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Columbia Air Center

Subfacility of Patuxent River Park


This outdoor exhibit is dedicated to the significant history of the Columbia Air Center, and is located at the end of Croom Airport Road in Patuxent River Park. Four exhibit panels are dedicated to the history and events at this early African American airport which is the first in Maryland and likely the first licensed African American-owned and operated airfield in America.

Compass Rose Feature

The interpretive panels and windsock are displayed on top of a brick compass rose feature. The compass rose is well known to those who both fly in and pilot aircraft. Compass roses are an integral part of almost every navigational system including aeronautical, nautical, global positioning systems (GPS) and others. A compass rose can be found at most general aviation airports and is used to calibrate the aircraft’s magnetic compass.


The Columbia Air Center Outdoor Exhibit Area interprets the aviation history of an airfield that long ago disappeared but has not been forgotten. In 1941, aviation history was made when the first African American-owned and operated airfield in the state of Maryland was licensed on the site at the end of Croom Airport Road. John W Greene Jr., a pioneer in black aviation, was instrumental in developing the airfield, which was originally called Riverside Field. It was occupied by the U.S. Navy during World War II and used for training missions.

After the war, Greene reopened the airfield as Columbia Air Center. It offered a flying school, charter services, and facilities for major and minor repairs. The first black Civil Air Patrol squadron in the Washington, D.C. area, called the Columbia Squadron, was formed here. Learn more about the Columbia Air Center.