Retropolis - Flying in the pre-9/11 era

In searching for my old flight bag and paper logbook, I came across a shoebox which contained a bunch of mementos from my time in the US Navy as well as a Kodak Photo CD with a number of old photos. Because the Photo CD format is long gone, most imaging programs have dropped support for it, but I found a free utility which converts them to JPEG format. A number of the images on the CD were taken at Lee Airport in Annapolis by my best friend. I had recently been granted solo privileges, and she had come out to the airport to see me fly. We also had lunch together at the little airport restaurant in Easton, MD. (Being only a student pilot, I wasn’t allowed to carry passengers, so while I flew across the bay solo, she drove across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to meet me in Easton for lunch! :heart:)

I thought I’d share some of the images here, as they show a simpler era in aviation: my friend was able to walk around the ramp freely with her camera, and the fence around the airport was more to discourage animals from wandering onto the runway than it was to provide any kind of security. The aircraft I’m flying in these photos is a Piper Cadet – a simple training aircraft that was common to see around flight schools in those days but which is no longer manufactured.

:arrow_up: A view of the takeoff end of Runway 12 with a North American T-6 beginning its takeoff roll.

:arrow_up: Yours truly (in the plane with the red stripe on its tail) taxiing onto the runway for takeoff. Looks like a typically busy day at my little airport!

:arrow_up: Climbing out of Lee always provided a beautiful view of Annapolis – here, the green copper roofs of the US Naval Academy are in the center of the frame.

:arrow_up: Heading out over the Chesapeake towards Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Altitude is about 2000’ MSL, which my instructor insisted would allow me to glide to either shore if the engine quit. (I am pretty sure I would have ended up in the bay if the engine quit in the very middle of my trip, though.)

:arrow_up: A quick look at KESN from the downwind leg of the traffic pattern for Runway 22.

:arrow_up: The then-new airport terminal building with the restaurant at which my friend and I had lunch on the right. (I got a great parking spot right in front, as you can see. :sunglasses:)

:arrow_up: Crossing the bay on the way back to Annapolis. If you look closely, you’ll see the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on the right.

:arrow_up: My little Cadet on short final. Look at that gorgeous Twin Beech parked on the left!

:arrow_up: I didn’t really have to roll all the way to the end of the runway after landing, but I wanted to show off a little for my friend who was standing near that end … and who was really quite attractive.

:arrow_up: See above … she really was QUITE attractive.

:arrow_up: And … FACE REVEAL from a long time ago

Hope you all enjoyed my trip down memory lane!


I absolutely love the photos of the landscape! I really do vibe with those types of photos. :heart:

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These are really cool! There’s something about old photos that interests me - something to do with the graininess I like (I recently found an old film camera in the bottom of my dad’s cupboard and have started using it). Also, I know nothing about planes but the Twin Beech one looks kinda neat.

Also you look very different from how I’d imagined : P


no u
I honestly think your flight stories are really interesting, it’s neat to see how well everyone’s lives are. I enjoy the graininess of the photos as well, it really helps with all the nostalgia that the stories about them brings.


As someone who was born just a few months before 9/11, it is interesting to see a perspective of someone who has flown before said event. Technological differences aside, how has airport security changed since then?

It’s a beautiful, beautiful airplane from the Golden Age … lots of details :arrow_down:

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Good question! As you may be able to see from the photos above, before 9/11 it was possible to walk onto the grounds of just about any small airport without raising suspicion, especially if you were obviously an aviation buff (I often had my air band scanner and my camera with me, for example). It was easy to find someone to talk to, as almost any pilot is full of stories (both true and not quite so true) that they’re eager to share with anyone who’ll listen. Small airports had fences, but as I said above, they were mainly there to keep animals (and people) from wandering onto the runway or taxiways inadvertently. It was quite common to see families bring their small children to the airport on fine weekend days to watch the airplanes and to wave at the pilots taxiing by. (A trip like that to Maryland’s Freeway Airport (W00) with my dad and my uncle when I was very small is probably what ignited the aviation bug in me, in fact!)

After 9/11, things began changing steadily: all airports were required to install security fencing that kept unauthorized personnel out, and specially-issued ID badges were required for access. A lot of viewing areas disappeared because they were too difficult to secure. We were (and are still) told to view strangers at the airport as potential security risks, making the airport a less welcoming place.

And of course, we now have the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Security Administration monitoring everyone’s compliance with all the new rules.

Has it made things safer? I suppose so, since we’ve not had a terrorist incident in the US involving an aircraft since 9/11. Has it changed aviation for the better? I’m not so sure about that – but the world IS a different place today, so it’s likely things would have changed in any case.