Beacon Field Airport®

THE OFFICIAL WEBSITE for BEACON FIELD AIRPORT®



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

 
 
Mr. Cecil "Cy" Coppage


Mr. Cecil “Cy” Coppage was one of the first flight instructors at Beacon Field and a daring influential barnstormer in northern Virginia.    Mr. Coppage hailed from Culpeper, Virginia.   When Cy experienced his first flight as a passenger, he asked his father, a homebuilder, if he could take flying lessons, the answer was a firm “no”.  

 

Cy’s father died unexpectedly at the early age of 40, and he and his sister moved in with a relative in Washington DC.    With the pressure to earn a wage Cy enrolled in the Columbia Tech Institute Drafting School on F Street NW.   Equipped with a large aviation department, Columbia Tech fulfilled a much needed demand for skilled workers, technicians, and designers in the rapidly growing aeronautic industry. 

 

He studied aviation engineering which prepared him for employment with the federal government while he pursued his flying dream all during the Great Depression.     In 1931, he received his primary training  with Heywood Robertson (brother of E.W. Robertson) at Washington Hoover Field (today's Pentagon) in an OX-5 powered Alexander Eagle Rock.


Coppage teamed up with Lyle Jordan to form the BEACON FLYING CLUB and put on airshows at both Beacon Field and Hybla Valley air fields.   The photo at above right was taken at Beacon Field in 1932 by Cy's first female student, Fern Kyle, who also had a photography business. {remastered by FoBFA}

Eaglet of Coppage Flying Service at Beacon 1933
Much like Lincoln Beachey (see front page),  behind Cy Coppage’s heart stopping aerial performances were serious calculations on aerodynamic risk assessment.    This capability and fine airmanship contributed to his survival from several spectacular crashes.   He once told an interviewer:  


“ I have barnstormed, owned airplanes, sold airplanes, taught flying, ran several flight schools and taught navigation.  The only thing that remained constant during my barnstorming days was attending funerals, on an almost weekly basis, for pilots that were killed in airplane crashes.”

 

Coppage and other barnstormers were frequently featured in Washington Post headlines like “FLIERS CHEAT DEATH IN PLUNGE IN LAKE”.   In late August 1934,  Coppage and a student took off from neighboring College Park Airport when at about 100 feet up the motor died.  Cy took control and pancaked the plane into the nearby lake about 100 yards from the shore.  Both pilots drenching wet,  waded to shore with only a minor cut.  


Another incident took place on take off at home base in Hybla Valley when a powerful microburst drove the plane downward into a clump of woods (photo below).   The plane was demolished but Coppage and the two passengers V H Mayfield and R F Boyles were uninjured.   


Neither snow nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night kept Cy Coppage out of the open air cockpit ! (photo below left)


Cy Coppage (center) with Boyles and Mayfield, Crash in Hybla Valley
All-Weather Coppage (right) next to his friend Ray Wells, Hybla Valley Airport Dec '32
Cylinder head blows off motor...does little to rattle Coppage.
 

While aviation progressed from the thrills and spills of barnstorming towards more organized certificated Thompson and Snyder Cup trophy races, Cy Coppage kept pace by continuing to build his rating achievements.  He gained Instrument and Air Transport Pilot Licenses and then advanced to Instructor and Flight Examiner for instrument and ATP certifications.


Cy also was a noted 1933 attendee representing local airports at the famous Aviation Aero Club Ball held at the Willard Hotel in Washington along with major record breakers Major James H Doolittle (294 mph in a Gee-Bee),  Colonel Roscoe Turner (new East-West transcontinental speed mark 12 hours 33 minutes), Amelia Earhart Putnam (non-stop dash from LA to Newark), and Louise Thaden and Frances Marsalis (“flying boudoir” aloft for 196 hours). 

 


In 1938, Coppage became one of the first Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) Examiners and relocated to Wayne County Airport, in Detroit, Michigan, where he gave thousands of check rides in the Stinson Reliant SR-8B.    He recalled  “what a wonderful airplane, truly one of the most reliable airplanes I ever flew”.      

As CAA Examiner he came to know many notable personalities who would become hall of fame aviators.   He gave Bill Lear (Lear Jet legacy) his instrument rating flight check and became friends with Gene Autry,  WW II combat hero (also pilot and Hollywood movie star),  Walter H. Beech founder of Beechcraft,  Woody Edmondson acrobatic champion (Monocoupe 110),  among others.

 


Cy Coppage at Wayne County Airport, Stinson Reliant SR-8B

Alas!  The adventures of Cy Coppage were not yet over!   During WWII,  Coppage left the CAA and joined the Rubber Development Corporation of America.   In 1944 he led a nerve racking aerial survey in South America to search for trees to offset the devastating shortage of rubber caused by WWII.   Cy survived a run in with Brazilian headhunters and later developed a blood poisoning from working in the Amazon which ultimately contributed to the loss of his aviation medical certificate.

 

Stateside following the war, Coppage worked for the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics (modern day NAVAIR) in acquisition.   He later formed his own company C.G. Coppage Company specializing in aircraft, parts, and aerospace sales.   


He had two sons.  The oldest, Cy Jr., also a pilot but preferred engineering over flying and had a long career with Douglas Aircraft in Long Beach, California.  Cy Jr.'s younger brother by four years, John, has 41 years in commercial aviation with 38 in airlines retiring as a senior Captain assigned to Boeing 747 International Flights.  John still has great fun flying his Nanchang CJ6-M14P.

Excerpt from Cy's scrapbook...that ole' gang of mine !