“Coming across Lovettsville Vintage Aerodrome (VA61) was totally the universe at work,” says Thomas Pomeroy, the current owner of the airfield. “I was living in Texas at the time as a former Continental pilot, now United pilot, and was based out of Houston. When they announced that merger, it was an opportunity to come back to the D.C. area. I lived in Maryland in the mid-90s and love this part of the country.”
“I came up and started looking for airpark properties, since I had already been living at an airpark in Texas,” Pomeroy continues. “Prior to Texas, I had lived in Florida and both those states have dozens of airparks. In Virginia? Not so much. I literally was driving all around looking for airparks and getting frustrated. I pulled out an old sectional and saw this airfield and another one that’s right across the street. There are two private airfields right next to each other, somebody at one of them should know where the airparks are.”
“So I wandered around the roads based on the sectional, found the two airstrips, and then learned that this one was for sale. My first thought was that I would never be able to afford it. But the real estate market and interest rates were both at rock bottom. So it all just fell into place.”
When Pomeroy purchased the airport in 2013, it was a quiet property that held memories of a more lively past.
“The airport was initially started in 1970 by a gentleman named Jan Scott. He was a highly accomplished Norwegian pilot that came over and had the good fortune to be one of only 10 pilots out of 100 interviewees to be hired by American Airlines in 1966. He was the one who developed this airport, built the buildings on it, and had quite a glider operation for a while. But he ran into some hardships with the county because he was renting hangars to the glider club. That was seen as a commercial business, and he didn’t have the zoning or permits to do that. Things then kind of calmed down, if you will,” Pomeroy explains.
Scott was active in the Vintage Sailplane Association, and the airfield had been home to a number of rare classic and antique gliders, as well as a de Havilland Tiger Moth.
“I’ve been slowly trying to reinvigorate things since purchasing the airport. But in the last couple of years things have really started to take off. We, and when I say ‘we,’ Linda [Sanbower-Burke, Pomeroy’s life partner, is included] was instrumental in the airfield’s operations and, especially, coordinating our first fly-in event in September 2021. It simply would not have happened without her.
“We held the event in conjunction with the town of Lovettsville’s Oktoberfest. Lovettsville was originally a German settlement and has a well-known Oktoberfest event at the end of every September. Unfortunately, the town’s celebration was canceled at the last minute because of residual COVID-19 concerns.
Even without the town’s Oktoberfest taking place, Lovettsville Vintage Aerodrome still can accommodate a healthy crowd of people.
“We went ahead with our event, since it was entirely outdoors, and it was a huge success. It went far better than I could have ever imagined! Linda invited the Flying Circus out of Bealeton, Virginia, to come up. They brought a Stearman and were selling rides. Justin, who is the organization’s president, was hesitant at first because he wasn’t sure how many people would be here and whether it would be worth his while. By the end of the day, he had sold 26 rides all by himself. He had only gotten out of the airplane one time during that period. At the end of the day, he was turning people away. He asked to come back the next year and bring two guys with him to offer more rides.”
In 2022, the second fly-in event occurred at the aerodrome. There were more patrons and aircraft there than at the first year’s event, which was just one metric that proved the event was a success.
“At our most recent fly-in the ‘Circus’ brought two Stearmans and a Waco, which was really awesome because the Waco has a bench seat. They could take two people up for rides, so they were taking couples and parents with younger kids. It was so awesome to see the kids getting out of the airplane with huge smiles on their faces. They did 56 rides and we had over a thousand people visit the field that day. We’ve been billing the event as an ‘Oktoberfest, Wings and Wheels.’ It’s a fly-in and cruise-in, with lots of vintage cars and airplanes, live music, and various vendors. The concept has been a really big hit, and our neighbors and entire community have been tremendously supportive!”
All that said, there is still some fallout from the 1970s. The county’s decision surrounding Scott’s operations at the airfield still impacts its usage today. But Pomeroy is optimistic that aligned priorities will be mutually beneficial for both the airport, the town of Lovettsville, and the county at large.
“We are in the process of pursuing help from county officials to review the zoning to see if we could entertain guests overnight. Not being able to stay overnight has been a deterrent for people who want to fly in and go into town to enjoy the Oktoberfest activities and patronize local businesses.”
Nonetheless, the couple and others are involved in ensuring the airfield’s positive contribution economically and socially to the Lovettsville area’s future. “We want to offer more fly-in events in the future and provide opportunities for area residents, both young and old, to experience, first-hand, the fun, thrill, and joy of vintage and recreational aviation,” says Pomeroy. “We also have high hopes that, with the county’s blessing, we will be able to offer limited opportunities for pilots to fly-in and enjoy northern Virginia’s booming tourist attractions.”
Pomeroy expresses that the 3,000-foot turf airstrip is presently in good condition, although “it’s ideal for taildraggers, but can be a bit of a challenge for high-performance tricycle gear aircraft and those with limited turf experience” (because of the runway surface’s rolling high and low spots). And as its name implies, the airstrip is the perfect place for older aircraft. It’s already host to a special collection of Czech taildraggers, in addition to the litany of unique aircraft that fly in.
“The name Lovettsville Vintage Aerodrome kind of tells the story,” Pomeroy says. “The focus here is on classic and vintage aircraft, but everybody is welcome to come in and visit. Ideally—and this may be a few years down the road—it would be nice to have a dozen vintage aircraft hangared here. I have a small collection of Zlin aircraft, the old 526-series aircraft. We hope to do a new building where those aircraft can be stored and be visible to the public in a museum-type situation.”