The first aircraft carrier for the US Navy was a converted collier. With a conversion to fuel oil for the USN, coal carriers had a bleak future. What better than using this ship for a new purpose, the new-fangled aircraft carrier. So the collier USS Jupiter AC-3 was converted into the USS Langley CV-1.The Jupiter had been laid down on October 18, 1911, launched on August 24, 1912 and commissioned April 1913, displacing 19,360-tons. In July 1919 Congress authorized the conversion of the Jupiter into an aircraft carrier. USS Langley was commissioned on March 20, 1922. The Langley displaced 12,700-tons standard but since she was originally designed to haul coal, speed was not her forte. Her engines developed 7,000shp for a top speed of 14-knots. Thirty-four aircraft could be carried. For five years, it was the old covered wagon Langley that was used by the fledgling aviators of the USN before the big Lexington and Saratoga joined the fleet.
Four of the six holds were converted to store aircraft but it was not really a hangar as the aircraft were just stored there as cargo. Maintenance was performed on the open main deck, below the flight deck. Aircraft were moved by two cranes, which ran on gantries above the main deck. With new from the keel-up carriers joining the fleet by 1937, the 14-knot Langley was no longer needed as an aircraft carrier. She was redesignated as a Seaplane Tender AV-3 and the forward 250-feet of flight deck were removed. Displacement dropped to 11,050-tons. After the Pearl Harbor attack Langley was employed as an aircraft transport, ferrying aircraft to various destinations. On February 27, 1942 she was loaded with Curtiss P-40 Tomahawks when she was caught of the coast of Java by Japanese bombers. Hit by five bombs, she developed a significant list and had to be finished off by the flush-deck destroyer, USS Whipple.
MB Models has two 1:1250 scale models of USS Langley AV-3 as she appeared in 1942. One is kit form, requiring assembly and painting. However, they also have an assembled painted version, as shown here. The Langley comes with five yellow-wing biplane fighters, which would be more appropriate for her career as an aircraft carrier, because she didn’t fly aircraft off her shortened flight deck.