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Celebrating our favorite ways to get around

More than 30 general aviation aircraft, dozens of vintage automobiles, and a variety of watercraft adorned the annual event at Hummel Field on the banks of the Rappahannock River in Topping, Virginia.

A highlight of the September 25 event for pilots was the ceremonial presentation of personalized leather jackets to the latest graduates of the Virginia Aviation Ambassadors program. The eight pilots celebrated at the event brought the number to more than 570 aviators who have completed a tour of all 64 public-use airports in Virginia since the initiative was started in 2005.

Among those receiving a commemorative jacket was Steve Bateman, AOPA You Can Fly senior director of flying clubs, who completed his personal air tour of Virginia over the past few years.

“The best of general aviation is seen at local airports and the aviation communities based there,” said Bateman. “Each airport has its special characteristics, which makes this program and visiting all of the airports so special. We are also excited that the local aviation community is forming its own flying club at Hummel, making aviation more in reach for area pilots.”

Officials also took advantage of the event to address a long-term plan to benefit pilots and their neighboring community.

“Right off our 01 Runway is a neighborhood of homes that has not been happy with overhead airplanes,” said Mark Flynn, director of the Virginia Department of Aviation. “However, our airport community has been working with the Department of Aviation and a local developer who actually lives there to not only extend the runway, but move its orientation five degrees to the east. That way, departing pilots would be taken over the water instead of houses, keeping the noise down.”

The proposed project, which is still a few years away from fruition, would extend what is considered now Virginia’s shortest paved runway at 2,167 feet. Even without the extension, Hummel continues to lure pilots attracted to the airport’s waterside location and welcoming aviation community.

AOPA and Hummel Field share a special connection through the late Dr. David Nichols, known to many Virginians as Dr. Copter. A permanent granite memorial is on display at Hummel Field honoring Nichols for his medical philanthropy, flying a helicopter to treat patients on Tangier Island in the Chesapeake Bay. The memorial was dedicated in 2014 by AOPA President Mark Baker.

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