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Suitland, MD

Skyhaven Airport

Airplane at Skyhaven Airport
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An airplane landing at Skyhaven Airport

The site of Federal Office Building 3 (FOB-3) was used as an airfield from 1938 until the Federal Government acquired the property in 1941. Mr. James West and Joseph Friday (father of long-time Census Bureau employee Paul Friday) co-owned the airfield.

The airport's owners allowed local school children to enter a contest to name the field. "Skyhaven" was chosen and the lucky student who suggested it received a first prize of $25.

Skyhaven Airfield was home to a flying club, serving about 20 small planes in 1938, including Wacos, Great Lakes, Cubs, and Pipers.

Skyhaven's runway during construction
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Beginning runway construction at Skyhaven Airport,
ca. 1937. The intersection of Swann Road
and Silver Hill Road can be seen.

Several plane crashes in 1937 and 1939 were reported in the Washington Post, including one that resulted in the death of a 20-year old aspiring transport pilot whose second-hand biplane spun into the ground at Skyhaven while he executing a vertical turn over the field. A representative of the Air Safety Board examined the plane immediately after the accident and reported that no engine or structural damage could be determined, but that the license numbers had already been partially stripped away by souvenir seekers.

Hangar under construction
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Skyhaven hangar under construction

In May 1938, Skyhaven Airport was the site of the largest, at that time, powered model airplane contest ever held in the Mid-Atlantic. More than 250 model airplanes, powered by one-quarter horsepower engines capable of speeds up to 55-mile an hour, took part in the two-day meet. One of the winners was Carrol Carter of Northeast Washington, whose model plane had an average flight time of four and a half minutes.

In February 1938, legislation introduced by Rep. Reuben Wood (D-MO) suggested Suitland as a site for a new National Capital airport, competing with several other locations in the metropolitan area. The Airline Pilots Association and other groups suggested the site in testimony before the Public Buildings and Grounds Committee later that month. In the fall of 1938, however, President Roosevelt, "tired of waiting for Congress" to select a site for the new airport, declared that the airport would be built on mudflats on a bend of the Potomac River at Gravelly Point, 4 1/2 miles south of Washington, DC.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: December 07, 2022