Team Orville partner Jason Paur and I might have had the first leg of the Road and Runway Rally on the ground in the SMART car, but you just can’t take aviation out of two pilots. We only made it one hour into the road trip before making a pit stop–to look at world-famous aircraft, no less. We pulled into the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Air and Space annex at Washington Dulles International Airport. Our immediate attraction? The spaceship Enterprise. Then we ogled over the SR-71, Hiller hclicopter, Corsair, Concorde, and other aircraft that hold important spots in aviation history.
But what stuck out the most was a kid’s display. A Cessna welcomed the curious to climb inside, play with the controls, and get a feel of what it’s like to be a pilot. Foam bumpers lined the ailerons and flaps so no one would bump their head. A simple sign explained pitch, roll, and yaw. And I realized: That’s all it takes. Sometimes we think of elaborate plans to excite children and nonpilots to check out the GA community. I know I always try to take people up for a first flight on the clearest day over the most breathtaking scenery. But really, an open airplane in a hangar with a little one-on-one time can do wonders. The flight time is great, but maybe we need to start on the ground. I think the Udvar-Hazy museum has it right, and we could all take some cues from this simple setup.
After an hour or so of running around the museum, Jason and I headed south again–but only for about 30 minutes. We just couldn’t resist the Marine Museum at Quantico. I anticipated gettimng up close with some military aircraft on display, but instead I was surprised by a line of vintage Chevrolets, including a 1953 and a 1955. As luck would have it, one parking spot was open beside the line of cars, just begging for the SMART car to pull in.
With two amazing stops behind us and a few hours of driving on I-95 ahead, I wondered what the rest of today’s leg would entail. We were low on time, so a straight shot to Williamsburg, Va., stared us straight in the face. Surprisingly, the drive went pretty quickly. Turns out two journalist/pilots have an infinite amount of stories to swap.
Guest blogger Alyssa J. Miller and Wired.com’s Jason Paur are headed to Florida in AOPA’s Fun to Fly Road and Runway Challenge.–Jill W. Tallman