Charter Flight 5700 hardly needed a pilot today. It could have floated from Los Angeles to Washington on the wings of 177 high-spirited Redskins fans.
"We're number one! We're number one!" shouted the Super Bowl returnees, who had swapped their old burgundy and gold T-shirts for new attire celebrating the weekend's victory: "Redskins 27-Dolphins 17," they boasted in bold print.
This contingent of Redskin faithful paid at least $798 each to an Ann Arbor, Mich., tour operator for the five-day, four-night junket to the West Coast. But no one seemed to mind the cost or the money they had spent over the weekend in Southern California.
Fairfax dentist Joe Bosco, who took his son Gary, 20, said he had spent close to $2,000 on the trip. But he concluded that "It was worth every bit of it. I wanted to be there when they won the first time."
"There's nothing like winning," exclaimed Jack Pixley, president of a Reston government consulting firm who took his wife Peggy and son John to the Super Bowl. Miami Coach Don Shula was right, he concluded: "The Redskins are the best."
One United Airlines stewardess, in as easy a setup as can be imagined, informed the fans that the DC-10's entertainment channel wasn't working and asked if anyone knew a song.
"Hail to the Redskins, hail victory . . . ," the crowd belted out on cue.
Bob Canter, in between the cheers he led in the plane's smoking section, proclaimed the airline menu for the day: "No-name salad," "diced Woodley," "steak dolphin," and, for dessert, "smashed Shula."
And the fans, whose faith had never wavered even when skeptics scoffed at the Redskins' chances in Super Bowl XVII, relished victory over more than just the Miami team.
"Jimmy the Greek said Miami by 3," one fan reminded this legion of zealots.
"He's a turkey," another declared.
Many of the passengers quieted as the 4 1/2-hour flight progressed, but only a few slept. Most devoured every repetitive newspaper story they could find to read about their Sunday heroes.
"I can't get enough of it," said Gordon Wood, an 18-year-old freshman at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va. "I'm reading every article."
"To see how many ways they can say the same thing," chimed in Jim Tuchler, 17, of Silver Spring.
Rose Marie Canter of Davidsonville, Md., a secretary for her insurance man-husband Bob, declared the trip "one big carnival."
"It was worth every single moment," said David Meyers, board chairman of Timesaver, a credit card distribution company. "What made it more exciting was that we didn't take a lead until 10 minutes to play."
"Fabulous," rasped a hoarse Doris Kinder, who this weekend sported an apparently endless wardrobe of burgundy and gold outfits.
Retired D.C. fire chief Jefferson W. Lewis said he failed to sell two Super Bowl tickets with a face value of $80. "Since they won, it didn't matter," he said. "The [Washington] metro area needed this boost. All factions can come together for the Redskins."
Ron Saxby, a postal inspector, said that, "As far as events go, I can't think of anything I have gone to that I have enjoyed more."
Saxby, who regularly video tapes Redskins games and watches the replays while waiting for the following week's game, said emphatically, "I'd do it again in a minute."
As the plane landed at 6 p.m. at Dulles International Airport, the revelers broke into a few last choruses of "Hail to the Redskins" and as the large jet's wheels touched down, Canter announced the landing:
"Welcome to Titletown."