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.
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.