The Sky’s the Limit in Maryland
Just a century ago, a journey of 300 miles took days to complete. Today, thanks to swift aircraft, that same trip takes just minutes.
It’s doubtful that Orville and Wilbur Wright, the brothers who successfully flew an airplane 120 feet on December 17, 1903, had any idea what kind of impact their invention would have on society. But now, more than 100 years later, it’s hard to imagine life without airplanes and spaceships.
Though the history of the Wright Brothers is often tied to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the brothers also spent plenty of time in Maryland. In 1909, they set up an airfield to teach military pilots how to fly. Today College Park Airport is the oldest continuously operating airport in the world.
The College Park Aviation Museum at the airport is one of four Maryland sites participating in a cooperative venture called America’s Aviation Adventure. Fifteen sites in Maryland, Washington, D.C., Virginia and North Carolina worked together to create a passport program that encourages visitors to explore a variety of airports, museums and national parks. Visitors get their “passports” stamped at each site and, after visiting at least eight, earn a special pin.
A list of Maryland sites that relate to aviation and aeronautics follows. Visit www.visitmaryland.org for more information or call 800-719-5900 to order a free travel guide. For more information about America’s Aviation Adventure, visit www.americasaviationadventure.com.
A Sampling of Maryland’s Aviation & Aeronautics Sites
Airmen Memorial Museum
5211 Auth Road, Suitland, MD 20746
This museum documents the history and heritage of the United States Air Force enlisted corps. There are no airplanes on display; instead, the museum takes a humanistic approach to the development of aviation.
College Park Aviation Museum
1985 Corporal Frank Scott Drive, College Park, MD 20740
This interactive museum affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution is located on the grounds of the College Park Airport. Known as the “Cradle of Aviation,” the airport is the oldest continuously operating airport in the world. It was founded by the Wright Brothers in 1909 and has been the site of many significant “firsts” in aviation. The interactive museum traces the history of aviation from the Wright Brothers to today.
NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Visitor Center/Museum
8800 Greenbelt Road, Greenbelt, MD 20771
The visitors center is the gateway to NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center, where earth science and space science combine to reach from the core of the earth to the edge of the universe. Educational group tours are available by appointment only.
Baltimore/Washington International (BWI) Airport
BWI Airport, MD 21240
The airport’s Observation Gallery is a terrific place to spend time while waiting for a flight. Find out why airplanes fly, simulate a landing at BWI, track an airplane across the country and check weather forecasts. The gallery includes a children’s activity area with aviation-related models and plenty of windows so visitors can observe take-offs and landings.
Glenn L. Martin Maryland Aviation Museum
Martin State Airport, Middle River, MD 21220
The museum’s purpose is to preserve, promote and document aviation history in Maryland, specifically as it relates to Glenn L. Martin and the contributions of his company. Displays include historical items, industrial models of rockets and aircraft, wind tunnel models, photographs of the Glenn L. Martin Company and the people who worked there, and historic aircraft.
Maryland Science Center
601 Light Street, Baltimore, MD 21230
The science center, a favorite attraction in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, is home to the Davis Planetarium as well as a number of permanent, space-related exhibits. For example, Outer Space Place doubles as the Hubble Space Telescope National Visitor Center and includes Spacelink, an update center noted for its hands-on activities. The Crosby Ramsey Memorial Observatory, located on the science center’s roof, is the place for stargazing through telescopes.
U.S. Naval Academy
52 King George Street, Annapolis, MD 21402
Freedom 7, America’s first space capsule, is on display at the Naval Academy’s Armel-Leftwich Visitor Center. Naval Academy graduate Alan B. Shepard (Class of 1945) flew Freedom 7 into space in 1961, making him the first American to escape the confines of Earth’s atmosphere. (And only the second human being to do so – a Soviet cosmonaut named Yuri Gagarin beat him by a few weeks.)
Patuxent River Naval Air Museum
22156 Three Notch Road, Lexington Park, MD 20653
This official Navy museum is dedicated to aviation research, development, testing and evaluation. Interior displays include exhibits on G-forces, ejection seats, helmets and propulsion. The outside display includes a large collection of Naval aircraft.
Frostburg State University Planetarium
Tawes Hall, Frostburg State University, Frostburg, MD 21532
The planetarium’s presentations run for about an hour on Sunday afternoons and evenings and include a look at the current evening sky, a special monthly topic, and a movie or DVD. Open September to May only.
Hagerstown Aviation Museum
101 W. Washington Street
Hagerstown, MD 21740
Dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the region’s 75 years of aviation history, the museum has more than 1900 square feet of walk-through exhibits and interactive hands-on displays. Exhibits include photographs, artifacts, aircraft propellers engines, wings and an interactive cockpit display.
William M. Brish Planetarium
8230 Commonwealth Avenue, Hagerstown, MD 21740
This planetarium, operated by the Washington County public school system, features 63 seats under a 30-foot dome. Programs change, so call ahead for details.