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Full text of "The history of the aviation field at College Park since 1918."

THfei HISTORY Up TttE AVTATIOM FIELD AT 
COLLEGE PARK SIWCE lal8 



by 
BENJAmIW MUNROE, JR. 






SPARED PUR 

i J h I M U 

EERIWG FRATERNITY 
of MA< 

January 5, 1989 



-1- 

THE HISTORI OF THE AVIATIOH FIELD AT COLLEGE FAWi SINCE 1918 

INTRODUCTION 

Less than one month before this thesis was pre- 
sented there was held at Kill Devil hill, near Kitty hawk, 
North Carolina, the celebration of the twenty-fifth anni- 
versary of the historic flight of Orville Wright in his 
crude airplane glider. The aviation leaders of the entire 
world paid homage to this pioneer of the airplane industry. 
This incident twenty-five years ago started another new 
era in human progress. 

Un December 17, 1^03 Orville Wright fie?* one hun- 
dred and twenty feet in twelve seconds and merely left the 
ground. To-day there are such records as: altitude of 
thirty-four thousand, four hundred and eighteen feet, dura- 
tion flight of sixty- five hours and twenty-five minute?, non- 
stop flight of four thousand, tw< ired and sixty- six 
miles, and speed of two hundred • - eventy-eight miles an 
hour. All these accomplishments ■■: over a period of 
twenty-five years and the greater oart of these within the 
last two years, with new record :onstantly being made. 

WAS 

Up to the toorld - -iod in the development 
of the airplane and of thi ' r ilane motor. There was no- 
thing radical in this development; it just grew. Increased 
speed, better control, increased duration of flight, better 



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inotors and planes were obtained during this period. 
Other men sucn as Curtis and Simmons entered the aviation 
game. The United States Government became interested in 
aviation in 1909, and in 1911 the Signal Corps took up the 
task of training jilots until the too rid War. 

The world war laid the foundation for modern 
aeronautics, before the war there was little demand for 
flying except for experimentation and excitement. Aviatj 

;ineers influenced by the war turned out numerous designs 
and the government contributed generously to the cause of 

tion. The development, at that time was too quick but 
served as a basis for later development, i/vhen the war was 
over the government had vast material on [ana, and the 
many companies rid factories that had sprung up were now 
on the verge of bankruptcy. As a result of this, commercial 
aviation along with research wonc began immediately after 
the war. 

The first real impetus to commercial aviation was 
that the Army Air Service and the Post Office combined and 
formed the world's first air mail route. This was begun in 
1918 and has now developed into the contract air mail system 
which has proved to be one of the greatest boons to the 
development of commercial aviation, in the last two years, 
rticularly in 1988, passenger and express tran on 



-3- 

nas r- r progressed. In 1926 the bureau or Aeronautics 
was formed under the Department of Commerce, which proved 
the commercial value of the airplane. 

Now that the development of commercial aviati 
is well under way the Department of Commerce has authorized 
the Bureau of Standards to conduct tests with radio to 
further improve flight conditions — and to combat the avia- 
tor's worst enemy, fog. In 1928 ninety-seven and three- 
quarters per cent of licensed airplanes flew without a 
fatality, and the Department of Commerce reports that the 
air mail i'lew nearly one and one -half million miles to each 
fatality. Today there are thirty-seven air mail, passenger, 
and express lines in the United States flying about forty- 
two thousand miles each day. There are more than nine 
thousand miles of airways equipped for night flying by 
nearly fifteen hundred beacons, two hundred and seventy-four 
lighted intermediate fields, and nineteen radio weather re- 
porting and communication stations. There are fifteen thou- 
sand, one hundred and twenty-eight miles oi airways compared 
to nine thousand and twenty-one miles of railways on the 
tv;enty-fif th anniversary of the railroad. For a long 
period of time there were only two principal types of air- 
planes, that is the Wright and the Curtis; now there are 
eighty-two roved types and a total of seven thousand 
planes in this country. The re fourteen hundred and 



-4- 
thirty-five airports ana eight hundred and ninety proposed 
ones. 

In this introduction I have endeavored in a 
brief way to trace the development of aviation in general, 

in this tres at try to show that the progress has been 
so Last few years that all wonder, especially 

jse Ixi _ " years hold 

in store; pment of tl 

self as weal as its use. 



-5- 

Triii AIK MAIL AT COLLEGE PARK 
The Signal Corps abandoned their instruction 
school for pilots at uollege ParK in 1912. That was the 
last time the Government used this field until August 12,1918. 
On May 15, 1918 the War Department started the first 
air mail line in the world from Potomac Park, D. C. to New 
York. Army pilots flew the mail. This was tried as an 
experiment and was su ccessful, and accordingly was trans- 
ferred to the Post uffice Department on Aug. 12, 1918. On 
that same date the first air mail post uffice in the world 

e Park, dryland. This line was 
Co//e?e TarK to 
f ]■:■>■ j New York. Mail was' transferred to and 

A 

fr-' . .nmgton by truck. 

The Post Office used College Park as it was the 
only L 'ield suitable at that time. The field at Potomac j^aric 
was very unsatisfactory because oi' landing conditions. 

The air mail service was continued at College Park 
for nearly two years, during which time they ran three to 
six model D-H 4 olanes. These planes were run by- civilian 
fliers, who in most cases were ex- war pilots. 

The Post Office ourcnased the war olanes and 

f 
builttwo hangars, a machine- shop in which all repairs were 

made, and usee the other wooden hangars that were already 

on the field. iae Post Office had a laboratory here and 



-6- 

conducted many tests and experiments such as: studying 
night flying aids as regards to landing, parachute testing, 
radio direction finding, and dropping and picking up mail. 
In the machine shop all repairs were made by their own 
mechanics. 

in most cases there were four planes stationed at 
the field at one time. One plane was used for carrying 
the mail, one for conducting radio experiments, one for a 
reserve plane in case of breakdown, i nd the other for testing 
purposes and training allots. Mr. J. C. ±jdgerton was the 
first chief of flying operations organized in the Post 
Office and also organized the Post Office radio service for 
giving out weather reports and fly ig conditions, tie was 
stationed at College Park and also flew the mail. The Wavy 
field at Philadelphia was used and the Army field at New Yor 
Their radio was used, while at College Park the Post Office 
installed their own equipment. The radio communication be- 
tween these three stations; the radio direction finding 
tests were not satisfactory, and the olanes never made use of 
the radio. 

During this period the College Park to New Yotk 
air mail route was the only one in the United States. Congress, 
trying to work on the principle of the steam ship lines and 
railroads, that is, to promote civil enterprise or in this 
case, civil commercial aeronautics id the contract air 



-7- 



mail act which provided that the private lines which sub- 
mitted the lowest bid could carry the mail. Naturally when 
this law wt ssed the ^ost Office department gave up the 
College Pa tk to New York route in the summer of 1920. "Wash- 
ington was without mail service from that time until the 
spring of 19E7 when it was put on the trans-continental route. 
The station for iiastiington was established at boiling Field. 




Fig. I: View showing the three hangars at College 
Park used by the Post Office. (The fat eel 
frame work on the right is the remains of 
one that the Post Office builtj 



-8- 

ACTIVITIES OF HiJsl BUREAU OF STANDARDS AT COLLEGE PARK. 

I. THE RADIO BEACON 

in the fall of 1986 the Bureau of Standards 
established an experiment station at College Park to do re- 
search work concerning the perfection of the radio beacon. 
The Bureau uses the right hangar shown in Fig. I, and the 
experiment station and radio tower are shown in Fig. II and 
Fig. III. The purpose of the Bureau of standards work at 
uoixege Park is to aevelop/ and test an efficient radio di- 
rection-finding beacon so that air planes may maintain ■ 
certain course under adverse weather conditions. 1'ne Air 
Commerce Act of 19^,6 was responsible for the work at College 
Park. The Aeronautical Branch of the Department of Commerce 
began a program of establishing aids to air navigation. A 
research division of the Aeronautics .branch was organized in 
the Radio Division of the Bureau of standards to undertake 
experimentation and development in this field. The work is 
still in a primitive stage, but en effective beacon has been 
developed in the past two years so that commercial use is 
being made of it, however, the Bureau is still conducting 
tests at College Park and their other field station, Beile- 
rte, Pennsylvania. 



-9- 

'i'ne early experimental work was done at Dayton, 
Ohio for the Army Air Service, but until June 22, 1926 
little was accomplished. On that date a conference was called 
"by the Bureau of Standards in order to secure information and 
advice from various organizations which nad experience bear 
upon the problem. The chief difficulty was to limit the 
apparatus that was to be carried by the plane. A simple re- 
ceiving set for information and radio beacon for course find- 
ing were the essential parts of the receiving apparatus, 'ine 
complicated equipment was on the ground. 

i'fae two field stations used by the bureau of btan- 
dards are College ParK, iviu. and Belief- A Pa. rsoth are 
ipped with radio beacons and also r i telephone and 
telegraph transmitting apparatus. These two stations serve 
as development laboratories and as model and demonstration 
stations, and in addition are available to give radio ser- 
vice to the routes on which they are located. The College 
Park station has a direction radio beacon which is equipped 
to send signals of the aural interlocking variety and also 
signals modulated at two low frequencies necessary for the 
visual indicator system that the bureau has developed. 
College Pam is also equipped with other special types of 
equipment for sending of signals for experimental our poses, 
xne whole work in the last year has been to replace the aural 



-10- 

method by a simple visu? I i thod although experiments are 
still being conducted with the aural method. The best de- 
veloped visua] indicator today is the reed type. At College 
Park experiments are being made on a station course shift 
indicator to further improve the visual indicator. The first 
successful test of the reed type visual beacon was made in 
early 1988 by a flight from New York to College Park. An 
equipped plane was given to an aviator at New York. He was 
unfamiliar with the route and was given no maps. By means 
of this beacon he landed at College Park with no difficulty. 
This distinctive beacon system at College Park was the first 
one to be set up in the world. The Bureau has one Fairchild 
plane equipped at College Park for these tests. 

The beacon stations as now developed have a radius 
of two hundred miles, and marker or location beacons are 
placed at intermediate points. Arrangements have been made 
with the Pittscairn Aviation, Inc. on its New York-Atlantic 
air mail route and with the National Air Transport Company 
on its New York-Chicago route to fully equip three airplanes 
each end to operate these airplanes on the beacons at College 
Park and Bellefonte respectively, on their routine night mail 
runs. 

Prom these facts it can be seen that commercial 
aviation is realizing the importance of the radio beacon and 
it is the results of these tests and future tests at College 



-11- 



Paric and Belief onte that will supply the need finally 
with a highly perfected beacon. 



-12- 




- II - Kadlo tower and experiment station of the 
bureau of Standards at College Park. (1'he 
antennae does not show up in this oicture.) 




*'ig. Ill- Directive radio beacon station of Bureau of 
Standards,, College Park, ^d. 



— 1 r z~ 




;. IV. Temporary beacon apparatus for modulation 
system, installed at College fk.cn., Md. 




rig. V. Airplane with vertical pole antenna installed, 



-14- 
II TESTING MOTORS 

The department of Commerce issued an order in 
March, 19S8 requiring that motors of airplanes approved by 
them should undergo certain tests. The department turned 
this work over to the Dynamometer Laboratory of the Bureau of 
Standards, The first engine was tested and witnessed at De- 
troit. The work was then done at the laboratory in washing- 
ton. The work had to be done on the outside and soon com- 
plaint was made because of the noise. In May, 1928, i 
College Park a temporary shed was set up behind the hangar in 
which is located the radio test plane of the Department of 
Commerce, bince then motors have been tested here. The 
average time for testing is one to five weeks and the capacity 
of the plant is only one engine. 

The location here is only temporary. Trie field is 
not owned by the government, their work interferes with the 
radio testing experiments at the field, and the plant is not 
large enough. On account of these conditions they plan to 
move to a new laboratory on the Arlington Experimental Farm 
Area which is owned by the government. A plant that will take 
care of three motors will be established here. They plan to 
abandon the field at College Park about the first of March. 



-15- 

AVlATlOlu COMPANIES AT COLLEGE fAhh SINCE 191b. 

henry A. Berliner established his airplane company 
at College Parjc in the esrly part of 1981. Luring the time 
at College Park he built two helicopters and two monoolanes 
(a five and. a four passenger) . In the contract from Mr. . 
Newman, Mr. Berliner nominally had the whole field, however, 
he did not use it all. One of the hangars he used as a shop. 

Mfcr. Berliner at first was interested in per- 
fecting what his father had started — the helicopter. The 
first experiments were conducted on Mr. Oorbie's estate 
near Hockville and he moved out to College Park as soon as 
he obtained a lease. The helicopter was experimentally a 
success, but not so commercially because the control was so 
difficult. Mr. Berliner built the first helicopter that 
would fly both vertically and horizontally and this was 
flown at college Park. Mr. Berliner continued his experi- 
ments from early 1921 to early 1924. i i 'rom 1924 until early 
1926 he was engaged in work at the Naval Air Station. He 
returned to College Park in early 1926 and built two planes 
as was mentioned. No more experiment's were tried with the 
helicopter. In the fall of 1926 Mr. Berliner decided that he 
wanted to go into airplane manufacturing on a larger scale, 
and as the expense of fixing up the jlant at College Park was 

1 an under " ; he left, and established a factory 
at Alexandria, Virginia. 



-lb 

Numerous tr Is for •jilots have been 

established at uoiiege Park. The B. an . Airways, 
Southern Air Lines, The A. A. 0, A., and the D. C. Air 
Legion are the schools t ave been established at 
College ParK. All these have been established in 19£8 and 
the latter two are the only ones at College Park now. 

The Three Rosenfield brothers have been at College 
Park off and on since 1918. They leased one of the ware- 
houses and built one themselves. They have bought a lot 
of war and other airplane equipment and are running a sal- 
vage market. Details of their future plans are not public. 



-17- 

Suffiiii^uiiMTARY FACTS CONCERNING THE FIELD 

ine field, at College Park for many years has 
been under two general ownerships. About one-third which 
was recently sub-divided is the wewme^ Estate, owned by 
the late Mr. Newman; the other two-thirds is known as itrupp's 
addition to College ParK, which is subdivided and owned by 
many persons. The field contains seventy-five seres. The 
leases from Mr. Newman were given in order named to Post 
Qj r'ice Department froi 1, 1918 to Jan. 1. 1982: Hem 
Berliner from Jan. 1, 1922 to Jan, 1, 1928. Mr. Berliner 
sublet from the Post Office Department through Mr. Newman 
in 1921. Un Sept. 1, 1926 the Department of Commerce filed 
their lease. Before Sept. 1, 1926 they sublet from Mr. 
Berliner, 'when the Department of Commerce took up their 
lease a verbal agreement was made with Mr. Newman that those 
who occupied the field should meet with their approval. The 
B. and m. airways took out a lease on July 15. 1928 and 
numerous training schools for pilots sublet from them as 
mentioned before. There are now at College Park four planes 
in use, a Travel Air, a Waco, and a Lincoln Page, and the 
government test plane, a Fairchild. There are three hangars 
now in use. and the field at present is in pood concr.tion. 






•18- 





- VI - ott.Tfi-1 vi pw of tViP l.pndin.' Eield 




FTg- g"TT . iiane landing at (Jolleze Park, H£L~ 




. i/i±i. Meld st Col legs Pai*I i - Plane ready to 

ta^e off. U^ote the radio tower in distance) 



-20- 



C0NCLUSI0U 

This thesis is the second part of the history of 
the aviation field at College r'ark. The war drew a dis- 
tinct line between the two parts, i have attempted in this 
thesis to points or i 

that .have occurred at College Park since 1918. Most of 
my information was obtained by personal interview wi1 

,e gentlemen co tied "ield, as little litera- 

ture could be foun . it can be seen that since the World 
V -• this has been in :nost cases 
'research field, ana that putting these two histor 

field at Coixege ir'ark has had an active 
3 ad vane Lon. 












Joseph S. Bdgerton: aeronautic writer for the Washington 

Evening Star. 



J, C. Eagerton: 



Washington, D. u. Pioneer sir mail 
aviator at College Park. 



J. H. ^cj_±inger and Haraden Pratt. Development of Radio 

Aids to Navigation. 

Bureau of standards Paper. Nov. 6, 1928. Aircraft Radio 

Beacon Development by the .bureau of 
Standards. 



J. i). Bellinger: 

T. Neil 

Henry A. Berliner 
Edgar xurner 



Radio Department. Bureau of Standards 
Washington, D. C, 

Dynamometer Laboratory. Bureau of 
Standards, Washington, D. C. 

Washington, D. C. 

shoemaker Real estate Co., Washington, DC. 



i had persona] interviews with Mr. Joseph nidgerton, 
Mr. J. U. Edgerton, Mr. T. Neil, Mr. henry A. Berliner, 
and Mr. Edgar Turner.