Naval Air Station Patuxent River, also known as NAS Pax River, is a United States Naval Air Station located in St. Mary’s County, Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay near the mouth of the Patuxent River. It is home to Headquarters, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, and serves as a center for test and evaluation and systems acquisition relating to naval aviation. Commissioned on April 1, 1943 on land largely acquired through eminent domain, the air station grew rapidly in response to World War II.
The base became a center for testing as several facilities were constructed throughout the 1950s and 1960s; including the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School (1958), the Weapons Systems Test Division (1960), and the Propulsion System Evaluation Facility. The base also served as the testing facility for the V-22 Osprey.
PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR STATION/TRAPNELL FIELD AIRPORT HISTORY
Situated on a peninsula between the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay at the mouth of the Patuxent River, NAS Patuxent River is located on 6,400 acres (26 km2) of what was once prime farmland, consisting of several large plantations, Mattapony, Susquehanna, and Cedar Point, as well as numerous tenant and sharecropper properties and a few clusters of vacation homes. The Cedar Point community included several churches, a post office, and a gas station. Some of the old homes now serve as quarters for Navy personnel stationed there.
In 1937, the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics sought to consolidate aviation test programs, previously being conducted at several stations, including Dahlgren and Norfolk, the Washington Navy Yard, Naval Air Station Anacostia in Washington, D.C., and the Naval Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Cedar Point was selected due to its remote location on the coastline, well removed from air traffic congestion, with ample space for weapons testing.
The onset of American involvement in World War II spurred establishment of the new air station. Rear Admiral John Henry Towers, Chief of Bureau of Aeronautics, requested approval and authorization to begin construction on December 22, 1941. Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox, gave approval on January 7, 1942 and construction began on April 4, 1942. Residents had about a month, until March 1, 1942, to relocate as the federal government purchased all the land at a cost of $712,287 for 6,412 acres (26 km2).
A lack of transportation in Saint Mary’s County led the Navy to acquire and revitalize a branchline called the Washington, Brandywine and Point Lookout Railroad (aka “The Farmers’ Railroad”) from Brandywine to Mechanicsville, Maryland in June 1942 and build an extension south from Mechanicsville to the air station. Known as the U.S. Government Railroad, the rail line was steam-powered and operated south of Brandywine for exclusive official use until 1954, when the Pennsylvania Railroad assumed operation of the line. Rail service ended in 1965 and the line was subsequently scrapped, although the right-of-way is still very visible.
PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR STATION/TRAPNELL FIELD AIRPORT LOCATION
PATUXENT RIVER NAVAL AIR STATION/TRAPNELL FIELD AIRPORT FACTS
Elevation: 39 ft.
Runway length available: 02/20 5021×75 ft. :: 06/24 11807×200 ft. :: 14/32 9742×200 ft.