The College Park Aviation Museum is home to old and reproduction aircraft associated with the history of the College Park Airport (IATA: CGS, ICAO: KCGS, FAA LID: CGS). This airport was established in 1909 by the United States Army Signal Corps to serve as a location where Wilbur Wright could train two military officers to fly in the government’s first aeroplane. Today, it is the world´s oldest continuously operated airport. It is still open and active and has one runway. Runway 15/33: 2,607 by 60 feet (795 m × 18 m). The surface is asphalt.
The College Park Aviation Museum opened to the public in 1981, and moved to its current museum building in 1998. It is an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution.
Among other things, the College Park Aviation Museum displays a replica of the original 1909 College Park Airport hangar. There are also exhibitions that include artefacts connected to the aviators, aircraft builders and aeroplanes that have been active at this airport since the early 1900s. The museum library and archives hold materials regarding the airport´s history, but also more general early aviation history, especially as it pertains to Maryland.
Aircraft on display
- Berliner Helicopter No. 5
- Boeing-Stearman Model 75
- Curtiss JN-4D
- ERCO 415D Ercoupe
- Monocoupe 110
- Taylor J-2
- Taylorcraft BL-65
- Blériot XI (replica)
- Curtiss Model D (replica)
- Wright Model B (replica)
College Park Airport – the oldest continuously operated airport in the world
College Park Aiport was established by the United States Army Signal Corps in August 1909 and its history is rich in “aviation firsts”. In 1977, the airport was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
Training ground for the U.S. governments first aeroplane
When the College Park Airport was established by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in August 1909, it was because they needed a suitable training ground where Wilbur Wright could train two military officers to fly in the U.S. government´s first aeroplane. On October 7, a Wright Type A biplane was uncrated and assembled here, and soon, Wilbur Wright was teaching Lt. Frederic Humphreys and Lt. Frank Lahm how to fly it.
The first military pilot to solo in a government aeroplane
The aforementioned Lt. Frederic Humphreys was the first military pilot to solo in a government aeroplane.
The first woman to fly in a powered aircraft in the United States
On October 27, 1909, Wilbur Wright had a female passenger in his plane: Mrs Ralph Henry Van Deman. She thus became the first woman to fly in a powered aircraft in the United States.
The world´s oldest continuously operated airport
Civilian aircraft began flying from College Park Airport in December 1911.
The first military aviation school in the United States
The first military aviation school in the United States was opened at College Park in 1911. The three first instructors were all newly trained pilots: Lt. Henry H. Arnold and Lt. Thomas DeWitt Milling were the Wright pilot instructors and Capt. Paul W. Beck was the Curtiss pilot instructor.
First United States enlisted man to die in a military aircraft
Frank S. Scott (2 December 1883 – 28 September 1912) was a United States Army corporal who died during his second enlistment, aged 28, in an aircraft crash at College Park airfield. The road to the College Park Airport is named in honour of him.
The pilot of the aircraft was Second Lieutenant Lewis Rockwell. When he attempted to land, the plane began to dive. Rockwell stopped the plane´s 30-horsepower engine within 30 feet of the ground, and the plane subsequently crashed. Over 300 people witnessed the crash. Scott died at the scene, while Rockwell died at Walter Reed General Hospital that same day, never having regained consciousness after the crash. The investigatory board determined that pilot error had caused the crash. Rockwell had misjudged the plane´s altitude during the descent and was unable to recover from the dive.
First woman to demonstrate a flight in a military aircraft
On October 7, 1912, Bernetta Adams Miller became the first woman to demonstrate a flight in a military aircraft, an event which took place at the College Park airfield. She was a licensed pilot who worked as a plane demonstrator for the Moisant company, demonstrating Blériot monoplanes.
Later, Miller herself would write about how she was selected to demonstrate the Blérot monoplane to the U.S. Army at College Park.
“Of course, I had no illusions as to why I was sent to College Park to demonstrate the monoplane to the U.S. government officials who were exclusively devoted to the idea of the biplane. … The Moisant apparently calculated that I could overcome some of the fears others might have of the monoplane. I suppose that this was on the basis of the idea that if a mere woman could learn to fly one, so surely could a man.”
Miller insisted on being the pilot for the demonstration despite the recent deaths of Cpl. Scott and Lt. Rockwell at College Park. In a special edition published in 2012 (a century after the flight), the New York Times quoted Miller saying: “I am not here to do fancy flying, but simply to show the people of Washington that the monoplane is a better machine than the biplane. I will not fly until after the funeral of the two men who were killed. I think it would be disrespectful. My ambition is to become a great cross-country flier. I am not flying to achieve fame as a fancy flier or an exhibition flier, but to show women that the aeroplane is practical when it is asked to do only what it is physically possible to do.”
The first U.S. Postal Airmail Service
In 1918, the Post Office Department inaugurated its first Postal Airmail Service from College Park. It served Philadelphia and Belmont Park (very close to New York City).
The compass rose and original airmail hangar from this era is still present at College Park Airport, and if we look at the airport codes for this airport (IATA: CGS, ICAO: KCGS, FAA LID: CGS) they also reflect the airport´s purpose as an airmail station, since CGS = ColleGe Station.
In 1927-1933, the Bureau of Standards used the College Park airfield to develop and test the first radio navigational aid for use in “blind” or bad weather flying.