The Arsenal of Democracy was a memorial flight of vintage military aircraft flying unprecedentedly close to the core of Washington, DC, through airspace that is usually the most secure on the Eastern seaboard, taking place on May 8th, 2015 - the 70th anniversary of VE Day. I'd known about the plans for the Arsenal of Democracy long in advance, thanks to my fortunate connection to the flight's Air Boss, who was a crew member I know from 2012's Space Shuttle Transport missions. His insights confirmed the suspicions of many local plane spotters - that the Jefferson Memorial would be the most ideal spot to watch the historic flight.
If you can believe it, I had never been to the Jefferson Memorial until that day. When I arrived, I met with a few planespotters I know from my coverage of airline events at Dulles. A crowd had already gathered on the Jefferson's steps, awaiting the aircrafts' arrival.
It was at this point that the TBM broke off for emergency landing at DCA. We were listening to the ATC comms and our hair stood on end when we heard them repeatedly telling the tower they were on fire. It wouldn't be for several hours that we'd learn the actual cause for the cockpit smoke the crew encountered was caused by a hydraulic leak - you can, and should, watch the pilot's first-person footage of the emergency landing.
Fifi, an aviation buff favorite.
The display ended with the traditional missing man formation breakoff.
And of course, since I had never visited the Jefferson before, I had to see the inside of the monument before leaving.