Beacon Field Airport®


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

©2018,  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 Airport® is honoring the 100th Anniversary of US Airmail 1918-2018 with the launch of a new series of short articles on the pilots, planes, routes, stamps, airports, and beacons that made Airmail possible.   For the next 13 weeks prior to the May 15th anniversary date, we will publish several of the eight intended articles. The 2nd article below.   Clear skies!

Proud Member of: 
International Dark -Sky Association (IDA)
American Airmail Society
Universal Ship Cancellation Society
American Philatelic Society
Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society

More on the USS FAIRFAX Below

Postal Service Heritage 
Beacon Towers LIGHT the Airmail Route !
2nd in the 100th Anniversary Airmail Series

Historic Beacon Field, 4 April 2018 --- The first official U. S. air mail flight was May 15, 1918, a daytime flight between Washington, DC and Philadelphia, PA. The need for flying the mail at night has its roots a few years later at the time when the Post Office(PO) was losing significant revenue to the Railway Mail Service for the delivery of business mail that included stocks, bonds, and documents of business. The fast night trains delivered these items overnight from New York City to business centers in Chicago, Detroit, and Cleveland. Business mail by train would be delivered in the next morning in Chicago; the best the Post Office could do by daytime air mail was a full day later.

            To be competitive, the PO turned to night flying as a means to deliver the mail faster than the night trains. The around-the-clock flying time from New York to San Francisco was almost 35 hours with 13 stops along the 2,629 mile route. Air Mail became the service of choice for time critical business mail to the west.  PO revenue skyrocketed!


Courtesy St. Pete Times (D. Hightower)

Flying the night mail was wrought with danger from bad weather, pilot fatigue, unreliable engines, and a lack of lights on the ground or in the airplane. There were no radios, no parachutes, and pilots relied on farmers along the route to light bonfires at the time the plane was expected to fly over. Farmers with telephones would call in to say they heard the mail plane. Thirty-five of the pilots hired by the PO between 1918 and 1926 were killed attempting to deliver the mail. A surviving mail pilot recalled the group as a “Suicide Club”.


            To increase pilot safety and to reduce the loss of the mail due to crashes, the PO decided to light the airmail routes with rotating beacons. They contracted for the installation of Airway Beacons along the entire NY to San Francisco route. By the end of 1924 that route had been lit from Cleveland to Rock Springs, WY., and the PO had acquired 18 airfields, 89 emergency fields, and had installed over 500 airway beacons throughout the US. When completed the beacon tower program installed 1550 airway beacons throughout the United States.

Courtesy C. Patton

Airway Beacon number 55 was installed in 1929 at the highest point in Fairfax County, VA., on a hill overlooking the city of Alexandria. Also installed was its companion electrical generator that provided power to the 1000 watt rotating white light beam and its green course lights. In 1932 the airfield would take the “Beacon Field Airport” name when it was granted a Virginia airport license. By 1929 the PO had “standardized” the design and construction of their Airway beacon towers using a skeleton steel frame that rose over 50 feet high with a platform at its top for mounting the rotating beacon light. The tower, anchored to a concrete pad, had a build-in ladder to accommodate servicing the lights.


            East coast mail routes such as the New York to Atlanta route (AM 19) had their beacons installed after the western routes as the eastern routes were heavily populated and were not as dangerous. Beacon Field was on this AM 19 route and its beacon was the first thing a mail pilot would see as he took off from Washington on the way to Atlanta.


As radio design advanced and became more reliable the days of the airway beacon towers were numbered. Radios for pilot communication and the radio direction finder (compass) developed by the government under the direction of the Commerce Department greatly improved air safety. In 1936, the results of a U.S. Senate committee investigation on aircraft safety accelerated the introduction and use of the superior radio technologies for mail planes and air liners*.  The faithful airway beacons were removed as radio use became the norm along the mail routes and airways. The Beacon Field tower was taken down shortly after the airport closed in 1959. Today, three of the last iconic airway beacon towers are still in operation in Montana’s rugged western mountains where 21st century technology has failed to provide all-weather flight safety.


*Courtesy Beacon readers Harold and Deborah Nelson contribution from The Bangor Daily News, May 30, 1936.

Welcome to Beacon Field Airport®

Beacon Field Airport® was located on Historic US Route 1 "The Hospitality Highway"  in the southeast section of Fairfax County, Virginia, 3.6 miles north of Mount Vernon.  Most know the area as Beacon Hill, one of the highest elevations in all of Fairfax County. Beacon Field and local area were named after the Airway Beacon No.55 which was installed on the airfield in the late 1920's as a navigational aid to US Mail pilots.    The Beacon name has proliferated over the years and now includes a shopping center,  apartment buildings, businesses, and streets.

The Historic Roadside Marker

Click pic for google mapping
On August 19, 2009,  the Beacon Field Airport Fairfax County Historic Marker was dedicated in commemoration of aviation pioneer Orville Wright's birthday also known as NATIONAL AVIATION DAY.     

Our Flight Path

We work tirelessly  to gain recognition for Beacon Field and have successfully facilitated the installation of three permanent official roadside historic markers including the large COSTCO Wall of Aviation on US Route 1.   Additionally, we have given history talks, hosted a 5 year photo exhibition at local Starbucks, funded renaming of "Beacon Field Airport Highway" frontage road,  sponsored Little League Baseball, conducted VDOT Adopt A Highway for over 8 years, participated in FCFD Adopt a Hydrant program, continuously maintain two educational websites (Beacon Field and Hybla Valley) for over 10 years, and rejoiced when the Space Shuttle Discovery retirement flight flew over the Beacon marker.

We collect, share, and connect information to facilitate a better appreciation for the influence of Beacon Field.   This website strives to educate and offer a venue for the capture and preservation of Beacon Field Airport history and lore before it was lost forever as one of the nation's earliest private airports which embodied the genius of America.

Beacon Field Office c. 1948
We conduct activities pro bono and are not affiliated with any civic associations, social, or political interest groups.   So, if you see our website photos and text material anywhere else, you can assume the material has been pirated without our permission

Keep in touch with Beacon Field Airport® frequent updates to the news section below.

 Beacon Field News


Current Activity and Interest !!!

Participate in International Dark Sky Week 2018 !!    April 15-21   click here

Beacon Field goes dark with the DARK SKY Initiative!! 11.22.2017 story below

Beacon's  CITY VIEW featured in NEW book "LOST Alexandria" !!! 05.04.2017 story below
BEACON Friends receive recognition from FCFD Station 411 !! 04.30.2017 (recap and photo below)

Fairfax Library's Forgotten Fairfax Series BEACON FIELD & HYBLA VALLEY  04.01.2017 (news below)

Beacon Field -- A National Airport ?? story below (02.28.2017)
looking for previous links ? click here

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:

City View Mansion LOST in Alexandria !!

local Jay Roberts debuts new book !

Jay Roberts (left)
April 28, 2017, Historic Beacon Field --   Local author and Beacon Friend Jay Roberts has launched a new book "LOST Alexandria" and is seen at left with Harry Lehman on the former site of the City View Mansion (Beacon Field) now Beacon Centre.     The first book that we know of that documents with descriptive text and illustrations by a local artist, sixteen prominent area homes that no longer exist in and around Alexandria including City View on Beacon Field Airport.    Illustrator Christine Youngbluth meticulously recreated images from faded photos and memories.   

 City View still stands tall in the memories of many who drove US 1 or stayed there. 

We feel privileged that Beacon Field's City View was included in this grand line up of historic homes.   Some of the other homes include Belvoir, Mount Eagle, Spring Bank, Bellevue, and West Grove.  Most were unknown with no marker or other formal recognition until Jay Roberts released this book. 

The book contains a map showing the location of all sixteen sites and is in a readable easy to hold format.    The book is for sale directly from Jay Roberts and in a number of shops in Old Town Alexandria, including the Lyceum.

Forgotten Fairfax Series :
Beacon Field and Hybla Valley Airports

3 April 2017 Historic Fairfax City --

Friends of Beacon Field were delighted to be invited to talk about Beacon Field and Hybla Valley Airports to a packed room as part of the community event Forgotten Fairfax Series held on Saturday, 1 April 2017 at the City of Fairfax Library.

This was the first in the Forgotten Fairfax series managed by Chris Barbuschak, Library Archivist, who gave us a warm welcome and introduction.    Friends of Beacon Field Airport, Anna Marie Hicks and Harry P. Lehman gave the talk. 

The filled to capacity room was attended by pilots from the period as well as history buffs and current residents living near the old air fields.   There was far more interest in airport history than we had expected !


Anna Marie Hicks presented a capture of the aviation scene in the 1920’s.  She then highlighted the significant events and personalities at Hybla Valley airfield from the plans for a Graf Zeppelin terminal to the popular venue of auto racing at Hybla Valley Speedway. 


Harry Lehman delivered a personal history of living at Beacon Field in the City View Mansion and the history of his family’s flying business including famous personalities associated with Beacon.     

Photo Courtesy K. Engelmann

The wonderful interested audience had lots of questions and memories to offer.   One attendee brought a period Russian map of the area to share.   Many others recounted their flying experiences and confidence maneuvers.   We heard about the neighboring airfield at Baileys Crossroads and Springfield, and learned about the adjacent WEEL Radio Station.   

There was great curosity in the number of airports that existed along US 1 and we were able to clear up confusion between Hybla Valley Airport and the unrelated nefarious activity of Henry Woodhouse’s George Washington Air Junction.

Beacon Friends also announced the anticipated mid 2018 release of their forthcoming book Beacon Field:  A Look Back, which will be the first hardcover to present an extensive history of the US Route 1 area from the Capital Beltway south to Hybla Valley. 

Photo Courtesy K. Engelmann
Anna Marie Hicks and Harry P. Lehman Fielding Questions at 1 April 2017 talk. Photo Courtesy K. Engelmann
Adopt a Fire Hydrant !!

First Duty and Certificate of Appreciation

Historic City View,  April 30th, 2017 --  Fairfax County Fire Department 411 Station Captain Danny Cox and Company stopped by City View to present a Certificate of Appreciation to Harry Lehman for his participation in the Adopt a Fire Hydrant program .

14 March 2017 -- Historic Beacon Field

Dedicated Friends of Beacon Field performed the 1st Adopt a Hydrant duty this morning to clear the plowed snow and fallen precip from the assigned fire hydrant.  A mild winter storm came through overnight and left a mix of snow/ice in the area. click here for program info and here for our map 

Beacon Field -- A National Airport ?

28 February 2017 Historic Beacon Field ---   

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.   read more


"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)

October 21, 2016, Historic Beacon Field --  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.   

In honor of the resolute USS Fairfax, Friends of Beacon Field Airport® have begun a series of cachet covers that will run front page through the end of the 2017.    SALUTE !  Cool

21st in the Series: HAPPY NEW YEAR USS Fairfax !! More about the connection to the USS Fairfax below
USS Fairfax, Canal Zone , December 25, 1936. SEE STORY ABOVE ^
SECRETS Revealed in Historic Hybla Valley !!

1945 USGS Map

Historic Hybla Valley, 21 April 2016 ---  For nearly fifty years, there has been much speculation and rumor in the neighborhood about the US Navy’s post WWII operational activity adjacent to Hybla Valley Airport and south of Beacon Field in the area now called Huntley Meadows Park.     Some remember a large antenna array while others insist low frequency sound emanating from the valley disrupted television reception.   Thriving Hybla Valley Airport quietly ceased operations.     Then mysteriously, up the hill Beacon Field Airport abruptly closed. 


Recently Beacon Friends learned from an hour and an half on-site Fairfax County Park educational program of the highly successful top secret intelligence research conducted in Hybla Valley among other things directed at tracking the ominous Soviet satellite SPUTNIK.  


We ran across the small cleverly written notice for the program and were intrigued with the notion of cold war activity in the area.    Prior to the class, we searched Google and found only a few articles on intelligence activity describing the circularly disposed antenna array (CDAA) system constructed in Hybla Valley.    But how could this be?  Right under our very busy noses?

Test Road-- April 2016

The program was a wagon based tour led by a Park Historian who first introduced us to the Bureau of Public Roads race track and test road.  Publicly marked on most all maps since 1945 (above),  the track is now grown over but the terrain impressions are visible.    The test road is fully intact within the track and should be revisited by current road builders to learn from the substrate construction.  Current photo at left.

We also walked the grounds of an anti-aircraft gun battery built in 1951 constructed in response to the enemy capture of allied B-29 bombers Ramp Tramp (42-6256) and the Gen. H.H. Arnold Special (42-6365).     An asphalt park trail now dissects the site unknown to the thousands who exercise here weekly.   Concrete foot bridges and drainage culverts are visible.

1960's aerial Courtesy of Fairfax County Park Authority

Then we were guided through the muddy meadow wetlands to the remarkable site of the CDAA system.   Shown at right in an early 1960’s aerial are the two very large circular arrays built by the Naval Research Lab using German Wullenweber technology equipment captured in World War II.    Beacon Field Airport at the top right of the photo is in deconstruction, the short runway is intact, and the large rectangle is what will be Beacon Mall.   All that remains of Hybla Valley Airport east of the circular array is part of a taxiway. 


Today the concrete pad from the larger CDAA is visible,  the other array is under water in the wetlands only visible during a drought.   We were told the massive electrical cables remain buried. 


The historical significance of this site cannot be overstated, the Naval Research Office secret report on Electronic Intelligence Satellites (1958-1977) was declassified and publicly released 13 June 2012.    The CDAA at Hybla Valley was the first of its kind in the USA and was a quick response to the Soviet surprise launch of their Sputnik satellite.   The Hybla Valley effort successfully tracked Sputnik I’s orbit and parameters.  


What other SECRETS does remarkable Hybla Valley have ?


Beacon Friends Complete 25th Adopt A Highway

March 23, 2016---  The dedicated esprit de corps of Friends of Beacon Field Airport completed the 25th Adopt-A-Highway event today!!  Since October 2009, volunteers have removed litter four times a year or more along South Kings Highway from the Franklin Street to the South Benson drive intersections.    

More than 2500 lbs of car parts, liquor/beer bottles, fast food wrappers, artificial flowers, discarded construction debris, iron pipes, tobacco products, dental floss, skoal cans, plastic water bottles, carbonated beverage bottles, cans, garbage, shopping carts, illegal signage, newspapers, magazines, books, X*!@, $!**!!s, clothes, boots, CDs, tools and more.

The hard work has made a huge difference in the appearance and safety of our stretch of the highway.    Awesome !!!

August 2013

Historic Airports Immortalized in Stainless Steel !!

US Route 1 Wall of Aviation

August 2, 2013 -- Dedication of the US Route 1 Wall of Aviation. Plan a visit today! FREE on-street parking (Ladson Lane) adjacent to wall. (click for google mapping)
August 2, 2013 -- Dedication of the US Route 1 Wall of Aviation L->R: Harry P. Lehman, Robert Beach, Anna Marie Hicks {photo courtesy Marcus Wadsworth}

Historic Hybla Valley, 2 August 2013 --  Friends of Beacon Field Airport were thrilled to be part of the first ever US Route 1 Wall of Aviation which was unveiled today at the corner of Route 1 and Ladson Lane on COSTCO frontage.    Friends who had been involved in the design and content had not seen the finished panels and anxiously awaited the unveiling.

Michael Armstead of Whiting-Turner works rapidly in prep for the reveal

Road construction was not yet complete and last minute tidying up of the expansive corner by the Whiting-Turner construction team gave perfect forum for the dedication event attended by Lee District Supervisor Jeff McKay,  Architect Brian Kendell of MulvannyG2, and Harry Lehman of Friends of Beacon Field.  

Supervisor McKay noted that this project was very important to the revitalization of the Route 1 Richmond Highway corridor and a focal point for pedestrians.

Harry P. Lehman speaks of site history before the panel unveiling
Harry Lehman spoke of Beacon Field and Hybla Valley Airports and noted that the location of the new Costco is on the site of metro Washington’s first drive-in, the  Mt. Vernon Automobile Open Air Theatre.   

The ceremony concluded with the suspenseful reveal as Brian Kendell orchestrated the unveil panel by panel with plenty of opportunity for photos !   The exquisite and sophisticated stainless steel panels are dramatically set in a wall shaped like a delta wing.   The panels feature notable local aviators, prominent airport features, and descriptive text.    This highly visible and unobstructed location is perfectly situated at the gateway to Route 1 aviation history .   
So the next time you are on the Highway of Cool, stop and take in a little aviation history !!     Costco opened August 8th

To read more about the individuals in the panels HJ Lehman click here,  to learn more about E.W. Robertson and Hybla Valley click here.
FoBFA have posted  the full US Route 1 Wall of Aviation text on the national marker database.  Click here to go direct to at!

Mr. Brian Kendell -- MulvannyG2 Architects
Supervisor McKay and daughter unveil the larger than life HJ Lehman