Pilots at the College Park Airport, 1912. Photo from Library of Congress.

Maryland’s Aviation History and Achievements

04/26/2017
By Waxter Intern

While North Carolina and Ohio battle it out on their licence plates for aviation accolades, Maryland is home to its own unique set of aeronautic firsts! Did you know Maryland was home to the first helicopter flight, the flight of the first government-owned airplane, and the first airmail route, just to name a few. Here are some museums where you can learn even more:

COLLEGE PARK AVIATION MUSEUM

College Park, Prince George’s County

Opened in 1909, the facility at the College Park Airport, it is the oldest continually operating airport in the world. Crowds flowed in to witness test flights of the Wright flying machine in Fort Myer, Virginia, but following a severe crash, officers worried that they site was unsafe for pilots and visitors, alike. They soon selected this new piece of land adjacent to the University of Maryland, which was large enough for safe instruction. After purchasing a Wright airplane and hiring Wilbur Wright himself as the instructor, the Army was ready to train the first military pilots. It has been said that records were broken daily at the airfield, given the quality of innovation and engineering that it fostered. The Airport is currently owned by Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and was added to the National Register in 1977, while the adjacent College Park Aviation Museum built in 1998 interprets the history of the airfield.

Take Flight with Preservation Maryland! You’re invited to the College Park Aviation Museum for the Best of Maryland Awards on May 11, 2017 in the main auditorium of the Museum among the airplanes. Find out more at: bestofmaryland.org.


Planes over the Patuxent River. Photo from Naval Air Systems Command.

PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR MUSEUM

Lexington Park, St. Mary’s County

In 1937, the Navy was looking to consolidate their test flight centers to one location, and they chose a peninsula between the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, a remote location far from other air traffic. During construction of the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, people flocked to the area for work – at the height of construction the project employed 7,000 workers and today, naval aviation research remains the largest employer in St. Mary’s County.

To preserve and interpret this military aviation history, the Patuxent River Naval Air Museum opened its doors in 1978. Its exhibits center on the development and testing of aircraft, with an emphasis on the history and community impact of naval aviation in St. Mary’s County. Furthering their contribution to the community, the Museum also houses the St. Mary’s County Visitors Center.


A Martin Company family in their FSA trailer, 1943. Photo from Library of Congress.

GLENN L. MARTIN MARYLAND AVIATION MUSEUM

Middle River, Baltimore County

The Glenn L. Martin Aviation Museum in Middle River is named after, Glenn Martin, who convinced local residents of the economic viability of aviation and moved his aeronautics company from California to Middle River in 1925. Soon after, the Martin Company supplied planes to the military during World War I and II, and at its height employed 53,000 people. Workers attracted by steady, reliable work at the factory arrived in such large quantities that several housing developments were established, including a project sponsored by the Farm Service Administration as part of the New Deal. Success continued, and the Martin Company merged with Lockheed in 1995, to become Lockheed Martin, the world’s largest defense contractor – based in Bethesda.

The Martin Museum features 15 military aircraft and exhibits on the history of aviation in Maryland, with a spotlight on Martin and his company. It recently began to offer a variety of programs to spark the younger generation’s interest in aircrafts and engineering, including an internship program and a partnership with the local Air Force Junior ROTC program.


HAGERSTOWN AVIATION MUSEUM

Hagerstown, Washington County

For nearly 70 years Hagerstown was home to several aircraft manufacturing companies that built planes for the war effort and continued constructing military aircraft long after World War II had ended. Fairchild Aircraft, Custer Channel Wing Corporation, Kreider-Reisner Aircraft Company, and the Maryland Pressed Steel Company among others were, big names in the Hagerstown aviation industry. The Hagerstown Regional Airport, opened in 1928 by Fairchild Aircraft, still operates today, with frequent flights to Baltimore, Pittsburgh, and Orlando.

The Hagerstown Aviation Museum, which recently celebrated 100 years of aviation in Hagerstown, records the local history of aircraft manufacture. Their collection currently includes a late Kreider-Reisner plane, and seven Fairchild planes, including the popular Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar, so called because of its large cargo capacity. It is an archive for aeronautical artifacts and memorabilia from the area and actively seeks out, restores, and maintains aircrafts related to Hagerstown’s aviation legacy.

This post was written by Maggie Pelta-Pauls, a Waxter Intern with Preservation Maryland. A graduate of The College of William and Maryland, Maggie is primed to research and write about Maryland history – especially culinary history. Learn more about Maggie and our The Waxter Memorial Internship program here: presmd.org/waxter.

Waxter Intern

A legacy gift from William D. Waxter, III established the Waxter Memorial Internship to help Preservation Maryland support the next generation in historic preservation.

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