Arlington, VA

Nilah Williamson, the Yorktown High School senior who was recently featured on Good Morning America for pursuing a pilot’s license before a driver’s license, will be attending the U.S. Naval Academy next fall.

Williamson said she wants to major in chemistry, a field that she is passionate about. After four years in labs, however, she plans to go to flight school, returning to the cockpit and trading in her goggles for a pilot’s uniform.

The teen said she hopes the pilot’s license that she is pursuing will give her a leg up in flight school.

You compete for a slot at flight school and you compete for an aircraft,” she said. “You have to be at the top of your class.” 

After passing her written test this September, Williamson started flight practice. She needs at least 40 hours of flight time, culminating in a cross-country flight, to earn her license.

“I wanted to use this time to actually do something and achieve a goal I have for myself,” said Williamson, who moved to Arlington with her family two summers ago.

After enrolling in Arlington Public Schools, she took aviation as an elective at the Arlington Career Center, which she credits with helping her get on-track toward her license. This spring, she plans to use Yorktown’s three-week senior experience — when students can pursue internships and career opportunities — to finish the bulk of her needed hours at the Navy Annapolis Flight Center.

Williamson said learning from home has helped her juggle practicing flying and driving — she still has yet to get her driver’s license — as well as school and her weekend job.

“I enjoy virtual learning so much,” she said. “I don’t really think I would’ve been this successful this school year without it being this way.”

She said this year has also given her time to reflect on her future.

“The pandemic made me realize I wanted to serve my country even more,” she said. “With all the events that happened I worked hard to see the good despite all the bad happening, that made me see that this country was worth fighting for.”

She said she is paying closer attention to current events in other countries, and feels more inspired to join the Marine Corps, whose mission is “to help people who can’t help themselves.”

Ultimately, Williamson said she wants to be a pilot in the Marine Corps, which blends her love for flying with the admiration she has long held for the women of the Marines.

“Seeing female Marines growing up, they were my super heroes — my Wonder Woman and Supergirl,” she said. “That’s what I’ve been striving for. That’s why I think I would strive there.”

Williamson has many family members who served or still serve in the military. Her father, Col. Ahmed Williamson, is an active-duty Marine, and she has cousins who were pilots in the Air Force and the Marines.

“Those values are embedded into who I am,” she said. 

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Patrick Moran, a 1990 Yorktown High School graduate, is reaching astronomical heights in his career.

Moran is one of two new pilots appointed by Virgin Galactic into its Pilot Corps on Oct. 27. He joined Jameel Janjua as one of eight pilots in the space flight program.

Virgin Galactic bills itself as “the world’s first commercial spaceline and vertically integrated aerospace company,” according to the company’s website.

A former fighter pilot, Moran will be part of the preparation for commercial service in a test pilot capacity. He and the Pilot Corps will eventually transition to being spaceship pilots, responsible for the commercial flying of passengers.

Moran and Janjua will train to fly SpaceShipTwo, what the company’s site refers to as “the world’s first passenger carrying spaceship to be built by a private company and operated in commercial service.” Moran will also be assigned other responsibilities while based at Spaceport America, New Mexico.

“I am excited to join this fantastic team of talented pioneers leading the charge for commercial space travel and now in the final stages of its flight test program,” the Arlington native said in a press release.

“As a flight instructor, I loved to take people flying in the F/A-18 for the first time, to see their huge smiles as they climbed out of the cockpit. I can’t wait to share the experience of going to space with our Future Astronauts and to see their reactions as they step out of the spaceship and describe their views of Earth from space.”

A 1995 graduate of the University of Virginia’s engineering school, Moran served as a pilot in the Marine Corps for 20 years before retiring in 2015 as a lieutenant colonel. He served in multiple roles while in the Marine Corps, including as a test pilot and test pilot school instructor, and also served as the lead government test pilot for Navy and Marine Corps variants of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Moran currently lives in Henrico, Virgina, with his wife and son.

Photo (above) via NASA on Unsplash, (below) via Virgin Galactic

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If it looks, feels and smells like California during wildfire season outside — there’s a good explanation for why.

Amid sunny, warming weather, the air in Arlington has turned hazy with a distinct campfire smell. The smoke is coming from a controlled burn near Marine Corps Base Quantico, blown by prevailing winds over Arlington, D.C. and Fairfax County, among other D.C. area locales.

“The burn is expected to last 2 days,” noted Arlington County Police.

There have been reports of smoky conditions in both the southern and northern portions of the county.

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Morning Notes

Suspect and Murdered Wife Both Marines — “A woman found dead in [an Arlington] hotel room on Saturday and the man arrested in connection with her murder are both U.S. Marines… The two were seen earlier in the evening at the Marriott while attending their unit’s military ball to commemorate the Marine Corps’ 243rd birthday.” [Newsweek, Task and Purpose]

Arlingtonian Named ABC 7’s Hero of the Week — “In his dedication to the community, Aaron Codispoti switches gears constantly — in the truest sense of the word. He manages a team of more than a thousand people within the State Department, volunteers as an auxiliary police officer with Arlington County — often on bike patrol — and organizes blood drives twice a year.” [WJLA]

Crafthouse Going National — Ballston restaurant Crafthouse is taking its craft beer and elevated pub food formula national. The company, which also has locations in Fairfax and Reston, is preparing for rapid expansion via franchising. [Reston Now]

Local Entrepreneurs Mostly Looking Forward to Amazon — Though Amazon’s anticipated arrival in Crystal City could come with rent and hiring challenges, local entrepreneurs are mostly looking forward to the excitement and amenities the tech giant will bring to the area. [Forbes]

Amazon May Make Defense Hiring Harder — “If Amazon.com Inc. puts part of its second headquarters in Crystal City — as signs are pointing to this week — it could make defense hiring in the region even more competitive. The Seattle-based e-commerce and cloud computing company is already pursuing new deals in the defense and intelligence sectors, industry execs tell The Wall Street Journal, and an expanded presence in Greater Washington — home to thousands of government contractors — would put a strain on a market stretched by a dearth of workers holding proper security clearances.” [Washington Business Journal]

Police Looking for Driver Who Brandished Gun — Arlington County Police are investigating a road rage incident along Columbia Pike in which one driver “pulled over, exited his vehicle, and following a verbal dispute, allegedly brandished a firearm and threatened the other driver.” [Arlington County]

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Update at 2:45 p.m. — The base’s public affairs office released the following statement Wednesday.

The Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Feb. 27 incident where 11 personnel began feeling ill after a letter was opened on the Marine Corps side of the base remains under investigation.

NCIS and the FBI are conducting the joint investigation.

The three Marines who were transported for additional medical evaluations were released from the hospital at approximately 10 p.m. last night.

This office will continue to provide updates as they become available.

Earlier: Firefighters, paramedics and law enforcement responded to Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall Tuesday afternoon for a hazmat situation involving an unknown substance that was mailed to the base.

Firefighters were first called to Henderson Hall, the headquarters of the U.S. Marine Corps, just after 4:30 p.m. for a hazmat incident. Ft. Myer, Arlington County and Alexandria firefighters and hazmat units were dispatched to the scene, as was an “EMS task force” that is usually dispatched to mass casualty incidents.

Initial reports suggest that a certified letter was opened in one of the buildings and that it contained some sort of potentially hazardous substance, prompting an evacuation of the building and the deployment of an emergency decontamination station.

Eleven people were treated for symptoms and three were transported to the hospital in stable condition, according to the Arlington County Fire Department. Symptoms included a nose bleed and a burning sensation, according to initial reports.

A Marine Corps official released a statement saying that the victims were Marines.

“An envelope containing an unknown substance was received, today, aboard Joint Base Ft. Myer-Henderson Hall,” the statement said. “Personnel in the affected building took immediate preventative measures by evacuating the building. Base officials are coordinating with local hazmat teams and the FBI. Several Marines are receiving medical care as a result of this incident.”

Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) said via Twitter that he is “closely following the situation.”

With the help of the local hazmat teams “the building was screened and cleared, and the letter was removed,” the Marine Corps said late Tuesday. The FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) are now conducting a joint investigation.

National news media, including major television networks, gathered outside of the base in Arlington’s Foxcroft Heights neighborhood to report on the story. A press conference to be held outside the base was later cancelled. No reason was given for the cancellation.

During the incident police closed off the road near the entrance to Henderson Hall, at the intersection of S. Orme Street and Southgate Road.

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Morning Notes

Frozen daffodil buds in the snow (Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak)

Arlington Sports Hall of Fame Seeks Permanent Venue — There is an Arlington Sports Hall of Fame, but it does not have a permanent home. Boosters are seeking to change that, discussing a possible display in Arlington Central Library. [InsideNova]

Local Man Graduates Parris Island With Honors — Arlington native Allen M. Gibbs has graduated from Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island with honors. [Beaufort Gazette]

Police, Fire Departments Hold Book Drive — Starting Wednesday and running through April 30, Arlington police and firefighters will be holding a “For the Love of Reading” book drive, collecting specific books for elementary school students at Arlington Public Schools. Donation boxes are located at police headquarters in Courthouse and at local fire stations. [Arlington County]

Avalon Bay Donates to APAH — Arlington-based apartment, publicly traded building owner AvalonBay has made a $35,000 donation to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing. The company has raised $85,000 for APAH since 2015. [Yahoo Finance]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

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Morning Notes

Lightning over D.C., as seen from Arlington (Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber)

Car on Fire Spotted Driving Down Street — Yesterday evening, an Arlington County Fire Department unit radioed dispatch to report that they had just seen a car with flames visible from the engine compartment drive past them on Carlin Springs Road, its driver oblivious to the fire. The fire engine was able to turn around, catch up with the driver near the intersection of Wilson and Glebe, pull the car over and extinguish the flames. [Twitter, Twitter]

Wrong Man on Iwo Jima Memorial? — The Marine Corps is investigating claims that a Navy corpsman identified as one of the men who raised the flag in a moment depicted by Arlington’s Iwo Jima Memorial was not, in fact, in the original photo. [USA Today, Associated Press, New York Times]

USS Arlington Returns Home — The sailors and Marines aboard the USS Arlington have returned to Norfolk after a seven-month overseas deployment assisting in the fight against ISIS. [Marine Corps Times, WAVY]

Former Top Federal IT Official Dies — Greg Ambrose, who had served in senior information technology posts at the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, State and Veterans Affairs, died early Tuesday morning. Ambrose took his own life at a Rosslyn condominium after posting on Facebook about a woman who had left him for another man. [FCW, Twitter]

Arlington, Virginia Tech Join ‘Smart City’ Network — “Virginia Tech and Arlington County have been accepted into the MetroLab Network of 35 city/county-university partnerships that works to bring data, analytics and innovation to local government.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber

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Morning Notes

Iwo Jima memorial at sunset (Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk)

Another Roll-Over Crash on I-66 — Last night, around 3 a.m., an SUV that was being chased by police overturned after exiting I-66 at East Falls Church. At the same time, another roll-over crash happened on the Fairfax Drive ramp to westbound I-66. A vehicle flipped over as a result of a crash involving it and another vehicle. [WTOP]

Planned Power Outage at Courthouse Plaza — Businesses and elevators at the Courthouse Plaza shopping center will be without power from 3 a.m. to noon Saturday as part of scheduled electrical work. Among the businesses affected will be the AMC movie theater and the Starbucks. [Twitter, Twitter]

Retired Arlington Marine Dies at 103 — A retired Marine who lost his arm in a shipboard explosion in 1937 has died at the age of 103. Pvt. Clyde Byrd died at Virginia Hospital Center following a heart attack. A police and motorcycle club-escorted funeral procession brought Byrd to his final resting place at Quantico National Cemetery in Triangle, Va. [InsideNova]

Last Weekend for Synetic Show — This weekend is your last chance to see a reimagined version of Shakespeare’s As You Like It performed at Synetic Theatre in Crystal City. [Washingtonian, Synetic Theatre]

Flickr pool photo by TheBeltWalk

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Morning Notes

Waiting for the bus in Buckingham (Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick)

Transport Panel Approves of I-66 HOT Lanes — The Commonwealth Transportation Board voted yesterday to approve the creation of high occupancy toll lanes on I-66 inside the Beltway. It’s estimated that by 2040, almost twice as many users of eastbound I-66 inside the Beltway will be headed to Arlington compared to those heading to D.C. Meanwhile, two Democratic state lawmakers from Fairfax and Loudoun counties want to force the state to start planning to widen I-66 sooner rather than later. [Washington Post, InsideNova]

County Responds to I-395 HOT Lane Plan — Arlington officials say they hope to reach a “mutually beneficial outcome” to a state proposal to extend the I-395 Express lanes north to the D.C. line. The proposal calls for expanding the HOV lanes from two to three lanes while converting them to high occupancy toll lanes. The County says any proposal should “not undermine Arlington’s successful investment in congestion-reducing transit-oriented development in Pentagon City, Crystal City, or Shirlington.” [Arlington County]

APS Wants Historic Designation for Stratford on Its Terms — Arlington Public Schools says it will pursue a local historic designation for the Stratford building, current home to H-B Woodlawn and a future neighborhood middle school. However, APS wants to cut the Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board out of the process, to ensure the middle school project can move forward without delays. [Arlington Public Schools, InsideNova]

Marine Corps Treats Students to Holiday Celebration — The Marine Corps treated students at Barcroft Elementary to a special Christmas celebration at Henderson Hall on Monday. Students were greeted by Marines, participated in various holiday-themed arts and crafts and got a chance to talk with Santa himself. [DIVIDS]

WERA Now Broadcasting — As of Monday, Arlington’s own low-power radio station, WERA 96.7 FM, was on the air and broadcasting for the community. The station is still looking for volunteers to help with programming. [Twitter, WERA]

Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Marine Corps War Memorial near Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber)

Marine Corps Birthday — Its the Marine Corps’ 240th birthday today. On Thursday, the Corps’ birthday will be celebrated by hundreds of Marines participating in a group run from the Pentagon to the Marine Corps War Memorial, prompting rolling closures on Route 110 between 10 and 11 a.m. [AL.com]

Owner Not Worried About Vacant Rosslyn Office Tower — Monday Properties, the owner of the 1812 N. Moore Street office tower in Rosslyn (and an ARLnow.com advertiser), says they’re not worried that the two-year-old building is still vacant. Monday CEO Anthony Westreich says the company and lender Goldman Sachs are “confident” about the future of Rosslyn and patient as they search for a large anchor tenant. [Bisnow]

School Board Argues H-B Woodlawn Cost — Some Arlington School Board members are worried that a $100 million proposal for a new building in Rosslyn for the H-B Woodlawn Secondary Program would be a budget buster. Superintendent Patrick Murphy has proposed options for bringing down the cost to $85 million, but other School Board members are arguing that such a proposal sacrifices long term good for short term savings. [InsideNova]

Human Rights Award Winners — Arlington County has announced the winners of its  2015 James B. Hunter Human Rights Award. The winners are: immigrant advocate Leni Gonzalez, Catholic charity Hogar Immigrant Services, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church and the Nauck Civic Association. [Arlington County]

Maureen O’Hara Buried at ANC — Actress Maureen O’Hara was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on Monday. O’Hara, who died last month at the age of 95, was laid to rest alongside her husband, an Air Force brigadier general. [WTOP]

Winter Weather Forecast — NBC 4 chief meteorologist Doug Kammerer says Arlington and D.C. should expect 20-25 inches of snow this winter. Kammerer predicts that December will be unseasonably warm, while January and especially February will be colder than average, with a large snow storm expected in February. [NBC Washington]

Flickr pool photo by Joseph Gruber

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