Aerodrome A

From Inventing aviation
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Aerodrome A falls into the Potomac on 7 October 1903

Aerodrome A (a.k.a. the Great Aerodrome) was the magnum opus of Samuel P. Langley, inventor and secretary of the Smithsonian, and his assistant Charles Manly.

Development began in 1898 with a grant of $50,000 from the Bureau of Ordnance and Fortification, U.S. War Department. The Spanish-American war was just getting underway, and this was the first U.S. military grant for heaver-than-air flight.[1]

The aerodrome featured a 50-horsepower motor fueled by gasoline.

A test on 7 October 1903, with only Manly in attendance, failed due a small mechanical glitch at the last minute. The next test took place on 8 December 1903 from a houseboat on the Potomac River near Arsenal Point, with Langley present and Manly piloting. It broke apart during the takeoff and fell into the river.[2]

Glenn Curtiss in 1914 flew this same aircraft for some short hops using the same engine and slight structural changes.[3]


  1. Hallion, 2003, p. 150.
  2. Hallion, 2003, pp. 152–155.
  3. Black, 1943, pp. 51–52.