College Park Airport

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College Park, MD airport: two views from the air. These photos were probably taken in the early 1930’s, during Chet’s Langley Day heyday. They well have been taken out of Chet’s airplane. The airport is oriented differently today than then; the main field is a “NW-SE” which has been rotated from the original shown below. The N-S field shown above, paralleling the B&O Railroad, is gone.

airmail

Chet takes part in “Air Mail Week.” On 19 May 1938 Chet actually transported air mail from College Park Airport to Baltimore, MD. He had his mother Minnie mail herself a letter which came back to her from Baltimore after Chet’s delivery (envelope shown at the right.) The commemorative envelope even then shows the aiport’s heritage as the “first Federal airport” in 1909 and the first airport out of which air mail was flown in 1918. At the time College Park was nearly thirty years old, only six years younger than the first flight at Kitty Hawk.

Even without Chet’s help, College Park Airport is a historical site. It is the oldest continuing operating airport in the world, having been started in 1909 by the Wright Brothers themselves to train military pilots. In 1920 Emile and Henry Berliner made the world’s first controlled helicopter flight here. On 20 March 1933 James L. Kinney made the first “blind” (fully instrumented) landing in a flight through mostly fog from College Park to Newark, NJ.

For Chet College Park was the site of the biggest air competitions he directed, including the 1933 and 1934 Langley Day shows and the 1934 Women’s Air Meet. As the decade wore on it became his “home port,” scene of meeting of organisations such as the Quiet Birdmen and either a jumping off point or a stopover for many “fly-ins” and cruises to all parts of North America.

Today it is on the National Register of Historical Places and since 1998 the home of an aviation museum. Its status as an active airport is threatened by the “security issues” arising after 11 September 2001 (never mind the plane that rammed into the Pentagon came from Dulles, and nobody talks about closing that!) Such a closure would be a tragedy, as it is an important link into the history of American aviation.