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Mayor's first flight a big one


The dedication of Baltimore's new Friendship International Airport on June 24, 1950, coincided with Baltimore Mayor Thomas D'Alesandro Jr.'s first airplane ride.

Scheduled to fly to Baltimore from Washington, D.C. with President Harry S. Truman and his official party, the mayor made no attempt to hide his nervousness about being airborne.

A week earlier, D'Alesandro told reporters that flying was "strictly for the birds" and he was making the flight only because the president had asked him to.

With temperatures soaring into the high 80s by mid-morning, the expected crowd for the dedication of 150,000 was whittled down to some 10,000 because of heat and fears of massive traffic tie-ups. Baltimore's mayor gingerly approached the Independence, Truman's version of Air Force One, for the quick flight over to Baltimore.

Walking to the plane, Truman turned to the mayor and asked, "Is this really your first flight?"

"Yes," said D'Alesandro.

Calling over Maryland Gov. William Preston Lane Jr., Truman asked him to stand on one side of the mayor.

"Now, you get on one side and I'll get on the other and we'll get him on," said Truman.

Just at that moment, an honor guard with fixed bayonets approached.

"You see, we've got you surrounded," said the president.

Once aboard, a nervous D'Alesandro signed the guest book twice in a steady hand as the plane's engines roared to life and taxied down the runway.

"I looked out the window and it was just like a map down there. The ground looked just like a map," he said after the conclusion of the flight.

When the plane bounced, the mayor turned to an aide and said, "We're going to have to repave this."

When the plane landed at Friendship - the future Baltimore Washington International Airport - and rolled up to the new terminal, D'Alesandro stood in the doorway of the plane with the President and removed his hat.

During his eight-minute dedication, Truman told the crowd that he was pleased to introduce Baltimore's mayor to the age of air travel.

"I think he's going to like it," he said.

"I didn't know when we took off or when we landed," D'Alesandro told reporters. "This flying is all right."

When asked how he liked flying, he exuberantly exclaimed, "Delightful."

"Will you fly again?" he was asked.

"Of course," he replied.

D'Alesandro wasn't the only one making history that afternoon.

After blessing the new airport, Archbishop Francis P. Keough climbed aboard National Airlines' DC-6 the Star of Friendship for a two-hour flight and became the first Roman Catholic prelate of his rank in the United States to make an aerial survey of his archdiocese.

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