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Following John Wilkes Booth’s escape route

Start your hunt by landing at Washington Executive Airport/Hyde Field

Washington Executive Airport, more commonly known as Hyde Field, is one of the Maryland Three airports within the Washington, D.C., Flight Restricted Zone (FRZ) and Special Flight Rules Area (SFRA). It’s only one mile east of another of the Maryland Three airports, Potomac Airfield, and they’re both 10 miles southeast of Washington, D.C., and five miles from Joint Base Andrews. You’ll need to be on a flight plan to fly into this airport, so the controllers will help keep you clear of Air Force One.

Washington Executive Airport/Hyde Field in Clinton, Maryland, is located within the Washington, D.C., Special Flight Rules Area and Flight Restricted Zone. Google Earth image.

Hyde Field has one runway, 05/23 which is 3,000 feet by 60 feet of asphalt, reported in “fair” condition by the FAA, at 249 feet msl. The airport offers 100LL avgas 24/7 at self-serve pumps, and Jet A fuel is available if you call to schedule delivery ahead of time, although getting in contact with the management will take diligence. Numerous calls and phone messages went unanswered before I made contact. Even the website notes to call in advance for an appointment (301-297-7290, press 2 to get through to the manager).

The reason is that the airport has been for sale for the past 15 years, with the latest sale falling through and ending up in bankruptcy court. Anyone want to buy 423 acres in Maryland?

If you decide to land at Hyde Field, be prepared with your tiedown gear and a cellphone. I doubt you’ll find any assistance, or meet anyone at this airfield, unless you manage to make contact in advance with the manager.

The pilots based at Hyde Field and those who make frequent trips to the airfield have received their security clearance and are accustomed to the procedures for flying in and out of the SFRA and FRZ. Pilots coming from elsewhere must have completed security training, be properly vetted and fingerprinted, file an FRZ flight plan, and be in contact with air traffic control in order to fly into any of the Maryland Three airports.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car offices are nearby and will pick you up at the airport, or leave a car with the airport manager, if you arrange that ahead of time.

Searching for John Wilkes Booth

Civil War buffs and conspiracy theorists will want to visit the Surratt House Museum, three miles northeast in Clinton, Maryland. The house was owned and operated as a tavern by Mary Surratt, who was hanged in 1865 for her role in the Abraham Lincoln assassination. Before arriving, watch the 2010 movie The Conspirator, starring Robin Wright as Surratt.

The Dr. Samuel A. Mudd House Museum is located 17 miles southeast of the airfield. Mudd was the doctor who set the broken leg of John Wilkes Booth on the morning after Lincoln’s assassination. The doctor claimed that he did not know the identity of his patient or that Lincoln had been shot, but was convicted and imprisoned as a conspirator. Continue to Saint Mary’s Catholic Church Cemetery in Bryantown, where Mudd and his family are buried.

Booth fled south from Mudd’s to Pope’s Creek, where he boarded a boat to cross the Potomac River into Virginia. Today, that spot is close to Captain Billy’s Crab House and Gilligan’s Pier (a steak and seafood restaurant that is operated seasonally). Enjoy a lunch of Maryland blue crabs at one of these waterfront restaurants and contemplate Booth paddling across the river in the dark of night, trying to make his escape. Continue across the U.S. Route 301 bridge to follow Booth’s trail into Virginia, where he met his end at Richard Henry Garrett’s farm south of Port Royal.

You can find extensive information on every historical marker and site on Booth’s escape route, and download maps from the Civil War Trails website or the Visit Maryland website.

Joint Base Andrews

You might land at Hyde Field to visit Joint Base Andrews, just five miles away. It’s home to the two Boeing 747 aircraft known as Air Force One when the president is aboard. Each year, the base holds an “open house,” which is a large, multiday airshow; the next is scheduled for September 17 to 18. The event will feature the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds jet demonstration team and exhibit many Air Force aircraft.

Dennis K. Johnson

Dennis K. Johnson is an aviation writer and pilot living in New York City.
Topics: U.S. Travel

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