This object is not on display at the National Air and Space Museum. It is either on loan or in storage.
National Air and Space Museum
National Air and Space Museum Archives
Samuel Pierpont Langley was one of the few scientists of his time who believed man was destined to fly. During his tenure as the third Secretary of the Smithsonian from 1887 to 1906, Langley was deeply involved in scientific research on many fronts, including astronomy, physics, and-perhaps most passionately-aeronautics. As head of the Smithsonian, he secured government backing to experiment with the creation of an engine-powered manned aircraft. When early endeavors with steam-powered engines proved less than successful, Langley began to experiment with gasoline-powered engines. This photograph of one of the many aircraft models (or 'aerodromes') Langley used for his flight experiments was most likely taken by Smithsonian photographer Thomas Smillie in the South Shed of the Smithsonian Institution where the scientist conducted his tests. Unfortunately, after two unsuccessful public tests of his aircraft on October 7 and December 8, 1903, the government withdrew its financial support of Langley's experiments. Nine days after the failed trial on December 8, the Wright brothers successfully flew their engine-powered airplane in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.