Failure on the Potomac
In 1898, with the aid of his friend, Charles Walcott, Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, Langley secured funding, including $50,000 from the U.S. War Department, to build a full-scale, piloted flying machine that he named, Aerodrome A. On October 3, 1903, the first flight attempt of Aerodrome A splashed into the Potomac River with Langley’s assistant, Charles Manly, at the controls. A second attempt on December 9 proved equally disastrous with the aircraft breaking apart soon after launch and crashing into the water. Though the pilot was unharmed, public ridicule in the press forever damaged Langley’s aviation dreams. He died three years later without making another flight.