in the spotlight
The day before we left, I had called Potomac Approach
and asked which route I should file, and I was given
one direct to the Hagerstown VOR, then direct to the
Martinsburg VOR, followed by radar vectors into the ADIZ
to Dulles. Our takeoff was into solid IFR immediately
after rotation because of the haze. When I was cleared for
the instrument landing system to Dulles’ Runway 19L,
the instrument approach was for real. I did not see the
airport, or the 11,500- by 150-foot runway, until I was
200 feet above minimums.
As I was on short final, a United MD- 80 was asked
to hold short for landing traffic—me. A Cessna 172 had
just landed ahead of me. An MD- 80 pilot transmitted
in a less-than-friendly tone, “What is this, general
aviation day?” The tower controller responded with a
very professional yes.
After I landed, without any hint of sarcasm in his voice
the controller asked if I could make the first turnoff.
Since the first turnoff is about a mile down the runway,
I assured the controller I could—I just had to keep my
power on to get there; I could have turned off just past
the numbers! The Udvar-Hazy Center taxiway is on the
far end of 19L, more than 2 miles of taxiing to get there.
Upon our arrival, there was an open gate, manned by
the Transportation Security Administration, police cars
with flashing lights, and official photographers. I taxied
another half mile and finally saw the Center.
I was guided to a parking spot next to an Ercoupe,
which was next to an Anderson Greenwood, which was
a couple of planes down from a Pietenpol Air Camper,
a Cozy, and a score of others from a Beech Staggerwing
to a couple of warbirds from World War II. The U.S. Air
Force had brought in two different C-135s and a C- 17,
and the Navy displayed an SH- 60. A hot air balloon
tethered next to two gliders and a few ultralights
completed the group.
Before this day I thought a visit to the Udvar-Hazy
Center was like dying and going to airplane heaven—but
this was beyond anything a plane lover could imagine.
All of the pilots lined up in front of a beautiful
Staggerwing for a group picture just before 10 a.m., when
the first guests were scheduled to appear. The morning
flew by. The majority of the guests had never seen a
general aviation (GA) aircraft up close, much less stuck
their heads in one or talked to general aviation pilots. I
am certain that a number of those folks left with a yen
to learn to fly.
The outdoor portion of the day was scheduled to end
at 3:00, with the museum closing at 5: 30. Unfortunately,
the weather did not agree with that plan. A thunderstorm
warning for the afternoon was confirmed by looking at
the NEXRAD weather on my Garmin 495. About 12: 30,
it looked like things were going to get interesting—and
wet—by 1:00 or so.
I talked with Natalie, who made an executive decision.
The guests were cleared from the ramp in a most
professional manner, and at 1:00 I was part of a line of
GA aircraft taxiing out of the Udvar-Hazy Center.
When I got to the gate to Dulles, two GA aircraft
were ahead of me on the holding area for Runway 1R,
both doing run-ups. Dulles ground called, “Who’s next
coming out of Hazy?” I answered with my call sign and
announced I was IFR to Hagerstown. I had hoped to take
off on 1R and head directly north to home.
No such luck.
South and east departures were using 1R. North and
west departures were using Runway 30.
I didn’t know you could taxi so far and not actually be
at your destination.
“Velocity 521TR, taxi north on kilo; hold short of
foxtrot.” After taxiing more than a mile, I held short
of taxiway foxtrot. Ground told me to contact ground
A Pietenpol Air Camper was among a diverse selection of aircraft on
display at the Become a Pilot Family Day at the Smithsonian Museum.
Tony Rizzo arrived at the Udvar-Hazy Center taxiway after flying in
IFR conditions from Hagerstown, Maryland.