Historic College Park Airport
The College Park Airport in Maryland holds a significant place in aviation history, being recognized as the world’s oldest continuously operating airport. Established in 1909, its roots are deeply intertwined with the pioneering efforts of the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, who sought a location to demonstrate their flying machine to the U.S. Army.
The airport’s initial purpose was to serve as a training location for two military officers, Lieutenants Frank P. Lahm and Frederic E. Humphreys, who would become the first pilots trained by the Wright brothers. This marked a pivotal moment in the intersection of aviation and military history.
Over the years, College Park Airport became a hub for numerous aviation firsts. It witnessed the first mile-high flight by a powered aircraft in 1912, piloted by Henry H. Arnold who later became a five-star general in the U.S. Air Force. The airport was also instrumental in the development of instrument flying and airmail service. In 1911, it was the site of the first Army aviation school and saw the first use of an aircraft for the delivery of mail in 1918.
During World War I, the airport’s significance grew as it was used for training and experimentation. Post-war, while many early airports ceased operations, College Park continued to thrive, adapting to changes in aviation technology and the growing importance of civil aviation.
In 1977, the airport was added to the National Register of Historic Places, a testament to its historical significance. Today, it operates as a public airport, housing a museum that showcases its rich history and contributions to aviation. College Park Airport is not just a relic of the past but a living monument, continuously serving the aviation community and preserving its legacy as a cradle of American aviation history.