Passing of the Torch
In 1959, George Brinckerhoff retired and his son, Jeff, took over the Brinckerhoff Flying Service. While Brinkerhoff operated out of the old Air Mail hangar, Executive Aviation Service Inc. took over the general management of the airport.
Saving the College Park Airport
In the 1960s, the airfield's condition deteriorated and it became apparent that the property owner was looking to sell it. Some were concerned the historic field would be sold for real estate development. Fred Knauer and other local aviation enthusiasts began working to "save" College Park Airport. They cleaned up the field, refurbished the hangar and operations buildings, and set about informing the public about this small airfield's significant contribution to aviation history.
In 1966, the newly formed "Save the Airport" campaign and the National Educational Memorial Center focused on creating a lasting memorial and museum at this historic field. They enlisted the help of The Early Birds (an organization of pilots who flew before World War I), and some of the airport's legendary figures: Generals Frank Lahm and Benjamin Foulois; and Henry Berliner. A major advocate was also Paul Garber, a curator of the National Air Museum (forerunner of the National Air and Space Museum). In 1919-20, Garber worked at College Park Airfield for the Air Mail Service and learned to fly here. Making appearances and proclaiming College Park Airfield as one of our nation's most important aviation historic sites, they educated the public and heightened enthusiasm for the airport.
Focused on garnering political support to keep the airport operating and in safe hands, these groups succeeded on December 1, 1973, when the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission purchased the airport to keep it as an operating airfield and preserve it as an historic site. In 1977, the airport was added to the National Register of Historic Places, officially acknowledging its significance in aviation history as the World's Oldest Continually Operating Airport.
Special Flight Restricted Zone
The September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon dramatically changed operations at College Park Airport. Like all airports across the country, all aircraft were grounded after the attacks. Due to College Park's proximity to the U.S. Capitol buildings, civilian flying remained banned for months, while military helicopters used the field regularly for training operations. Since 2002, College Park Airport has been part of a Special Flight Restricted Zone encompassing 15 nautical miles of the Washington, DC region and includes two other general aviation airports. Pilots who want to land at College Park must complete additional security screening to receive permission to use the airport. This has resulted in over a 50% decrease in take-offs and landings compared to before the attacks.
Latinas in Aviation
On Saturday, October 2, 2021, College Park Airport continued its Field of Firsts tradition by welcoming fourteen Latina Aviation professionals to the airport and museum for the Latinas in Aviation Global Festival 2021. The fly-in of four airplanes and one helicopter was the first time that Latina pilots and professionals flew into the world’s oldest continuously operating airport. The pioneer women included the first Latina captain for American Airlines and the first female captain for the Mexican airline Volaris. Latinas represented countries from around the world, such as Argentina, Columbia, Puerto Rico, Ecuador, and Mexico. To commemorate this historic event, many of the women donated an artifact relating to their aviation career to the museum’s permanent collection. The event’s goal was to inspire young women, especially young Latinas, to explore the possibilities of a career in the aviation industry.
On Saturday October 1, 2022, College Park Aviation Museum hosted the second Latinas in Aviation Global Festival, coinciding with the release of the Maryland Edition of Latinas in Aviation: Stories of Passion, Power, and Breaking into the Aviation Industry, which the museum and the Field of Firsts Foundation helped publish. Seven Latinas returned from the previous year’s festival with an additional fourteen Latinas who were featured in the new book. Continuing the tradition, nine of the women donating objects relating to their careers in aviation. Additionally, the Latinas in Aviation exhibition premiered, showcasing many of the stories and artifacts donated in 2021.