Room Archives of Fairfax County Public Library
Courtesy Friend of Beacon Field -- Emrico's

Determined local masons and history buffs found and have secured the original granite marker recording the 1864 accident for display at a future site. 

Inscription reads:  

Thomas and Samuel H. Pulman killed by explosion of a shell here Aug 6, 1864, and burried at sherron

Update: The Beacon Project 
is nearly complete!

Beacon Project nears completion
31 May 2021 -- Historic Beacon Field.     When we launched our DARK SKY Initiative to reduce light pollution in and around the old Beacon Airfield, our objective was two fold:   to raise local awareness of taking back and preserving a dark sky and to complete the Beacon Project.   

Taking advantage of our site on the highest elevation in Fairfax County and the slightly reduced sky glow from the pandemic shutdowns, we have been able to log nearly 85 percent of the 110 Messier objects and have seen all of the planets.    The Crab Nebula (M1) still evades our telescope despite using various astronomical filters.    The moons of Jupiter and the Cassini division of Saturn's rings always delight no matter how many times we see it.    Not limiting our viewing only to the Messiers, we have also visited the open star clusters.   One of our favorites that is usually clear is the OWL or E.T. Cluster (NGC 457) in the constellation Cassiopeia named for the distinct two bright stars imagined as eyes.   

If you can't see the stars from your backyard, this year the International Dark-Sky  Association (IDA) certified two new dark sky parks in Virginia that you might visit:  Natural Bridge and Sky Meadows State Park (Delaplane).

During our observing sessions we have noticed a huge increase in the deer population amidst the much quieter evenings.   So be careful out there and hope you have clear skies !

Fairfax County Conversion of
56,000 Streetlights to LEDs is Underway !

December 24, 2020 --- Beacon Field.     Fairfax County spanning 406 square miles has begun the remarkable undertaking to convert more than 56,000 existing mercury vapor, high pressure sodium, and metal halide fixtures to Light Emitting Diodes (LED) streetlights as part of a five year plan.   So far 7,000 streetlight fixtures have been changed out including the ones on the west side of the old Beacon Field property.   This editor immediately noticed the drastic improvement with the downward projection of the light fixtures on street visibility and elimination of sky glow that all but obliterated the stars.

The cost of this project $9M is expected to be mostly offset by savings in utility costs.  Another significant benefit noted will be the removal of 32.4 million pounds of CO2e annually which is the unit measuring non CO2 greenhouse gases.   The new lighting fixtures will allow for dimming and automated outage reporting with the implementation of the smart technology upgrade.

Fairfax County's initiative to improve the environment and reduce costs is in its second year funded by the General Fund transfer to line item 30015 Environmental and Energy Programs.   Once completed the program covering 406 square miles will significantly reduce light pollution in northern Virginia setting the benchmark for neighboring municipalities to follow suit.

Job well done !

UPDATED Light Pollution Code!

Beacon Field -- February 25, 2020       

After 17 years, Fairfax County’s Outdoor Lighting Standards of 2003 have been updated to incorporate modern technology and current philosophy aimed at reducing light pollution !!

The Fairfax County Zoning Ordinance was amended as a result of ZO-20-486, adopted by the Board of Supervisors on February 11, 2020, entitled Article 14 – Outdoor Lighting and Related Provisions.  The adopted text for this amendment can be found here:

One of the most important facets of the revised code sets the standard in terms of color temperature vice lumens.   3000K lighting is the new NORM.


The Most Light Polluted area in the nation is right here!

Beacon Field -- August 7, 2019.       The skies of Washington are called out as the most light polluted in the nation at more than 200,000 times brighter than the darkest place in America, Yakutat, Alaska.    This recent article (August 6th) in The Washington Post provides more info and a map of the "last pristine skies in America"-->Click here to read more.

Click the Beacon bumper sticker to arrive at a link to the light pollution map that centers on our own Beacon Field area.  Once on the map, scroll down for the key legend to the pollution intensities.

LINK to Beacon Field Observatory Sky Chart
BEACON Continues 100th Anniversary US AIRMAIL Series 

Beacon Field, January 2020--  Carrying into 2020, Beacon Field Airport® is honoring the 100th Anniversary of US Airmail 1918-2018 with a series of short articles on the pilots, planes, routes, stamps, airports, and beacons that made Airmail possible.    We published three of our eight intended articles in 2018 and one in 2019.   The latest 4th article is below.   The 5th article is in the works and will cover the mechanics and design of the period airframes.   Clear Skies!

Beacon Field Airport 100th Anniversary US AIRMAIL Cachet

Airmail Pilots: The Bravest of the Brave!

Part 2

The Army flies the mail of Scandal !

4th in the 100th Anniversary Airmail Series

Historic Beacon Field, 28 May 2019 ---      

U.S. Army pilots flew the first official airmail-carrying flights from the Washington, D.C. polo field to New York city as well as the return flights in their "Jenny" biplanes.  This was May 15,1918, and the U. S. Army Air Corps flew the mail for about 3 months as the USPO had not yet finalized their pilot teams and airplanes.  Beginning August 12, 1918, the USPO took over the entire airmail service with their civilian pilots (salary $4,000 per year) & mechanics using six Standard Aircraft Corp. JR-1B biplanes (300 lbs. of mail & 60 gallons of avgas!).  Later, the Washington polo field was abandoned in favor of the larger airport at College Park, MD., from which the mail was flown to Philadelphia (Camden, NJ).

         A couple of years later, the "Roaring Twenties" brought a near decade of economic prosperity that was so great that many thought it would never end.  This period had increased development and use of cars, radio and movies, telephones, and electrification bringing appliances to American homes.  Aviation became big business and the demand for air mail greatly increased.

Major Fleet and Lt. George Boyle check their map and appear to be checking the time for Lt. Boyle's departure for Philly. Note that Lt. Boyle's goggles are upside down on his helmet, possibly leading to his crash landing later in the day. Smithsonian photo.
1918. Mail plane starts its take-off roll at College Park, MD. airport as the crowd looks on. This airport is currently open as a museum to aviation past. Library of Congress photo.
Mr. Otto Praeger, the Second Assistant Postmaster General of the United States was assigned additional duty as the Chief of the Airmail Service on May 15, 1918, which he held until 1927. Shown above at the historic flights to New York, he is unaware that he and Lt. Boyle's paths will soon cross as Boyle's aircraft will crash-land adjacent to his farm in Waldorf, MD! Smithsonian photo.

About this same time frame, the Congress realized that the U.S. aviation industry needed support to "catch-up" with advancing European technology and it passed several government Acts to achieve this end by providing funding to the aviation industry thru USPO contracts to carry the U.S. Air Mail.                  

         The first of several U.S. Government actions to promote air mail was the "Contract Air Mail Act of 1925", February 2,1925, aka "Kelly Act" named for Clyde Kelly(R-PA), authorized the Post Master General (PMG) to contract with private citizens or companies for the carriage of mail by aircraft.  This act provided bidding for smaller airmail routes where contractors were paid $3.00 per pound for the first 1000 miles flown.

The "Air Commerce Act of 1926",it's most important result was that the Army established the U.S. Army Air Corps in July, 1926. Civilian aviation went under the authority of the Commerce Department which became the regulator of the air carrier companies that were contracted under the "Kelly Act". 


Mr. Walter F. Brown (R-PA, PMG 1929-1933) requested Congress to provide him expanded authority for contracts with airmail carriers. The "Air Mail Act of 1930" provided him with near unlimited and stronger authority for the execution of air mail contracts.

General Brown now had the authority to grant a ten-year exclusive contract to carriers based upon their mail carrying-capacity rather than the actual amount of airmail carried!!  He was also empowered to change airmail contracts and mail routes at his whim. 

         Collusion? Almost immediately after the 1930 Act was approved, General Brown held meetings in Washington, DC., to discuss new air mail contracts and he selected his friend, Mr. William MacCracken, Jr. then Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Aviation, to be chairman of these meetings.

         Only select larger companies were invited to these secretive gatherings where Brown directed that he wanted 3 coast-to-coast routes with only one company operating each route.  "Spoils Conference" was the name later given to these meetings by the press as only three airline companies were awarded the majority of the airmail routes.  Having an air mail contract was necessary for an airline company to turn a profit, as it wasn't until the 1936 introduction of the DC-3 airliner that selling passenger seats would provide adequate profit for the airlines. 


Small airline companies loudly complained that Mr. MacCracken (a friend of President Hoover), and General Brown had unfairly locked them out from competing for mail contracts.  The press had discovered that a large contract had been given to a major airline in spite of the fact that its bid was about three times greater than the bid from a small airline. As the result of Franklin D. Roosevelt(FDR) winning the presidential election and taking office in 1933, Senator Black(D-Alabama) led a Senate committee to investigate the selection process for the mail routes.  Senator Black issued a number of subpoenas to obtain MacCracken's documents. MacCracken refused to comply and he mailed several documents to an airline president for "safe keeping".  

The Justice Department moves in as DOJ has been directed to probe the testimony given before Senator Black's Committee. Pictured from left to right: Attorney General Homer S. Cummings, Carl L. Ristine, DOJ special agent; and Hugo Black, Committee Chairman. ACME Photo.

For his contempt of Congress, the Senate sentenced MacCracken to 10 days in the Washington, D.C. jail which he finally served after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his plea.  MacCracken later became a lawyer for the airlines.

         Senator Black's hearings (September, 1933) called public attention to the illegality of General Brown's actions and contracts with pre-selected airlines for carriage of U.S. mails.  From 1929 thru early 1934 the USPO revenue from selling air mail stamps was $54,000,000 dollars while $82,000,000 dollars were paid to fourteen mail air transport companies. The difference of 28 million dollars was considered a gift to the industry for their improvement of the country's aviation infrastructure (they actually spent that money on stock dividends and high salaries).  Evidence was uncovered that pointed to criminality, collusion, and fraud by the airlines with the Hoover government (aka the "Air Mail Scandal" of 1934).  Following this revelation FDR issued Executive Order 6591, February 9, 1934, in which he declared an emergency and directed James Farley, the new PMG to annul the airmail contracts with the airlines. 

An overall view of the Feb. 19, 1934, Senate Airmail hearing as former PMG Walter Brown testifies. Senator Black is far left with his hand to his face, Brown is far right with his elbows on the table. Packed hearing room indicates the public interest in the "Airmail Scandal"! ACME Photo.
Foreign freight agent of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Mr. A.J. Dall testifying at the Senator Black hearing. Mr. Dall disclosed that an airmail contract was granted by the Post Office Department even before the bids for it were opened. International News Photo.

FDR also directed the Army to fly the mail routes by February 19, 1934, and the Army Air Corps Mail Operation (AACMO) with sixty Army pilots sworn-in as official postal employees (in order to carry the U.S. mail) took off from several airmail fields including the one at Newark, NJ.  The last time the Army flew the air mail was 16 years ago!

To say that the US Army was unprepared to fly the air mail routes would be a huge understatement as the deck was stacked against the AACMO!  The current Army airplanes were outdated by USPO standards especially lacking night and bad weather flying equipment.  

U.S. Army prepares to fly the mail: Lt. Kelly seen in making practice takeoffs from Newark, N.J. airport on Feb. 17, 1934. Last minute efforts to make the first mail flight successful on Feb. 19, 1934, are coming together. ACME Photo.

Adapting the Army airplanes to fly the mail brought about an unforeseen consequence as most Army airplanes required a two-man crew to safety operate it.  This meant there was a very high probability that both crew members would be killed in a crash.  History bore this out as most crashes took both lives.  The weather in February, 1934, could hardly be worst for flying with snow and ice storms both with an abundance of wind gusts, the last time an Army pilot flew a mail route was in fair weather back in 1918, and Army pilots were not accustomed to long flights as combat flights were much shorter. 

         Early in the Army pilot training for airmail flights three pilots were killed followed by another two pilots killed and six injured during the mail flights.  March 11, 1934, brought the news that the AACMO had 66 airplane crashes or forced landings with 12 deaths of Army pilots. Public outcry was fierce and FDR directed the Army flights of the U.S. Airmail to be halted.  The Army flew the mail again on March 19,1934, maintaining a reduced schedule thru May 8, 1934, with the last official Army mail flight on June 6, 1934.  To the Army's credit, 777,389 pieces of mail were carried over 1.5 million miles!

         The government moved quickly to return the airmail service to private contractors, mostly the airlines, by the "Airmail Act of 1934", June 12, 1934.  Payment rates for carrying the U.S. Mail were reduced and bidding returned to private contractors(airlines) with a new and fairer set of rules.  Bidding for the mail contracts was more competitive with former contractors not being allowed to submit bids.  Some air mail contractors restructured and others merely changed their names: American Airways became American Airlines, Boeing became United Airlines, and Eastern Air Transport became Eastern Air Lines.  On the government side this act divided regulation of air mail between the Post Office, the Commerce Department, and the Interstate Commerce Department.

From June, 1934, the U.S. Airmail was carried by airlines on both domestic and overseas routes to all parts of the world. The early airmail romance such as pilot's silk scarfs were replaced by pilot's brief cases and the risks were reduced ten-fold by flying multi-engine metal airplanes. Airmail met its demise when the USPO terminated the separate classification of "airmail", on October 11, 1975, and declared that ALL First Class mail was to be carried by air at the first class rate for United States destinations.

The saga of the U.S. government changing airmail carriers provided many opportunities for airmail stamp collectors (Aerophilately) who prized the many different covers (envelopes) that were produced as the carriage of airmail bounced between the Army and the airlines!

The end of "airmail" as we knew it!  

This article focused on the brave airmail pilots who took incredible risks to “get the mail through”, the reader is encouraged to pursue reading one of the excellent books written on the US airmail for the finer points of the behind the scenes of the airmail history.  No amount of words can do justice to the dedication and determination of the early airmail pilots and ground crews as they worked around the clock to keep the airplanes flying and the mail moving!

Photos Courtesy of the Beacon Field Airport® Collection.

Click here for IMPORTANT DATES for U.S. Airmail 

LINK to Beacon Field Observatory CLEAR Sky Chart
The MOST LIGHT POLLUTED area in the nation is right here!

Beacon Field ... August 7, 2019 --    The skies of Washington are called out as the most light polluted in the nation at more than 200,000 times brighter than the darkest place in America, Yakutat, Alaska.    

This recent article (August 6th) in The Washington Post provides more info and a map of the "last pristine skies in America"-->  Click here to read more.

Beacon Field goes dark with the DARK SKY Initiative

Historic Beacon Field, November 22, 2017 (Updated March 5, 2018) --Friends of Beacon Field took the initiative this year to embrace the DARK SKIES movement by actively seeking the reduction of light pollution in and around the land of the former air field.   Our objective is two-fold.  First, to raise awareness of the benefits of taking back and preserving a dark sky which is important for a healthy human environment, normal wildlife behavior, and astronomical viewing.    Second, to complete the Beacon Project which is our mission to see all the planets and the 110 Messier astronomical objects visible in our hemisphere.

iPhone5 strapped to 8" Dobsonian, Groveton, VA 2/06/2017 8:43pm EST, f/2.4 ISO 50

The high elevation and proximity to a very large dark 50 acre cemetery has given Beacon Field folks many enjoyable nights in the backyard to view the planet Saturn’s rings, Orion’s Nebula, Blue Snowball planetary nebula (NGC 7662), Andromeda Galaxy, Jupiter’s four moons, the constellation Cassiopeia’s abundant star clusters, OWL “E.T.” nebula, and more astronomical delights.   The photo at right was taken by this editor with an iPhone 5 strapped to an 8” Dobsonian telescope to capture this moon shot earlier in the year on a crisp winter night.  


Skyglow in the immediate area is worse north and eastward towards D.C. and the Oxon Hill area in Maryland.    The southern view is affected though not as severe.  Surprisingly, some of our best seeing has been due south despite the heavily lit commercial US Route 1 corridor. 


The negative impact of light pollution extends beyond blocking our view of the stars, it is costly in environment damage and energy consumption.     Many communities all over the world have embraced the establishment of dark sky lighting standards that include shielding of outdoor fixtures, banning search lights, limiting the amount of installed lighting per acre, and managing light spectrums.    Flagstaff, AZ which is home to the Lowell Observatory and the United States Naval Observatory (USNO), has a 59 year tradition of dark sky preservation.   In 2001, Flagstaff was given the first International Dark-Sky City designation by the Int’l Dark-Sky Association (Astronomy, Sept 2017).   


Our own Fairfax County government approved in June 2003 the Outdoor Lighting Standards Ordinance (14-900) under the purview of the FC Department of Planning and Zoning to control glare, light trespass, time limits on outdoor playing fields/courts, and skyglow.   The FC Park Authority issued a brochure in January 2008 on the importance of dark nights and it may be found here

Piercing example of light trespass from parking lot light
Piercing example of light trespass from parking lot light 300 ft into kitchen window

However, our casual observation in the Beacon Hill area reveals many non-compliant light fixtures producing abhorrent glare, rabid cases of light trespass beyond property lines into residences, missing fixture shields, and unnecessary “always on” artificial lighting (and we are not talking about holiday lights).    While it is highly improbable that the Beacon area will ever have a true “dark sky”, it is reasonable to expect that existing lighting standards and ordinances should be enforced.    


A wealth of information exists online on ways to curb the negative impacts of artificial lights in commercial as well as the home environment.   Sadly, many large cities have moved towards bright white LED lights to save money rather than the low pressure sodium technology that is preferred for dark sky protection.   To learn more, start with the National Optical Astronomy Observatory and check out the Quality Lighting Teaching Kit  videos and postcards by clicking here.  More of our favorite websites below.    

Orion Constellation: 1/30/2018 Beacon Field, hand held Sony a33 w/1.8 MF, 20:25 EST.

Many stars and asterisms are visible in our area with the unaided eye!   Turn the lights off, go outside, and take a look !!

Happy Seeing !

A few of our favorite websites on dark skies 

NIH article health effects of light pollution:

Dark Skies Organization:

Beacon Field -- A National Airport ?

On February 28, 1938,  the popular Washington Herald newspaper began a series of articles on the inability of Congress to reach a decision on the selection of a national airport site.    Most do not realize that the Beacon Field Airport site was a top contender with its high altitude and fog free conditions.

The Federal city needed a national airport.   Washington D.C.'s Hoover Field  and Washington Airport were too small and too close to each other  to accommodate the expanding aviation industry.   These two privately owned unpaved fields merged in an attempt to remain viable during the depression.    Pilots would not land there because of the treacherous conditions including a public connector road in the middle of the runway.   

Congress resisted responsibility for resolving the issue.  "Between 1926 and 1938, Congress produced  reams of debate transcripts  and 37 committee reports on the problem, but no action."  The Air Commerce Act of 1926 had restricted government financial involvement in the development of airports and Presidents Hoover and Roosevelt had been stymied to press legislative decision. 

Fake news is not a modern phenomena and each media had a different perspective.  The Washington Herald featured a series of articles on the search process for the national airport site.   Noted journalist Pat Frank (penname for Harry Hart Frank) achieved a "dispassionate presentation of the facts".     

The map at right illustrated the 9 final contenders out of the 49 proposed sites.    Beacon Field and Hybla Valley were among the top 4 candidates. 

28 February 2017 Historic Beacon Field  


"Search Pressed for Airport Site" The Washington Herald Feb 28, 1938
 Local history --> Mount Eagle, Virginia

(6,000 ft from the end of the Beacon runway)

 Who knew that Mount Eagle estate (less than 6,000 feet from the end of the Beacon runway) was the 1821 birthplace of Rear Admiral Donald McNeill Fairfax, a great grandson of Bryan Fairfax, lord of the estate.   Rear Admiral Fairfax served 44 years in the US Navy and was honored with having a Naval Wickes Class Destroyer (DD-93) named after him and built at the Mare Naval Yard, commissioned April 6, 1918.   The USS Fairfax also had a lengthy service record and played important role in the fortification of Atlantic crossing troop transports.   She rescued 86 USS Lucia sailors when their ship was torpedoed.   In March 1933, the USS Fairfax took part in the Presidential review by FDR and later represented the US at the opening of 1939 New York World's Fair.   In 1940, she was recommissioned as the HMS Richmond and given to the British under the lend lease program.    Late in WWII, she was given to the Russian forces and ultimately returned to the United Kingdom in 1949.   SALUTE !  Cool

October 21, 2016, Historic Beacon Field