When I was a young boy of 8, my mother and I took our first flight together on an Eastern Airlines Super Constellation, from Birmingham, Alabama, to Charlotte, North Carolina. It was a huge, winged beast, with four engines each the size of a Studebaker Sports Coupe, and a “tail” that appeared to be designed more for show than function...but what did I know?
I had no idea what to expect, but I was excited…so excited. The passenger compartment was like the inside of a cigar tube with tiny little seats and windows the size of small dinner plates. As we prepared for take off, the stewardesses--excuse me--flight attendants, announced that they were about to secure the doors and asked everyone to take their seats and fasten their seat belts. It was then that my mother's secret claustrophobia was revealed to the world. “No don't. Please leave the doors open!” she cried out. Even in my aviation ignorance, I was having a hard time figuring out how that was going to work.
The beautiful, skinny young women in tight-fitting uniforms were quick to comfort my mom, insuring her that she was very safe…to which she replied without acknowledging their attention to her fear, “Get me a drink!”
Not until she had been served a sufficient number of small glasses of Eastern's finish Scotch to anesthetize her successive panic attacks, did things inside the cramped space (really tight for such an enormous airplane) return to normal, allowing us to “pull back” from the ramp and “slip the surly bounds of earth.”(1)
This was the beginning of my love affair with aviation. In college, I joined Air Force ROTC with a heart to fly anything the Air Force would give me to join in the effort to liberate South Vietnam from the evil designs of Ho Chi Minh. Not to be. When I took my flight physical at Shaw Air Force Base to begin cadet flight training, the flight surgeon told me my heart didn't conduct electricity like it was supposed to and I would never fly in the Air Force. Rats! I immediately resigned from AFROTC because I couldn't stand the thought of standing on the ground looking up to see others “topping the wind-swept heights with easy grace.” (1)
Many years later, after I had adopted a more mature attitude about my weird heart (which by the way, didn't stop the Marine Corps from making me an infantry officer) I found myself working in the Pentagon (known to many as the world's largest adult day-care center) for a very important person who had his very own airplane. This was my chance to live vicariously through the experiences of some really crazy flight crews. They indulged my questions from the “jump seat” only because I outranked them. I would ask with an air associated with my position of responsibility, “What does that button do?” “What happens if I pull this lever back?” “Where do you keep the parachutes?”
It's time I remind you that this article is about the Lake Anna Airport. I'm just having fun getting there and taking too much time.
All of this comes back to me, though, every time I pass the international sign for “airport” when I motor up Kentucky Springs Road.
I have visited the Lake Anna Airport several times in an attempt to find someone to interview for this article, but the place appears to be unmanned, yet well-maintained. I have never seen a plane take off or land there...not even Southwest Airlines. Yet AirNav.com has a recent posting dated December 12, 2013, giving pilots all the data they need to do the things they need to do and know about an airport. Makes you think there's more to know than just “Hey look! There's an airport! Let's land there!”
7W4: Lake Anna Airport, Bumpass, Virginia, Runway 8/26, 2558 feet by 50 feet, asphalt, excellent condition...but where's the story?
More about 7W4 in the next “Breeze.”
(1) From “High Flight” a poem written by Pilot Officer John Magee, an American serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force, at the age of 19. Three months after he wrote this poem, he was killed in a mid-air collision on December 11, 1941, while piloting a Spitfire V over Tangmere, England. “[In] the high, untrespassed sanctity of space, [he] reached out and touched the face of God.”