THfei HISTORY Up TttE AVTATIOM FIELD AT
COLLEGE PARK SIWCE lal8
BENJAmIW MUNROE, JR.
i J h I M U
January 5, 1989
THE HISTORI OF THE AVIATIOH FIELD AT COLLEGE FAWi SINCE 1918
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.
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
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 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
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
thirty-five airports ana eight hundred and ninety proposed
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
'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
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
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
Paric and Belief onte that will supply the need finally
with a highly perfected beacon.
- 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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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)
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
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
J. i). Bellinger:
Henry A. Berliner
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.