Columbia Air Center

Columbia Air Center provided access to aviation for African American pilots during an era of discrimination. It began operations with one east-west turf runway, an office and a hangar. By the end of 1941, the airfield boasted a second hangar and the services of several flight instructors. John Greene's association with Phelps Vocational High School brought many students to the field to get on-site training in primary flight training, ground school and mechanics, spurring community interest in aviation.

During World War II when the U.S. Navy took over operations, they added seven turf runways and a 121-foot pier on the Patuxent River. With its return to civilian use, Columbia Air Center was reorganized to reflect a new vision for the site as both an airport and recreational center for the African American community.

The new operation did not utilize all of the changes made by the Navy. By 1945, the airport was operating with three sod runways (one as long as 3300 feet), with two more added over the next four years. The Center only operated during daylight hours and offered a flying school, charter services, aircraft maintenance, fuel and tie down space for private pilots. They utilized a large fleet of aircraft, including Piper Cubs, Aeronca Champs and L3s, Fairchild PT-19 trainers, Boeing PT-17s, Stinsons and Continental Engines.

During Greene's tenure, the airport expanded its operations by partnering with several school and youth programs for pilot and aviation maintenance.

The airfield served the local pilot population and became a popular social and recreational center with frequent picnics, hangar dances, motorcycle racing, canoeing and of course, flying.

John Greene managed the airfield until 1954. The Columbia Air Center closed in 1956 when Mrs. Fisher's heirs decided to sell the land. In 1959, the property became part of the Patuxent River Park and is now owned by M-NCPPC.