Hybla Valley Airport

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Historic marker erected by Fairfax County at the site of Hybla Valley Airport; the airport grounds were on the land behind the sign
Closeup of historic marker

Hybla Valley Airport (also known as the Alexandria Airport) was an airfield and flying business in the Hybla Valley area of Fairfax County, Virginia. It received Virginia's first official airport permit. The airport was used in World War II for pilot training, and was also the site of dirigible facilities.

Background[edit]

In 1925 near Alexandria, Virginia, Elvin W. Robertson started a business offering sightseeing flights for a fee. He had United States Department of Commerce pilot's license #89 and Mechanic's License #79.[1] He operated from a field near the Potomac River. Soon after he started his business, he reestablished himself in Fairfax County south of Alexandria some 4 miles. This new airport of Robertson's was located in Hybla Valley of Fairfax County, Virginia. Located a mile south of Beacon Field Airport, it was initially known as the Alexandria Airport. He incorporated in 1928 and it became Mount Vernon Airways Corporation, with Robertson as the president and general manager. In 1929 it was granted the first official airport permit in the state of Virginia (US).[1][2][3][4]

Robertson offered flight instruction from his new location from a business, which he named "Mount Vernon School of Aeronautics" and was part of his Mount Vernon Airways. He prospered because of interest generated in flying by Lindbergh's feat. The airport in 1929 was described as a one hundred acre field that was 3,000 by 2,300 feet (910 by 700 m). The northeast corner had a hangar that was 140 by 60 feet (43 by 18 m). Alexandria Airport became known also as the Hybla Valley Airport because of its location. Robertson used the airport as a site for barnstorming and air circuses. Hybla Valley Airport in the mid-1930s offered typical full aircraft service.[4][5]

The Navy took over Robertson's Hybla Valley Airport at the beginning of World War II in 1939 to train military pilots,[6] but he received the airport back after the war. William Robert Ashburn and his wife bought the Hybla Valley Airport from Robertson and Mount Vernon Airways in 1945. The Ashburns worked as the Fixed Based Operator (FBO) at the Beacon Field Airport between 1931 until 1942, about a mile south of Hybla Valley Airport. Ashburn was its president and his wife was its secretary/treasurer. They had a contract with the Beacon airport property owner to operate Ashburn Flying Service.[2]

Ashburn envisioned making his newly acquired airport and Ashburn Flying Service the main airplane facilities for the national airport of the Washington DC area. He made improvements of a local airport restaurant and a lounge that had arcades and vending machines for his passengers. Hybla Valley Airport developed several runways and constructed three hangars for airplanes. It also had a flying school facility for training to get a pilot's license.[7] The airport operated from time to time dozens of airplanes and sold government surplus aircraft.[8] Ashburn's airport installed a lighting system so airplanes could land there at night.[9] The regional facilities grew to 179 acres by 1954. The airport was closed after some thirty years of operation on April 4, 1956, and the land was sold to a real estate development company.[2]

Dirigibles[edit]

Virginia's Fairfax County supervisor W. F. P. Reid and Germany's Zeppelin Company saw in 1930 the potential of Hybla Valley Airport becoming one of the American terminal airports for the Hindenburg-class airships.[10] Dr. Hugo Eckener, head of the Zeppelin Company, evaluated Hybla Valley Airport in 1936 as a potential commercial American terminus for the Zeppelin.[11] Some dirigibles did use the airport for flight facilities, but the Zeppelin was not one of them.[12]

Legacy[edit]

The airport site is denoted by a historic marker, erected in 2010 by the Fairfax County History Commission,.[13]

The residential streets where the airport was located are named after aircraft manufacturers (i.e. Beechcraft Drive, Stinson Road, Piper Lane, Grumman Place, Northrop Road, Convair Drive, etc.).

Hybla Valley Airport is discussed (along with historical Beacon Field Airport about a mile north) on the "US Route 1 Wall of Aviation" which was erected by Costco in 2013 at the street entrance of a new store in the neighborhood about 1 mile south.[14]

The airport is listed in the Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields online database for southeastern Fairfax County, Virginia.[6]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Helium ... Hydrogen... Hybla Valley history! / Dr. Eckener Praises Hybla Valley as Dirigible Airport Site". Friends of Beacon Field Airport. 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2016. He submitted an application to the Virginia State Corporation Commission and in February, 1929, Hybla Valley Airport (also known as Alexandria Airport) became the first airfield in Virginia to receive a permit to operate an airport within the state.
  2. ^ a b c Riccio, By Robert J. (2011). "Hybla Valley Airport / The first licensed airport in Virginia was our own Hybla Valley Airport". Patch online. Patch Network. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  3. ^ "Hybla Valley Airport". Friends of Beacon Field Airport. 2016. Retrieved July 6, 2016. The Washington Post article of February 26, 1929 reads -"STATE GRANTS FIRST PERMIT FOR AIRPORT / Mount Vernon Airways, Inc., to Operate Field in Fairfax County. HANGAR ALREADY BUILT. The first permit to be granted by the Virginia State Corporation Commission to operate an airport within the State has been received by the Mount Vernon Airways located on the Washington-Richmond highway at Hybla Valley.
  4. ^ a b "Hybla Valley Airport". Historical Marker Database. 2016. Retrieved July 5, 2016. Virginia'a first airport permit was granted to Elvin W. Robertson's Hybla Valley Airport in February 1929.
  5. ^ Flying Magazine 1949, p. 62.
  6. ^ a b Freeman, Paul (2016). "Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields / Virginia – Southeastern Fairfax County". Southeastern Fairfax County. Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields. Retrieved July 5, 2016.
  7. ^ Flying Magazine 1947, p. 27.
  8. ^ "Government Planes Now For Sale". The Bee. Danville, Virginia. March 26, 1945.
  9. ^ Space/aeronautics 1947, p. 26.
  10. ^ "Hybla Valley may be chosen as Base for Ocean Air Liners". The Indianapolis News. Indianapolis, Indiana. July 11, 1930 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  11. ^ "Eckener Won't Try For Record Flight". The Express. Lock Haven, Pennsylvania. May 11, 1936 – via Newspapers.com open access.
  12. ^ United States National Capital Planning Commission 2006, p. 228.
  13. ^ "Hybla Valley Airport Historical Marker". Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  14. ^ "US Route 1 Wall of Aviation Historical Marker". Retrieved 1 November 2016.

Sources[edit]

Coordinates: 38°45′18″N 77°05′24″W / 38.755°N 77.090°W / 38.755; -77.090