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Langley Army Airfield

Military site : airfield

Detailed history

In 1916, the National Advisory Council for Aeronautics (NACA), predecessor to NASA, established the need for a joint airfield and proving ground for Army, Navy and NACA aircraft. NACA determined that the site must be near water for over-water flying, be flat and relatively clear for expansion and the landing and take-off of aircraft, and near an Army post. The Army appointed a board of officers who searched for a location. The officers sometimes posed as hunters and fishermen to avoid potential land speculation which would arise if the government's interest in purchasing land was revealed. Fifteen locations were scouted before a site near Hampton in Elizabeth City County was selected.[7]

Langley Field in 1920
In 1917, the new proving ground was designated Langley Field for one of America's early air pioneers, Samuel Pierpont Langley. Langley had first made tests with his manned heavier-than-air craft, launched from a houseboat catapult, in 1903. His first attempts failed and he died in 1906, shortly before a rebuilt version of his craft soared into the sky.[7]
Training units assigned to Langley Field:[8]
5th Aviation School Squadron, June 1917
Re-designated as 119th Aero Squadron, September 1917; Detachment No. 11, Air Service, Aircraft Production, July 1918-May 1919
83d Aero Squadron (II), March 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "A", July–November 1918
126th Aero Squadron (II) (Service), April 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "B", July–November 1918
127th Aero Squadron (II) (Service), April 1918
Re-designated as Squadron "C", July–November 1918
Flying School Detachment (Consolidation of Squadrons A-C), November 1918-November 1919
Several buildings had been constructed on the field by late 1918. Aircraft on the ramp at that time included the Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny", used by Langley's School of Aerial Photography, and the de Havilland DH.4 bomber, both used during World War I. Although short-lived, hydrogen-filled dirigibles played an important role in Langley's early history and a portion of the base is still referred to as the LTA (lighter-than-air) area.[7]
Inter-war years[edit]
In the early 1920s, Langley became the site where a new air power concept was tried and proven. Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell led bombing runs from Langley by the 1st Provisional Air Brigade over captured German warships anchored off the coast of Virginia and North Carolina. These first successful tests set the precedent for the airplane's new role of strategic bombardment.[7]

YB-17 Flying Fortress bomber crew receiving instructions at Langley, May 1942
Throughout the 1930s Langley Field occupied a principal position in the Army's efforts to strengthen the offensive and defensive posture of its air arm. The small grassy field became a major airfield of the United States Army Air Corps, and many of the brick buildings of today were constructed at that time.[7]
World War II[edit]
At the outbreak of World War II Langley took on a new mission, to develop special detector equipment used in antisubmarine warfare. Langley units played a vital role in the sinking of enemy submarines off the United States coast during the war.[7] The field was also used for training purposes.
Cold War[edit]

English Heritage's record description

Not yet known



  • VIII Bomber Command

    VIII Bomber Command

    VIII Bomber Command was constituted and activated in 1942. It oversaw heavy bombardment operations until February 1944, when it was redesginated as the 8th Air Force.


  • 36-149

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    The initial flight of the aircraft took place on 2-Dec-36, but with Stan Umstead, five days later nosed over during landed but was not too badly damaged. Delivered 49BS/2BG Langley 1-Mar-37; 4000 Base Unit Wright Fd 1938; transferred 19BG March Fd, Oct...

  • 36-150

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered 96BS/2BG Langley 1-Mar-37; transferred 19BG March Fd, but force landed due to engine failure 8-Oct- 40; with Lee Coates force landed base 2-Dec-40; Albuquerque 16-Jul-42; 66 flights; Written off 30-Dec-42. [aircraft No. 60] Never saw combat. ...

  • 36-151

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered 49BS/2BG Langley 28-Mar-37; transferred 20BS; took part in goodwill trip to South America 1938; transferred 19BG March Field Oct-40; Amarillo 21-Nov-42; 64 flights; Written off 15-Jan-43 after surviving a spin. [aircraft No. 80]. Never saw...

  • 36-152

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered 20BS/2BG Langley 27-Mar-37; transferred 19BG March Fd Oct-40; Hendricks Fd, Sebring 6-Feb-42; force landed base with W.R. George; 65 flts; Written off 13-Apr-42. [aircraft No. 50] Aircraft never served in combat. ...

  • 36-155

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered 2BG/HQ Langley 1-Jun-37; used by CO Major Bob Olds from 28-May-37; took part on goodwill trip to South America 1938; transferred 19BG March Fd Oct-40; then Langley, force landed with Warren Wilkinson at Lively Fd, VA 1-Jan-42; Amarillo 12-Nov...

  • 36-156

    B-17 Flying Fortress
    Delivered 20BS/2BG Langley 17-Jun-37; transferred 19BG March Fd Oct-40; public relations trip to Grand Union High School, McClelland Fd 4-Jul-41; 66 flts; Written off 2-Apr-42. [aircraft No. 51] This aircraft never served in combat and was never posted...

  • 36-159

    B-17 Flying Fortress


Date Contributor Update
10 March 2019 00:43:24 466thHistorian Created entry with name, known as, latitude, longitude, usaaf from date, construction date and history