Adventures on Top of the World

Jul 20, 2018

For many people, travel by air has lost its allure, but there’s at least one airport in Virginia that thrills travelers from around the world. 

Hot Springs, Virginia – in Bath County -- has the highest public airport east of the Mississippi – a one-mile strip of asphalt at the top of a mountain.

“You lay a miles of asphalt and call it a highway, you can go exactly one mile.  With this you can go anywhere you want to in the world.”

That’s Paul Howell, chairman of the airport authority and a big fan of the view.

“In the summer time you see green grass and blue sky.  In the winter time you seen white snow and blue sky. You’re on top of the world here.”

Built in 1933 by the Ingalls family which owned the Homestead Resort, this airstrip has welcomed Presidents Eisenhower, Clinton and George W. Bush who flew in for rounds of golf.  It’s also served as a pit stop for thousands of private pilots who find that at 4,000 feet above sea level, it’s a convenient place to fill up

“Airplanes do not run cheap, and if the pilot can just drop down to 4,000 feet and fuel up he does not have to claw his way back up those 4,000 feet to get back into the sky.”

There is no commercial service here, so the military likes to train pilots in this mountain setting, and private flyers say it’s so quiet, they don’t even need a control tower.

“The pilots that fly into here, they talk to each other and they don’t bump into each other.  Do we have one coming in now?  We do.  It’s one of the show planes is showing up!”

This year, the airport hosted its tenth annual Wings and Wheels – a car and airshow featuring pilots like 27-year-old Jason Flood, who’s been flying for most of his life.

“I was born into a flying family, and my first ride was when I was six months old, and I’ve been flying ever since.” 

Actually, he had to take some time off after an unfortunate collision.

“Towing banners down at the Jersey Shore, and the engine quit on pick-up and it left me nothing to do but come down and hit the ground, and I had 11 surgeries in four days.”

He broke a half dozen bones, lost his left kidney and spleen, but he kept his love of flying, and this year he was back in Bath County, entertaining over 4,000 people who came to this remote airport to rediscover the thrill of travel by air.