College Park Things to Do

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  • The JN-4 Jenny airmail carrier
    The JN-4 Jenny airmail carrier
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  • Emile Berliner's helicopter
    Emile Berliner's helicopter
    by Tom_Fields

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    College Park Aviation Museum

    by Tom_Fields Written Oct 24, 2008
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    The Aviation Museum here was the scene of several events in the history of flying. The Wright Brothers founded this airfield in 1909, and did much of their pioneering work here. They built a catapult system for launching airplanes, using it to develop new and improved models. A replica of their Model B airplane is on display here.

    In 1918, right after World War I, the US Post Office initiated the first airmail service here. A Curtiss JN-4 Jenny trainer made the trip. It's on display here.

    In 1924, Emile Berliner invented the first helicopter. Using the airframe of a French World War I Nieuport fighter plane, he modified the engine so that it would drive two rotors mounted on top of the wings. This gave the contraption upward thrust, instead of propelling it forward. Its performance was rather unimpressive, but it paved the way for Igor Sigorsky's invention of more advance helicopters later. Berliner's best-known invention was the gramophone (or phonograph), along with the vinyl records that soon replaced Edison's metal recording cylinders.

    Gus McLeod flew the Stearman N8NP biplane trainer (formerly designated the PT-17) over the North Pole in 2000. This was the first flight over the Pole in an open-cockpit aircraft.

    George Brinckerhoff took over this airfield in 1927, and managed it until 1959. He oversaw day-to-day operations and big events like airshows. Today, the airfield in on the National Register of Historic Places. It has several other interesting historic planes, a gift shop, and small cafe.

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    College Park Aviation Museum

    by AlbuqRay Updated Nov 17, 2007

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    Museum and Parking Lot
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    I only had a couple of hours before I had to leave for BWI on my last morning in College Park. There are many famous things to see along the Washington-Baltimore Parkway but I decided to try the local aviation museum since it was close to my hotel and the University of Maryland. That turned out to be a fortuitous decision for me. Both my mom and dad had been pilots and we owned an Ercoupe in the late 1940's and early 1950's. My dad was the Ercoupe distributor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at that time. Before I went to the College Park Aviation Museum, I had no idea that Ercoupes had been manufactured in College Park. The museum is located at the historically significant College Park Airport and is excellent on its own merits; however, it also brought back many fond memories for me personally.

    Admission is $4 for adults, $3 for seniors and $2 for kids. Your admission fee will also get you 10% off on a meal at the historic 94th Aero Squadron Restaurant. Kids will love this museum with its flight simulator, prop to spin, wind tunnel, flight jackets to wear and toy aircraft to ride. The museum is open from 10 AM to 5 PM daily except for major holidays. Parking is free. The next several tips have more detailed information on and pictures of the museum, much of which came from their excellent website.

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    Historic College Park Airport

    by AlbuqRay Updated Nov 17, 2007

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    College Park Airport Today

    The College Park Airport has remained operational since 1909 and is certified as "the world's oldest continuously operating airport." It's call letters are CGS. The airport's runway is 2600 ft long. Even though Kitty Hawk was the birthplace of powered aviation in 1903, many aviation historians consider the "cradle of aviation" to be the College Park Airport. It was established in 1909 on 160 acres near an agricultural college about 7 miles from Washington, DC. This airport is renowned as the site of many of aviation's early achievements. From the Aviation Museum website (but edited/augmented)...

    In 1909, Wilbur Wright taught Lts. Fred Humphreys and Frank Lahm to fly here. Humphreys became the first military pilot to solo in a government aeroplane. Also in 1909, it was the site where the first woman passenger flew in the United States.

    In 1911, the first military aviation school was opened at College Park, with newly trained pilots Lt. Hap Arnold, Lt. Tommy Milling and Capt. Paul Beck serving as instructors. Also in 1911, the first bomb dropping device was tested.

    In 1912, the first aeroplane machine gun was tested, Hap Arnold set altitude records, and the first enlisted man, Cpl. Frank Scott, died in an aviation accident.

    In 1913, civilian aviation began at College Park with Rex Smith, an inventor and patent attorney, who operated the Rex Smith Aeroplane Company. Paul Peck and Tony Jannus were associates of his.

    In 1918, after a 3-month trial with the War Dept., the Post Office Dept. inaugurated the first airmail service from College Park. Flights continued until 1921. The "compass rose" and original airmail hangar remain at the modern airport.

    In 1920, Emile and Henry Berliner (father and son) brought their theories of vertical flight to the field and in 1924 made the first controlled helicopter flight.

    From 1927 until 1933, the Bureau of Standards developed and tested the first radio navigational aids for use in "blind" or bad weather flying.

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    ERCO and Ercoupe Exhibit Table

    by AlbuqRay Updated Nov 16, 2007

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    ERCO and Ercoupe Exhibit Table
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    This exhibit has items about the founding of ERCO and the creation of the Ercoupe, the first tricycle aircraft. The display chronicles Fred Weick's work as an engineer for the company and the designer of the Ercoupe. The original ERCO Ercoupe had a distinctive twin-tail design and "coordinated controls," where the rudder was connected to the yoke, and yaw correction was automatic, i.e., there were no rudder pedals. The steerable nose wheel was connected directly to the yoke, so you taxied exactly like you drive your car. This design along with limited elevator travel, made the Ercoupe "characteristically incapable of spinning." Jet Assisted Take Off (JATO) was first tested in 1941 with an Ercoupe. ERCO made 112 Ercoupes in 1940-41, then ERCO/Sanders made 5028 from 1945-1952 but most of them in 1946 (4261) before the small aircraft market slumped. Between 1956 and 1970, Forney, Alon and Mooney manufactured another 657 "Aircoupes" that were variations of the original Ercoupe.

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    "Half" Ercoupe Display

    by AlbuqRay Updated Nov 16, 2007

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    This display really brought back memories. It is hard to believe that my middle brother and I used to ride in jump seats facing each other behind the two main seats where our parents were flying. I remember going to many fly-in breakfasts and other places that way. One jump seat must have been over the battery. Now I even look big compared to the whole airplane.

    Both of my parents were pilots. It was really unusual for a woman to be a pilot in those days. After WWII my dad started an Ercoupe business with Ted Law in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was called Tulairco and was located at Harvey Young Airport. My mom was the bookkeeper. However, the bottom of the Ercoupe market fell out after one year. We also lost the Ercoupe when my dad loaned it to a friend who crashlanded it in southern Oklahoma.

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    Aviation Museum - Berliner Exhibit Table

    by AlbuqRay Updated Nov 11, 2007

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    Victrola Gramophone
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    Emile Berliner was an amazing, if not well-known, inventer. He invented the gramophone (1895), the telephone transmitter (mouthpiece) and other devices. He was also interested in aviation, especially controlled vertical flight (CVF). He began working on CVF as early as 1908. His son, Henry, joined him at College Park Airfield in 1919 and took over most of the experimental operations. In 1924, the Berliner helicopter made its first flight. Later they founded the Engineering and Research Corporation (ERCO) where the Ercoupe was designed by Fred Weick.

    From the museum website...

    The centerpiece of the Berliner Exhibit is the Berliner Helicopter No. 5 on loan to the Museum from the National Air and Space Museum. In addition to detailed text panels, a monitor with film footage courtesy of the National Air and Space Museum and the UCLA film archive shows several versions of the Berliner Helicopter at College Park Airport ca. 1922-25. A nearby tabletop exhibit case details the work of father and son, from the invention of the gramophone, through their experiments with vertical flight, to the founding of ERCO.

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    Aviation Museum Deck and Grounds

    by AlbuqRay Written Nov 11, 2007

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    Airport and Playground from the Deck
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    The Aviation Museum has an outdoor deck upstairs with a view of the College Park Airport and the museum's childrens' playground. No food or drink is allowed inside the museum but you can have picnic lunch/dinner on the deck.

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    Aviation Museum - Air Derby/Brinckerhoff Exhibit

    by AlbuqRay Written Nov 11, 2007
    Air Derby/Brinckerhoff Exhibit
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    From the museum website...

    Featuring a tableau representing an air race at College Park Airport during its management by George Brinckerhoff, this exhibit encompasses several aircraft, including the Monocoupe 110. On a grandstand decorated with flag bunting and showcasing replica trophies, stands an announcer mannequin. On either side of the grandstand are a spectator mannequin and a Ford Model T (on loan from William Herndon). Nearby is a red and white checkered pylon ready to be rounded by the racing aircraft.

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    1932 Monocoupe 110

    by AlbuqRay Written Nov 11, 2007

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    1932 Monocoupe 110 (Above)
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    From the museum website...

    This sleek red airplane was popular for its speed and efficiency in the air races of the 1930s at College Park Airport. With a 145 Warner Super Scarab engine, it could reach speeds of 120-148 mph. A common sight at George Brinckerhoff's air meets, it was popular with pilots like Helen MacClosky and Pheobe Omilie.

    N12345 (serial no. 6W43) was purchased by the College Park Aviation Museum in 1997.

    Wingspan: 32 feet, 0 inches
    Length: 20 feet, 8 inches
    Empty Weight: 991 lbs.
    Gross Weight: 1,611 lbs.

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    1939 Taylorcraft BL-65

    by AlbuqRay Written Nov 11, 2007
    1939 Taylorcraft BL-65 (Below)
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    From the museum website...

    A side-by-side seating, high-wing monoplane, the Taylorcraft has been retrofitted by our restoration shop to become the museum's "Imagination Plane." Visitors to the museum are encouraged to touch, explore, and sit in the cockpit of the blue 1939 aircraft. Aspiring pilots can operate the controls to move the elevator, rudder and ailerons. One wing has been left in various stages of completion, to illustrate the process of covering a wing with fabric.

    N23624 (serial no. 1349) was donated to the College Park Aviation Museum by Francis A. Fine in 1997.

    Wingspan: 36 feet, 0 inches
    Length: 22 feet, 0 inches
    Empty Weight: 640 lbs.
    Gross Weight: 1150 lbs.
    Powerplant: 65 hp Lycoming O-145
    Maximum Speed: 102 mph
    Range: 250 miles

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    1941 Boeing A75N1/PT-17 "Stearman"

    by AlbuqRay Written Nov 11, 2007

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    Historic North Pole N8NP Stearman (Above)
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    From the museum website...

    Although the Boeing Model 75 is most commonly called the "Stearman," it has had many names. The U.S. Army Air Corps designation for the A75N1 is "PT-17." The Navy designation is "N2S." The Canadian military designation is "Kaydet." Originally designed as trainers, the outbreak of WWII accelerated demand for these two-seat biplanes, which also served as barnstormers and crop dusters. Stearmans were flown at College Park Airport during the Brinckerhoff years (1927-1964) at the air races and as stunt planes. The Stearman hanging in the museum's gallery, however, has made an extra contribution to the history of aviation.

    In April 2000, Gus McLeod flew this Stearman N8NP, in the first open-cockpit flight over the North Pole. McLeod took off from Montgomery Air Park in Gaithersburg, MD, on his 13-day record-setting journey, circled the North Pole on April 17, but was then forced to abandon his plane on an ice floe after mechanical troubles prevented him from completing the journey home. A month later, he returned to find that N8NP had drifted about 80 miles from where he had left it. With a new battery, McLeod and the airplane made it as far as Alert, Nunavut, Canada before the weather prohibited further flight. With help from the National Air and Space Museum, New York Air National Guard, U.S. Air Force, and U.S. Navy, N8NP was finally brought back to Maryland, and then to College Park Airport. Gus McLeod donated the historic Stearman to the College Park Aviation Museum after its last flight before crowds at the 2000 College Park Air Fair.

    Span: 32 feet, 2 inches
    Length: 24 feet, 10 inches
    Original power plant: 220 hp Continental R-670
    Empty Weight: 1,936 lbs
    Gross Weight: 2,717 lbs
    Maximum Speed: 124 mph
    Range: 505 miles
    *note: according to Jane's; PT-17 specifications vary from source to source

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    1936 Taylor J-2 "Cub"

    by AlbuqRay Written Nov 11, 2007

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    Yellow 1936 Taylor J-2
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    From the museum website...

    The "Cub" was a common sight at general aviation airports throughout the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and George Brinckerhoff used the planes for flight instruction here at College Park Airport for 30 years.

    It was an enormously popular civilian aircraft; more pilots learned to fly in the Cub than in any other airplane. The aircraft in the museum's main gallery was manufactured by the Taylor Aircraft Company, which was taken over by William Piper shortly after the introduction of the Cub. The Piper J-3 was substantially the same as the Taylor J-2 and continued to be nicknamed the "Cub."

    NC16769 (serial no. 771) is on loan to the College Park Aviation Museum by Tom Hillier of Escalon, California.

    Wingspan: 35 feet, 2 inches
    Length: 22 feet, 5 inches
    Empty Weight: 563 lbs.
    Gross Weight: 970 lbs.
    Powerplant: 40-hp Continental A-40
    Maximum Speed: 87 mph
    Range: 200 miles

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    1916 Curtiss JN-4D "Jenny" Military Tractor

    by AlbuqRay Written Nov 11, 2007

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    1916 Curtiss JN-4D
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    From the museum website...

    The "Jennys" were the workhorses of the U.S. Air Mail Service, although the machines flown here at College Park were the JN-4H model, as opposed to the earlier JN-4D on display in the museum.

    This aircraft was built in 1916, but its history before its discovery in pieces near San Antonio, Texas remains unclear. The U.S. Army gathered up the remaining bits and the Virginia Aviation and Machine Company, Ltd restored the biplane in the 1990s. A monumental task, this meticulous restoration took over 12,000 man-hours to complete and retained up to 60% of original Jenny parts. Some of the parts are original Curtiss Jenny parts, but not original to this particular aircraft. Parts that had to be fabricated were made in strict accord with original Curtiss factory drawings.

    On loan to the College Park Aviation Museum from the U.S. Army Center for Military History. IL1998.4

    Wing Span: 43 feet, 7 3/8 inches
    Overall Length: 27 feet, 4 inches
    Overall Height: 9 feet, 10 5/8 inches
    Net Weight Empty: 1430 lbs.
    Useful Payload: 490 lbs.
    Max. speed: 75 mph
    Min. speed: 45 mph
    Max. rate of climb: 200 fpm
    Engine: Model OX-5, Vee, Four cycle, 8 liquid cooled cylinders
    Fuel Consumption: 9 gph
    Fuel Capacity: 21 gallons
    Oil capacity Crankcase: 4 gallons

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    1912 Blériot XI Reproduction

    by AlbuqRay Written Nov 11, 2007

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    1912 Bl��riot XI Reproduction
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    From the museum website...

    Completed in 2002, this reproduction Blériot XI monoplane was built in the College Park Aviation Museum's own restoration shop. It was crafted by volunteers under the direction of restoration shop manager John Liebl, from drawings originally published by John Rozendaal in 1912.

    Designed and built by Louis Blériot, the original Blériot Type XI was the first heavier-than-air craft to be flown across the English Channel. Blériot flew the aircraft from Calais to Dover on July 25, 1909. After its plans were published in 1912, the Blériot became one of the most copied aeroplane designs. Unlike the Wright B and the Curtiss Jenny, the Blériot features a monoplane (one set of wings) configuration. By showing the viability of his one wing design, Blériot encouraged other builders to follow in his footsteps. Today's airplanes share the same basic design as Blériot's creation.

    After the National Aeroplane Company established operations at College Park Airport, it became the authorized agent for the manufacture and sale of Blériot aircraft in the Washington, DC region. In an effort to sell Blériots to the U.S. Army, the Moisant Company sent Bernetta Miller to showcase the aeroplane's capabilities to officials at the field. The Army was not convinced of the monoplane's safety, and it opted not to purchase any Blériots.

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    Aviation Museum - Things for Kids

    by AlbuqRay Updated Nov 11, 2007

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    Wright
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    Many of the exhibits in the Aviation Museum are hands-on and kid-oriented, especially in the Second Small Gallery. However, I think "big kids" would like the Wright "B" flight simulator and the propping simulator themselves. Don't forget the Peter Pan Club. It is the museum's pre-school learning club. Join them for aviation stories and activities the second and fourth Thursdays of every month. It is free with the regular museum admission, and reservations are not required. According to the website, the Peter Pan Club starts at 10:30 AM and generally lasts about an hour. They also have days especially for home schooled students.

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College Park Things to Do

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