Beacon Field Airport®


Elevation 249 feet, Fairfax County, Virginia          GPS 38 46'20.40"N :  77 4'54.07"W
Copyright 2014 Friends of Beacon Field Airport at City View and, no part of this website including sound or text content may be copied, reproduced or used for any other purpose without express written permission of the website owner.  Beacon Field Airport® is a registered trademark owned by the website owner.


Beacon Flier Salute !

Mr. Harry John Lehman

Harry John Lehman, was a farm boy from Pine Grove, Pennsylvania, whose determination, resolve, outgoing personality and innate talent resulted in a successful life long career in aviation.   He was a US Army Veteran, held the rank of RAF Wing Commander and RAF Chief  Flight Instructor, DC-3 airline pilot, Airport Manager, CAA Flight instructor and Examiner, Vice-President and President of two flying services, served on the Congressional Advisory Committee on Civil Aviation, and certified goodfellow of the Ancient and Secret Order of the Quiet Birdmen.

In late 1932,  a very young and patriotic Harry J. Lehman enlisted in the US Army and was sent to Panama to join forces ensuring sovereignty of the United States over the Canal Zone.   Harry often said that he was never so miserable as the months he spent in the hot canal zone and looked forward to cool refuge in the clouds.  

He was assigned to the 44th Observation Squadron at Albrook Army Airfield (Panama Canal Zone)  where he gained more pilot training and experience(1).  The Albrook Field had been commissioned in April 1932 to replace France Field which was the existing smaller field providing a limited defense at the Pacific entrance to the canal zone.   The larger Albrook Field provided for an increased military presense and protection of canal activity(2).    Spending many hours at 10,000 feet  he honed his aerial reconnaissance photography skills.   

After his tour in Panama, Mr. Lehman returned home to Pennsylvania and continued his aviation career  pursuit.   He started looking for  employment and ventured to the Washington DC area and began hanging around Beacon Field taking photographs.    Beacon Field activity provided a social gathering place for people of all ages and it was here that Harry developed a large circle of life long friends and married, Mary Lewis Reid, the daughter of the field owner, WFP Reid. 

Frank Reid Jr., Frank Morris, Harry John Lehman, Ike Garth and others at Beacon Field....
From 1936 to 1939, he aggressively pursued aviation credentials and flew as many types of aircraft as he could find.   At Beacon, Flight Instructors Parker Cole and Heywood Roberston oversaw his training and performed many check rides(3).   Mr. Lehman's logbooks show proficiencies in the primary trainers Aeronca, Cub, Fleet, Fairchild 22, Luscombe and Stinson.  He actively ferried passengers and goods, performed acrobatics, conducted maintenance check rides and aerial photography.

To pay for his aviation pursuits,   Harry obtained employment as a security guard at George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate.(4)   The Mount Vernon Ladies Association expanded his guard duties to include helping complete a landmark photographic inventory of Washington's home furnishings, architectural details and building and garden designs.   For a wide eyed farm boy, he thoroughly enjoyed this job especially when assigned to photograph formal dignitary events and he spoke highly of his superiors.     

Mt. Vernon Estate Guard Harry J. Lehman and his badge
Photos Courtesy of the Lehman Collection
After achieving private and limited commercial, and commercial flight instructor ratings, Harry was ready for Air Transport Ratings (ATR) and professional aviation employment (5).    In June 1940,  he was offered a Commission in the Canadian Air Force as Flight Instructor, but chose to enter Acrobatic Aero School at Butler Airport and obtain his Secondary Instructor's rating in October flying Waco's (6).   He then was encouraged to enroll and complete the two month Advanced CAA Research Program in December 1940 flying PT-19s (Fairchild M-62As)  under the tutelage of Mr. George Brinkerhoff at College Park Airport, Maryland (7).

Harry Lehman's scrapbook from US Army Air Corps at Carlstrom Field, Arcadia FL, 1941
The Federal Civilian Pilot Training Program (CPTP) had been established in 1938 by Franklin Roosevelt to prepare men and women for military service.(8)  By 1940, the push to train pilots was enormous as the world war conflict intensified and American involvement was almost certain.   However, the urgency to train England's military pilots was far greater with Germany's rapid and aggressive movements in Europe.

The US Government had selected the Embry-Riddle Company to conduct the US Army Air Corps Training Program to be based at the old overgrown Carlstrom Field in Arcadia, Florida, to train American flyers.(9)  In less than sixty days, the old airfield was transformed into a modern flight facility and ready for the first class on February 15, 1941.(10)     Under the CPTP, Mr. Lehman reported to Carlstrom shortly thereafter and received his initial checkride on February 26, 1941,  in a PT-17 Stearman.(11)     With thousands of hours of flight time already under his hat, he diligently completed the US Army Instructor's Program.     Although, he also spent plenty of R&R by the pool as captured by the local newspaper photo.   

Concurrently the No. 5 British Flying Training School was moved to Riddle Field in Clewiston, Florida, the site of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical College.    Ultimately 7000 Royal Air Force (RAF) cadets were trained at Clewiston over the course of WW II.(12)   

The Evolution of Carlstrom Field, Arcadia, FL, February 1941
Click Pic to Enlarge: The Evolution of Carlstrom Field, Arcadia, FL, February 1941, Harry J. Lehman scrapbook
Rough duty at Carlstrom Field--- in his own words "LEHMAN on his 'horse' (sitting)
The ink had hardly dried on Harry J.'s Instructor certification when he was offered the job as the first Chief Flight Instructor at the first session of the No. 5 British Flying Training School.(13) He trained his first army flying student, Cadet J.P. Bowman on September 3, 1941.(14)   His family joined him and for the next three years he tirelessly and patiently trained cadets in all aspects of basic, primary, night,  and advanced (acrobatic) flying.  Amassing thousands of hours and stacks of logbooks, he had many close calls with the ground but at war's end returned back to Beacon Field without so much as a scratch.

raining School First Anniversary Yearbook, Clewiston FL
No. 5 British Flying Training School First Anniversary Yearbook, Clewiston FL
Chief Flying Instructor Mr. Harry Lehman
CFI Harry Lehman's First Army Flying Student 1941, Cadet Bowman
June 1943, Riddle Field -- No. 5 BFTS Chief Flight Instructor and Director of Flying Harry J. Lehman 7th from left (with goggles on head) handing out cigars upon news of the birth of his son
June 1943, Riddle Field, -- No. 5 BFTS Chief Flight Instructor and Director of Flying Harry J. Lehman 7th from left (with goggles on head) handing out cigars upon news of the birth of his son.
The Flying Days of Riddle Field:2001 Documentary Channel 2 WPBT South Florida
Video files survived from the days at Riddle Field and in 2001, WPBT Channel 2 in South Florida, produced a documentary film "The Flying Days of Riddle Field"  shown at left.   Archival footage, news reels, personal interviews highlight the video.  Mr. Lehman has several cameos in the documentary.   More recently, the nVUSouthVideo Production Company released the original documentary on the web with links at right.    A smiling CFI Instructor Harry Lehman appears in the introductory scenes.
He also appears on the history pages of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's website (click here for one pic he's on the 2nd row, 4th from the right ).  

Part 1 -- The Flying Days of Riddle Field

Harry J Lehman's BFTS Wing Commander khaki uniform also survived.  Intricate buttons with the latin {Spectemur Agendo}:  "let us be judged by our acts"
Harry J Lehman's BFTS Wing Commander khaki uniform also survived. Intricate buttons with the latin {Spectemur Agendo}: "let us be judged by our acts"
Not to miss a single day of flying, he began the 1,000 mile flight home to Beacon Field, on September 21, 1945,  in an Aeronca (O-58B) taking two full days (15.8 hours) in the 65HP aircraft and was back in the cockpit the next day after arrival training veterans learning to fly under the GI Bill.(15)   Harry, Mary Lewis, and Frank Reid Jr. formed a large commercial aviation training program (Alexandria-Virginia Airport, Incorporated) that successfully produced hundreds of commercial and airline pilots for the major air transport companies including Eastern, Allegheny, American, Capitol, and United.    Additionally, the business performed all aspects of  Fixed Based Operations (FBO) and provided an economic engine for the area.

Harry Lehman resumed the round the clock pace he had kept at Riddle Field and seemed to enjoy every minute.  Helping people was what he liked to do.   Patriotic by nature he was compelled to achieve the highest level of degree in the local Masonic Lodge and order in the Knights Templar.   Also, he was active in the Penn Daw Volunteer Fire Department.(16)    When the WWII GI Bill training rush declined in the early 1950's,   Harry J went to work for All American Airways (predecessor to Allegheny Airlines) flying DC-3 passenger service in the Ohio River Valley.    Following the Korean conflict, the GI Bill brought another economic boom to Beacon Field and Harry was once again busy instructing.

In 1953,  Harry J. Lehman was appointed to the District of Columbia’s Commissioners Committee on the 50th Anniversary of Powered Flight.  On December 17, 1953,  WWII notable James H. Doolittle, Chairman of the National Committee bestowed upon Lehman commendation for his “Distinguished Service to Aviation during the Golden Jubilee Celebration of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first heavier-than-air controlled flight”.   


Commendation -->Click to Enlarge
Beacon Field Airport closed in 1959 when the family repurposed the airport into a retail center and moved Beacon Flying Service operations over to W32 Hyde Field in Clinton, Maryland.  Hyde Field was a run down WWII airfield with few ammenities.   The fast tempo generated by the GI Bill and aviation fascination had slowed considerably and Hyde Field was "Sleepy Hollow" compared to Beacon .  Harry commuted daily by Aeronca from his residence in Fairfax County for many years until they decided to set up permanent footing in Maryland.   When primary aviation demand picked up again, Harry spent much less time instructing and relied on his staff of instructors to conduct the majority of training while he concentrated on the FBO business activity. 

Hyde Field (W32) -- Mid-1970's line up for takeoff
The local newspaper, The Clinton Times, frequently reported on W32 activity.   The reporter found "Lehman more fun to talk to than even watching small airplanes take off and land".   In 1982,  as if Harry had a premonition of future things to come,  he relayed the historic trip of November 6, 1943, that Arthur Hyde and Senator Jennings Randolph (D-WVA) made from Morgantown, West Virginia, to Washington in a plane powered by a fuel made from coal coke and "he explained that "It was the first time anyone had done such a thing and they did it a long time before people realized that we might have to turn to coal to provide fuel for airplanes and cars".(17)

The Clinton Times, February 10, 1982
During the same interview Harry relayed the time when a Lear Jet landed unexpectedly at Hyde Field:

"I was minding the store when the pilot asked me what kind of obstructions we had and how long our runway was...I told him there was a power line to watch out for and gave him the runway's length, but I didn't think he intended to land.   Well, before I could shift from one cheek to the other in my chair, he was down and on the ground.   And he didn't even use up half the runway to do it.   He was one heck of a pilot and he had flown up here from Miami to bring some payroll checks to Levitz.

He got himself in trouble with the FAA when he took off, though, we {had} asked him what that Lear could really do and he said he would show us.  He did, took off straight up like nothing I've seen---only he violated the altitude limit the FAA puts on take-offs in this area."(18)

Harry remained at Hyde Field even as the demand for flight training ebbed and flowed until he sold Beacon Flying Service in 1990 with over 58 years in aviation.   Most would agree that the Washington Post reporter got it right in the caption below...Like a figure  from a Bogart movie....    


January 25, 1985 The Washington Post
August 2013, Fairfax County Lee District Supervisor Jeffrey C. McKay and daughter unveil the larger than life HJ Lehman
Copyright 2014 Friends of Beacon Field Airport at City View and, no part of this website including sound or text content may be copied, reproduced or used for any other purpose without express written permission of the website owner.  Beacon Field Airport® is a registered trademark owned by the website owner.