Was the First Successful Airplane Tested at Chopawamsic Island, Virginia?

Samuel P. Langley, head of the Smithsonian, launched heavier-than-air aerodromes from a houseboat next to Chopawamsic Island until giving up in 1903
Samuel P. Langley, head of the Smithsonian, launched heavier-than-air aerodromes from a houseboat next to Chopawamsic Island until giving up in 1903
Source: US Geological Survey (USGS), Map Locator

The first attempts at flying a heavier-than-air, engine-powered plane in Virginia were organized by Samuel P. Langley. He was Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and obtained Federal government support for the project.

Langley constructed different versions of a plane, which he called an "aerodrome." He worked between 1893-1896 to launch an aerodrome powered by a steam engine. After succeeding, he returned to his duties at the Smithsonian.

Later, President McKinley expressed interest in advancing the capacity of airplanes to serve as war machines. Langley tried from 1898-1903 to create a plane with an internal combustion engine that could carry a pilot. That effort was funded by $50,000 from the War Department.

Langley recognized that his plane would need to land in water in order to minimize damage. He initially sought a launch site next to the Potomac River, but then developed an innovative solution:1

The shores of the Potomac on both banks were scrutinized for this purpose, from a point about two miles above Washington to below Chopawamsic Island, some thirty miles below the city. Several lofty and secluded positions were found, but in all these there was the danger that the aerodrome might be wrecked before reaching the water, or, turning in its course, fly inland; but more than this, it could be launched only on the rare occasions when the exact wind was blowing which the local conditions demanded.

Finally, the idea, which seems obvious enough when stated, presented itself of building a kind of house-boat, not to get up initial motion by the boat's own velocity, but to furnish an elevated platform, which could be placed in the midst of a considerable expanse of water, if desired, under conditions which admitted of turning in the direction of the wind, as it need hardly be repeated that it was indispensable to the machine, as it is to the bird, to rise in the face of a wind, if there be any wind at all.

Langley modified a houseboat into the first aircraft carrier
Langley modified a houseboat into the first aircraft carrier
Source: Samuel Pierpont Langley, Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Part 1 (opposite p.106)

He located the houseboat next to Chopawamsic Island in the Potomac River, near the Quantico station of the railroad linking Washington and Richmond. The boat was 30 foot long and 12 foot wide. The "house" was built on the deck to store his aerodromes, and was not a shelter for people living on the boat:

According to Langley, his launches occurred from a portion of the Potomac River claimed by Virginia, since Chopawamsic Island was in Stafford County:2

The house-boat was at all times moored somewhere on the west side of the island, in the stretch of quiet water between that and the west shore of the river. The waters shown here are, with the exception of a narrow channel, very shallow, and, indeed, partly dry at low tide, so that there was no danger of an aerodrome being lost, unless its flight carried it a long distance away and over the land.

The first attempt to launch Aerodrome Number 4 from the houseboat in 1893 was a complete failure. The plane was placed on one end of an inclined rod. The plan was to throw down the rod and provide a slight forward impulse to the plane as a spring pushed from the back. However, the slightest breeze made it impossible to keep the plane balanced on the end of the rod.

A second attempt was equally unsuccessful. While trying to balance the plane, fuel spilled from the engine and several times the plane caught on fire. On another attempt, the road broke and the plane fell directly into the boat. The aerodrome was never launched in 1893, despite eight attempts.

In 1894, the launch mechanism was redesigned. Langley later wrote that Aerodrome Number 5 was launched successfully, though his definition of success is questionable. The plane did separate successfully from the boat:3

...It remained in the air in a stationary position for nearly a second, and then slid back ward into the water, striking on the end of the rudder and bending it . The distance flown was about 12 metres, and the time of flight 3 seconds. One of the propellers was broken short off, and the shaft was bent.

Langley's aerodromes were built around a frame of thin steel tubes
Langley's aerodromes were built around a frame of thin steel tubes
Source: Samuel Pierpont Langley, Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Part 1 (opposite p.122)

On October 24, 1894, Aerodrome Number 4 traveled 130 feet in 4 seconds. Langley later described it as a "real, though brief, flight," and considered the launching device to have been perfected. Getting the 25-pound aircraft balanced as the plane moved through air became the focus of his attention; without a pilot on board the light aircraft, there was no way to restore equilibrium after launch.

He acknowledged that by the end of 1894:4

...what might be called a real flight had not yet been secured.

...Upon thus reviewing the progress of the work during 1894, it was felt that the results which had been accomplished for such a large expenditure of time seemed small, since no real flight had been made by any of the aerodromes, and no definite assurance that a successful flight would be obtained within the immediate future seemed warranted by what had already been accomplished.

In 1895, Aerodrome Number 5 managed a flight lasting three seconds. After launch, it went forward 200 feet, descending smoothly the whole time until landing nose-down and damaging both propellers. Another flight lasting seven seconds ended because the engine ran out of fuel and water, after being held on the boat too long in order to build up steam pressure. Langley acknowledged that the flights were so short that "no actual flight had really been achieved."

There were multiple challenges to identify and overcome. The steam engine did not provide sufficient power, and the wings flexed so much after launch that they did not provide the required lift. Af=t the end of 1895, Langley rebuilt his aerodromes to add a second pair of wings, to stiffen the wings, and to have the tail control just the direction of flight.

On May 6, 1896, Aerodrome Number 6 was launched from a spring-actuated catapult into a wind blowing 6-10 miles per hour. The left wing broke during the launch. The plane dropped off the houseboat and sank immediately in the river.

Aerodrome Number 5 was launched next from the modified houseboat. The heavier-than-air plane, with a framework of made of thin steel tubes, successfully flew twice, going 3,300 feet the first time and 2,300 feet the second time. Power was provided by a one-cylinder steam engine, and there was no pilot.

the first successful engine-powered airplane flight was on May 6, 1896, but did not have a pilot
the first successful engine-powered airplane flight was on May 6, 1896, but did not have a pilot
Source: Samuel Pierpont Langley, Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Part 1 (opposite p.108)

Langley described the first flight of an unpiloted, engine-driven, heavier-than-air plane:5

The height of the launching track above the water was about twenty feet. Immediately after leaving the launching track, the aerodrome slowly descended three or four feet, but immediately began to rise, its midrod pointing upward at an increasing angle until it made about ten degrees with the horizon and then remained remarkably constant at this angle through the flight. Shortly after leaving the launching track the aerodrome began to circle to the right and moved around with great steadiness, traversing a spiral path...

[T]he aerodrome made two complete turns and started on the third one. During the first two turns the machine was constantly and steadily ascending, and at the end of the second turn it had reached a height variously estimated by the different observers at from 70 to 100 feet.

When at this height, and after the lapse of one minute and twenty seconds, the propellers were seen to be moving perceptibly slower and the machine began to descend slowly, at the same time moving forward and changing the angle of inclination of the midrod until the bow pointed slightly downward. It finally touched the water to the south of the house-boat... the time the machine was in the air having been one minute and thirty seconds from the moment of launching. The distance actually traversed, as estimated by plotting its curved path on the coast-survey chart and then measuring this path, was approximately 3300 feet...

The circular path traversed by the aerodrome was accounted for by the fact that the guy-wires on one of the wings had not been tightened up properly, thus causing a difference in the lifting effect of the two sides.

path of two aerodrome flights on May 6 and November 28, 1896 at Chopawamsic Island
path of two aerodrome flights on May 6 and November 28, 1896 at Chopawamsic Island
Source: Samuel Pierpont Langley, Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Part 1 (opposite p.108)

In the second successful flight on May 6, the plane reached a height of 60 feet. The plane flew in circles again:6

In tightening up the guy-wires, which had not been properly adjusted in the previous test, they were probably tightened somewhat too much, since in this second test the aerodrome circled towards the left, whereas in the first flight it had circled towards the right. The aerodrome made three complete turns, rising to a height of approximately sixty feet with its midrod inclined to the horizon at a slightly greater angle than before.

The propellers again ceased turning while the machine was high in the air and it glided forward and downward and finally settled on the water after having been in the air one minute and thirty one seconds. The distance travelled was estimated as before, by plotting the path on the coast-survey chart, and was found to be 2300 feet.

Aerodrome Number 5 flew up to 100 feet high on its first flight over the Potomac River on May 6, 1896
Aerodrome Number 5 flew up to 100 feet high on its first flight over the Potomac River on May 6, 1896
Aerodrome Number 5 flew up to 100 feet high on its first flight over the Potomac River on May 6, 1896
Source: Samuel Pierpont Langley, Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Part 1 (opposite p.108)

On November 27, 1896, Aerodrome 6 flew again. It was in the air only six seconds and traveled just 100 yards that day. The next day, however, it flew a distance of 4,200 feet during one minute and forty-five seconds at a speed of 30 miles per hour.7

Aerodrome Number 6, looking from the side and tail, as repaired after the failed May 6, 1896 flight
Aerodrome Number 6, looking from the side and tail, as repaired after the failed May 6, 1896 flight
Aerodrome Number 6, looking from the side and tail, as repaired after the failed May 6, 1896 flight
Aerodrome Number 6, looking from the side and tail, as repaired after the failed May 6, 1896 flight
Source: Samuel Pierpont Langley, Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Part 1 (opposite p.116)

In 1898, Langley was recruited by President McKinley to create an airplane that could carry a human into the sky. McKinley was interested in the military advantages, and the regents of the Smithsonian Institution granted Langley the time to experiment.

Langley planned to obtain an internal combustion engine weighing just 100 pounds that would provide 12 horse-power for turning propellers of his new design, Aerodrome A. The new plane had two 48-foot long wings, one wing in front of the pilot and one wing in the rear, and was 54 feet long. Langley also ordered construction of a new houseboat, this time 60 feet by 40 feet, with a special launching track on top.

Langley's 1903 attempt to build a plane carrying a human pilot required a larger housboat than his 1896 tests
Langley's 1903 attempt to build a plane carrying a human pilot required a larger housboat than his 1896 tests
Source: Charles M. Manley, Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Part 2 (Plate 38)

The houseboat was towed down the Potomac River and moored off Stafford County's Widewater Peninsula in July, 1903. The eight workmen and a soldier detailed as a special guard traveled back and forth to Chopawamsic Island via a tugboat for meals.

in July 1903, when first testing a plane designed to carry a pilot, Langley located the new housboat opposite Widewater (downstream from Chopawamsic Island)
in July 1903, when first testing a plane designed to carry a pilot, Langley located the new housboat opposite Widewater (downstream from Chopawamsic Island)
Source: Charles M. Manley, Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Part 2 (Plate 85)

The initial experiments for a piloted plane involved steam-powered engines. Different models of aerodromes were launched from the houseboat off Chopawamsic Island until 1901. In 1903, Langley planned to test a quarter-sized model of the new Aerodrome A, using an internal combustion engine providing 50 horsepower and weighing just 120 pounds. However, the old houseboat had decayed, so the old launching superstructure was removed and placed on the new houseboat for the test.

a quarter-sized model was tested in 1903
a quarter-sized model was tested in 1903
a quarter-sized model was tested in 1903
a quarter-sized model was tested in 1903
Source: Charles M. Manley, Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Part 2 (Plates 86, 92, 93)

After evaluating the tests of the quarter-sized model designed to carry a pilot, the next step was to test the full-sized plane known as Aerodrome A. Langley planned to place a dummy in the full-scale plane for its first test on October 7, 1903. However his assistant, Charles M. Manley, volunteered to be the pilot so a human could adjust the equilibrium of the plane after launch.

The first test was a failure. The plane's nose quickly turned down and the plane crashed 100 yards from the houseboat, so the value of a human pilot remained untested. Photography arranged for the test was helpful in identifying that mechanical parts for the launch apparatus had failed, rather than the wings or components on the frame.

As described by a Washington Star newspaper at the time, the experience:8

...would not in any sense be termed a "flight."

in the October 7, 1903 test, the full-sized plane with a pilot crashed right after launch
in the October 7, 1903 test, the full-sized plane with a pilot crashed right after launch
in the October 7, 1903 test, the full-sized plane with a pilot crashed right after launch
Source: Charles M. Manley, Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Part 2 (Plate 95, Plate 99)

The houseboat with Aerodrome A was towed back to Washington DC. The $50,000 from the War Department had been spent by 1901; the Smithsonian Institution and private individuals had provided 100% of the funding for the experiments afterwards. To minimize costs, Langley decided to do the next test at the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers, close to where the houseboat was moored. He did not have the funding or the time to return to Chopawamsic Island or Widewater.

The last attempt at manned flight by Samuel Langley was on December 8, 1903. Weather was poor and chunks of ice were floating in the Potomac River, but the potential for a loss of further funding justified trying again despite the conditions.

The launch was finally conducted at 4:45pm, when it was so dark that almost all photography was useless. For unknown reasons, Aerodrome A's tail dragged onto the launching apparatus just before the plane flew into the air.

Samuel P. Langley last launched his aerodrome, once more unsuccessfully, from a modified houseboat at the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers on December 8, 1903
Samuel P. Langley last launched his aerodrome, once more unsuccessfully, from a modified houseboat at the confluence of the Anacostia and Potomac rivers on December 8, 1903
Source: NASA on The Commons, The Langley Aerodrome

The 60' long plane with 48' long wings, also known as "The Buzzard," hung briefly in a vertical position as the engine provided power. The plane then flipped backwards, with its top side closest to the Potomac River, and crashed into the water.

The Washington Star newspaper was not a cheerleader of Langley's efforts, and called the plane "Langley's Folly," The newspaper reported that at launch, the plane did an immediate half double somersault before falling into the Potomac River, ending up:9

...broken and twisted into a mass of wood, steel and linen, with its nose in the mud on the river bottom...

on December 8, 1903, the launch mechanism failed again and Aerodrome A immediately crashed into the Potomac River
on December 8, 1903, the launch mechanism failed again and Aerodrome A immediately crashed into the Potomac River
Source: Charles M. Manley, Langley Memoir on Mechanical Flight, Part 2 (Plate 101)

Charles M. Manley, Langley's assistant, was the pilot. He was lucky to escape being trapped underneath the plane as it sank, upside down. At the end of his difficult struggle to reach the surface, his head bumped into a block of ice that required maneuvering before getting his first breath.

Manley wrote later how Aerodrome A was totally wrecked not by the crash, but by the recovery:10

...the men on the tug-boat, in their zeal to render assistance, had fastened a rope to the rear end of the machine, at the same time pulling it in the direction in which the front end was pointed, and through their ignorance had forced it down into the muddy bottom of the river and broken the main framework completely in two, thus rendering it absolutely impossible with the facilities at hand to remove it from the water to the interior of the boat. It was finally necessary to tie the wrecked machine to the stern of the house -boat and have the boat towed to its dock where the mast and boom were assembled and the wrecked machine hoisted from the water. This was finally accomplished about midnight...

Nine days later on December 17, the Wright brothers successfully flew a heavier-than-air craft. Their plane, controlled by a human pilot, flew four times at Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina.

Langley had run out of money and lacked support to get new funding. On his own initiative, Manley obtained enough funding from private sources to repair the airframe. Langley never sought to pursue powered flight again.

Langley died in 1906, but Aerodrome A did fly again. Charles Walcott replaced Langley as the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He funded a rival to the Wrights, Glenn Curtiss, who wanted to break the patents of the Wright brothers.

If Langley's plane had been capable of flight, and if the catapult had caused the failures during the 1903 attempts, then Walcott could argue that Aerodrome A demonstrated that the third Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution - rather than the Wright brothers - had developed the technology for shaping wings to achieve flight.

Actually getting Aerodrome A into the air would restore Langley's reputation, and a successful flight might trigger a court to rule that Langley's plane invalidated the Wright patents. With the support of Charles Walcott and the Smithsonian Institution, Curtiss borrowed Aerodrome A and altered Langley's plane. He added floats for taking off from water, rather than using Langley's spring-powered catapult, and made other modifications that improved flightworthiness. Curtiss flew the modified version successfully in 1914, taking off and landing at Lake Keuka in New York.11

Langley's aerodrome got into the air successfully only after Glenn Curtiss modified the engine and airframe, then added pontoons for taking off from Lake Keuka in 1914
Langley's aerodrome got into the air successfully only after Glenn Curtiss modified the engine and airframe, then added pontoons for taking off from Lake Keuka in 1914
Source: Smithsonian Institution, The First Man-Carrying Aeroplane Capable of Sustained Free Flight (plate 4)

Glenn Curtiss flew a modified version of Aerodrome A (The Buzzard) in 1914
Glenn Curtiss flew a modified version of Aerodrome A ("The Buzzard") in 1914
Source: New York Times (May 31, 2022)

In the Smithsonian Institution buildings, Walcott ensured that Langley was portrayed as the inventor of the airplane. The Smithsonian restored and displayed Langley's aircraft starting in 1918. The museum's label boldly claimed Langley had accomplished a successful powered flight prior to the Wright brothers.12

the Smithsonian Institution claimed its former Secretary had created the first man-carrying aeroplane in the history of the world capable of sustained free flight
the Smithsonian Institution claimed its former Secretary had created the first man-carrying aeroplane in the history of the world capable of sustained free flight
Source: Smithsonian Institution, Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society (Volume LXV, 1926, page 81)

Orville Wright challenged that description in 1925, but the Smithsonian refused to retract its claim. In response to the misrepresentation of history, Orville Wright sent his 1903 Kitty Hawk Flyer to England for display and refused to donate it to the Smithsonian.

In 1942, the Smithsonian Institution finally acknowledged that Curtiss had modified Aerodrome A to make it flightworthy and dropped the claim that Samuel Langley was "first." That helped to smooth over the conflict with Orville Wright. He sold the plane to the Smithsonian and arranged to bring it back to the United States.

Included in the sale was this condition:13

Neither the Smithsonian Institution or its successors, nor any museum or other agency, bureau or facilities administered for the United States of America by the Smithsonian Institution or its successors shall publish or permit to be displayed a statement or label in connection with or in respect of any aircraft model or design of earlier date than the Wright Aeroplane of 1903, claiming in effect that such aircraft was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight.

The 1903 Kitty Hawk Flyer was put on display at the Smithsonian in 1948, with a card reading:14

The world's first power-driven, heavier-than-air machine in which man made free-controlled and sustained flight, invented and built by Wilbur and Orville Wright.

the Smithsonian Institution website now emphasizes that Aerodrome A, which crashed on December 8, 1903, was an aerodynamically unsound aircraft
the Smithsonian Institution website now emphasizes that Aerodrome A, which crashed on December 8, 1903, was an "aerodynamically unsound aircraft"
Source: Smithsonian Institution, Langley Aerodrome A

Aerodrome A is on exhibit now at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution, near Dulles International Airport
Aerodrome A is on exhibit now at the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Institution, near Dulles International Airport
Source: Smithsonian Institution, Langley Aerodrome A

If the 1914 claim that Samuel P. Langley built the "first man-carrying aeroplane in the history of the world capable of sustained free flight" had been true, then Chopawamsic Island might have become the home of a First in Flight Visitor Center managed by the National Park Service.

The exhibit might also have described Langley's houseboat in 1896 as the first aircraft carrier supporting planes with an engine. However, the houseboat was not the first aircraft carrier. That honor belongs to a modified coal barge, the George Washington Parke Custis. In 1861, the US Navy purchased it and added a gas-generating apparatus while based at the Washington Navy Yard. The barge was towed down the Potomac River to Mattawomen Creek.

On November 11, 1861, the balloon was inflated. Thaddeus Lowe, General Daniel E. Sickles, and others climbed into the basket and were lifted up into the sky. Their aerial reconnaissance revealed the Confederate fortifications on the Virginia shoreline. Lowe reported the next day:15

We had a fine view of the enemy camp fires during the evening and saw the rebels constructing batteries at Freestone Point.

Lowe later had a tug pull the George Washington Parke Custis for 13 miles while he mapped Confderate fortifications frm a height of 1,000 feet.

An even earlier flight had used a boat as the platform for launching an aerial reconnaissance balloon. A rival of Thaddeus Lowe, John LaMountain, had been recruited by Major General Benjamin F. Butler at Fort Monroe to help gather intelligence from a balloon. On August 3, 1861, LaMountain used the deck of the Fanny to fly a balloon 2,000 feet high over the James River. Later he used the Union tugboat Adriatic to tether his balloon.

Perhaps because thos boats did not move as part of the observations, the US Navy describes the the George Washington Parke Custis as the first aircraft carrier.16

the first aircraft carrier was a converted coal barge used to launch a reconnaissance balloon on November 11, 1861
the first aircraft carrier was a converted coal barge used to launch a reconnaissance balloon on November 11, 1861
Source: Naval History and Heritage Command, George Washington Parke Custis

The 13-acre Chopawamsic Island could have become a major tourist attraction. Kill Devil Hills would be just a pile of sand on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, known only to local residents and vacationers.

The Langley Flight Foundation, based in Stafford County, continues to highlight the role of Samuel Langley in pioneering heavier-than-air flight technology. Starting in 2019, it planned a $300,000 exhibit to display a replica of Aerodrome No. 5 at the Stafford Regional Airport, but the COVID-19 pandemic delayed the effort. A newspaper story in 2022 correctlky noted that the May 6, 1896 flight of of Aerodrome No. 5 was:17

...the first heavier-than-air mechanical flight in history, the first successful aircraft carrier launch, and the first unmanned aerial vehicle.

the argument that Samuel Langley was first is continued today by the Langley Flight Foundation
the argument that Samuel Langley was "first" is continued today by the Langley Flight Foundation
Source: Langley Flight Foundation, Chopawamsic Island Tour (August 1, 2022)


Source: Langley Flight Foundation, Langley and Aerodrome No. 5 - the First Heavier-Than-Air Mechanical Flight in Human History

That island, also known as Chop Island and Scott's Island, is privately owned. It has been part of Stafford County ever since the 1877 Mathews-Nelson survey defined the Maryland-Virginia boundary along the Potomac River downstream from Washington, DC.

Though the US Marine Corps once published a story titled "Chopawamsic Island history dates back to 1649," people had been there for perhaps 20,000 years. When Paleo-Indians first arrived, sea levels were lower and the modern island was simply a high spot on the mainland near the edge of the Potomac River. Roughly 3,000 years ago, sea level rise following the melting on continental ice sheets finally flooded the area and made the csite an island isolated from the mainland.

When John Smith and his fellow colonists explored the upper Potomac River in 1608, the site was on the edge of territory occupied by the Moyumpse (Dogue) to the north, the Patawomeck to the south, and the Piscataway on the eastern side of the Potomac River. By 1664, there were enough English colonists in the area to justify the creation of Stafford County.

the 13 acres of Chopawamsic Island are in Stafford County, Virginia
the 13 acres of Chopawamsic Island are in Stafford County, Virginia
Source: ESRI, ArcGIS Online

The island was occupied by Dr. Wesley and Emma Fry between 1958-1979. Dr. Fry, a Navy captain at the Marine Corps Base Quantico hospital, arranged with the Marine Corps to extend an underwater cable to the island to supply electricity. A 280' deep well provided drinking water.18

Real estate agents trying to sell the island in 1989 claimed that rezoning the island would enhance the tax base of Quantico, but that town is located within Prince William County. The Marine Corps had security concerns about private ownership of the island, noting:19

The hanger housing the president's helicopter is less than 1,000 yards away from the island.

some Federal maps incorrectly place Chopawamsic Island in Prince William County
some Federal maps incorrectly place Chopawamsic Island in Prince William County
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), U.S. Bathymetric & Fishing Maps

Chopawamsic Island sold in 1991 for $375,000. An attempt to resell it in 2018 for $15 million was unsuccessful, and it was pulled off the market.20

The owner advertised Chopawamsic Island again for sale in 2022, with a $4.7 million price tag. The real estate agent suggested Langley Flight Foundation or Stafford County might purchase it to protect a historical site, but neither party indicated they were planning to buy the island.

The Stafford County tax assessment for the 13 acres of land was $306,000, plus just $300 for "improvements" consisting of three old houses on the island.21

Joint Base Langley-Eustis

Stafford County

Virginia-Maryland Boundary

Chopawamsic Island was listed for sale in 2022 at a price of $4.7 million
Chopawamsic Island was listed for sale in 2022 at a price of $4.7 million
Source: Coldwell Banker Realty, Chopawamsic Island Stafford, VA 22554 (August 31, 2022)

Links

Orville Wright required the Smiothsonian to modify its interpretation of Langley's flights before donating his airplane to the museum
Orville Wright required the Smiothsonian to modify its interpretation of Langley's flights before donating his airplane to the museum
Source: Library of Congress - Chronicling America, Historic American Newspapers, Evening Star (May 2, 1925) and Evening Star (February 18, 1948)

References

1. William E. Baxter, "Samuel P. Langley: Aviation Pioneer," Part 1, http://www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/langley/intro.htm and Part 2, http://www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/langley/part_two.htm; "Langley Aerodrome Number 5," Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/langley-aerodrome-number-5; Samuel Pierpont Langley, "Langley Memoir On Mechanical Flight, Part I, 1887 to 1896," Smithsonian Institution, 1911, p.93, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Langley_Memoir_on_Mechanical_Flight/J6MxAQAAMAAJ; Charles M. Manley, "Langley Memoir On Mechanical Flight, Part II, 1897 to 1903," Smithsonian Institution, 1911, pp.123-127, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Langley_Memoir_on_Mechanical_Flight/J6MxAQAAMAAJ (last checked August 30, 2022)
2. Samuel Pierpont Langley, "Langley Memoir On Mechanical Flight, Part I, 1887 to 1896," Smithsonian Institution, 1911, p.93, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Langley_Memoir_on_Mechanical_Flight/J6MxAQAAMAAJ (last checked August 30, 2022)
3. Samuel Pierpont Langley, "Langley Memoir On Mechanical Flight, Part I, 1887 to 1896," Smithsonian Institution, 1911, pp.93-98, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Langley_Memoir_on_Mechanical_Flight/J6MxAQAAMAAJ (last checked August 30, 2022)
4. Samuel Pierpont Langley, "Langley Memoir On Mechanical Flight, Part I, 1887 to 1896," Smithsonian Institution, 1911, pp.101-102, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Langley_Memoir_on_Mechanical_Flight/J6MxAQAAMAAJ (last checked August 30, 2022)
5. Samuel Pierpont Langley, "Langley Memoir On Mechanical Flight, Part I, 1887 to 1896," Smithsonian Institution, 1911, pp.105-107, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Langley_Memoir_on_Mechanical_Flight/J6MxAQAAMAAJ (last checked August 30, 2022)
6. "Langley Memoir On Mechanical Flight, Part I, 1887 to 1896," Smithsonian Institution, 1911, pp.107-108, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Langley_Memoir_on_Mechanical_Flight/J6MxAQAAMAAJ (last checked August 30, 2022)
7. "Langley Memoir On Mechanical Flight, Part I, 1887 to 1896," Smithsonian Institution, 1911, p.109, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Langley_Memoir_on_Mechanical_Flight/J6MxAQAAMAAJ (last checked August 30, 2022)
8. "Wright brothers vs. Smithsonian: the bitter feud over who invented the airplane," Washington Post, December 11, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/12/11/wright-brothers-smithsonian-airplane/ (last checked August 29, 2022)
9. A. F. Zahm, "The First Man-Carrying Aeroplane Capable of Sustained Free Flight: Langley's Success As a Pioneer in Aviation," from the Smithsonian's Report for 1914, Publication 2329, Government Printing Office, p.218, http://www.sil.si.edu/PDF/SIL-28-2329.pdf; "Wright brothers vs. Smithsonian: the bitter feud over who invented the airplane," Washington Post, December 11, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/12/11/wright-brothers-smithsonian-airplane/; "Langley Memoir On Mechanical Flight, Part I, 1887 to 1896," Smithsonian Institution, 1911, pp.108-109, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Langley_Memoir_on_Mechanical_Flight/J6MxAQAAMAAJ; Charles M. Manley, "Langley Memoir On Mechanical Flight, Part II, 1897 to 1903," Smithsonian Institution, 1911, p.232, pp.256-257, pp.266-272, p.277, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Langley_Memoir_on_Mechanical_Flight/J6MxAQAAMAAJ; "Wright and Langley," Engines of Our Ingenuity, University of Houston, Episode #1342, https://www.uh.edu/engines/epi1342.htm (last checked August 30, 2022)
10. Charles M. Manley, "Langley Memoir On Mechanical Flight, Part II, 1897 to 1903," Smithsonian Institution, 1911, p.273, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Langley_Memoir_on_Mechanical_Flight/J6MxAQAAMAAJ (last checked August 30, 2022)
11. Charles M. Manley, "Langley Memoir On Mechanical Flight, Part II, 1897 to 1903," Smithsonian Institution, 1911, p.273, https://www.google.com/books/edition/Langley_Memoir_on_Mechanical_Flight/J6MxAQAAMAAJ (last checked August 30, 2022)
12. "Wright brothers vs. Smithsonian: the bitter feud over who invented the airplane," Washington Post, December 11, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/12/11/wright-brothers-smithsonian-airplane/; "Wright and Langley," Engines of Our Ingenuity, University of Houston, Episode #1342, https://www.uh.edu/engines/epi1342.htm (last checked August 30, 2022)
13. "Manned Flight Attempts," Langley Flight Foundation, https://www.langfound.org/mannedflight (last checked September 8, 2022)
14. William E. Baxter, "Samuel P. Langley: Aviation Pioneer," Part 2, http://www.sil.si.edu/ondisplay/langley/part_two.htm; "Langley Aerodrome Number 5," Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, https://airandspace.si.edu/collection-objects/langley-aerodrome-number-5; "Wright brothers vs. Smithsonian: the bitter feud over who invented the airplane," Washington Post, December 11, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2021/12/11/wright-brothers-smithsonian-airplane/ (last checked December 17, 2021)
15. "George Washington Parke Custis," Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/g/george-washington-parke-custis.html (last checked November 15, 2022)
16. "Balloons in the American Civil War," US Centennial of Flight Commission, https://www.centennialofflight.net/essay/Lighter_than_air/Civil_War_balloons/LTA5.htm; "George Washington Parke Custis," Naval History and Heritage Command, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/g/george-washington-parke-custis.html (last checked November 15, 2022)
17. "First in Flight (Almost)," Private & Secure Island for Sale website, http://www.chopawamsic.com/First%20Flight.htm; "Stafford to consider funding first flight exhibit with $150,000 coronavirus money," Potomac Local, October 14, 2022, https://www.potomaclocal.com/2022/10/14/stafford-funds-first-flight-exhibit-with-150000-coronavirus-money/ (last checked October 17, 2022)
18. "Chopawamsic Island history dates back to 1649," Marine Corps Base Quantico, June 11, 2015, http://www.quantico.marines.mil/News/News-Article-Display/Article/600065/chopawamsic-island-history-dates-back-to-1649/; "1 Chopawamsic," LoopNet, http://www.loopnet.com/Listing/1-Chopawamsic-Quantico-VA/9083665/; "Native American Tribes in Stafford," Stafford County Museum, https://staffordcountymuseum.com/artifact/amerindians/; "The Chesapeake Bay: Geologic Product of Rising Sea Level," US Geological Survey (USGS), https://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/fs102-98/ (last checked August 31, 2022)
19. "Island For Sale 13 Acres With Potomac View," Washington Post, October 28, 1989, https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/realestate/1989/10/28/island-for-sale-13-acres-with-potomac-view/4cba0717-b2e4-4b90-bb5a-a4565dd496a5/; "Stafford's island 'paradise' sells for $350,000," Free Lance-Star, July 12, 1989, https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1298&dat=19890712&id=TOFLAAAAIBAJ&sjid=e4sDAAAAIBAJ&pg=2047,1877551 (last checked February 3, 2018)
20. "Island in Potomac River goes on the market for $15 million," Washington Post, October 8, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2018/10/08/island-potomac-river-goes-market-million/ (last checked March 24, 2010)
21. "Private island up for sale in northern Virginia," WTTG (Fox5DC), August 29, 2022, https://www.fox5dc.com/news/private-island-up-for-sale-in-northern-virginia; "Proprty Lookup," Stafford County Commissioner of Revenue, http://va-stafford-assessor.publicaccessnow.com/PropertySearch.aspx?li=NHD140000 (last checked August 31, 2022)

Stafford County zoned the 13 acres of Chopawamsic Island as Rural Agricultural
Stafford County zoned the 13 acres of Chopawamsic Island as "Rural Agricultural"
Source: Stafford County, ArcGIS Online


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