Centennial of Naval Aviation 1911-2011

Centennial of Naval Aviation 1911-2011 NAS North Island

by John Thow

Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego, California played host to the kick-off event of the United States Navy’s year-long celebration of the Centennial of Naval Aviation. The San Diego Bay is known as the birthplace of Naval Aviation, as it is where the first flight of a naval aircraft, a Curtiss Wright seaplane built by Glenn Curtiss, took place in 1911.

100 years later Naval history again returns to San Diego Bay to celebrate its legacy of flight. There was a strong turnout of aircraft and visitors to the event. While the majority of show-goers came from San Diego and throughout Southern California, we met people from various parts of the U.S., Japan, and Europe that had come all the way to San Diego, eager to get in on this historic event.

We were on base as soon as they would let us in on Saturday morning and immediately noticed that things seemed to be backing up at the entry gate to the show area, there seemed to be a continual line of people coming in all day long, which gradually filled the static display areas with aviation fans.

A-1 Triad Flying Replica

This A-1 Triad represents the beginnings of Naval Aviation. John Thow ©

MH-60 aboard USS John C. Stennis

MH-60 in the hangar deck of the U.S.S. John C. Stennis. Photo: John Thow ©

FA-18C Hornet in CONA Paint-Scheme with NASA F-18D Hornet behind.

NASA FA-18D and Navy C Hornets on the ramp at NAS North Island Photo: John Thow ©

MH-60 and SH-60s in special centennial paint schemes

There were many MH-60 and SH-60s in special centennial paint schemes. Photo: John Thow ©

Interview with our own Dan “Shooter” Thow from KUSI News


LCAC stirs up the water during demonstration
Photo: Dan Thow ©

FA-18E Super Hornet on the deck of the USS John C. Stennis Dan Thow ©

FA-18E Super Hornet on the deck of the USS John C. Stennis  Photo: Dan Thow ©

If you were fortunate enough to have made it in early, you really only had to share the static space with a limited number of people. This was at least good for a few more shots that would have normally been tough with all the people around, but I am sure it was frustrating to be waiting in that massive line.

The show had been billed as the “Parade of Flight” and boasted it was to include the largest formation of aircraft to fly since World War II. Well, the actual event really didn’t turn out quite as billed but was a great event nonetheless. We and others we spoke to in attendance really expected that the airplanes would be flying over as an extremely large formation or formations of aircraft, when in fact they flew over alone or in small groups, often spread out by several minutes or more.

The flyovers also included airplanes from the carrier air wing of CVN 74, the USS John C. Stennis. Even while the aircraft was flying over, the show announcer was telling fans they were looking at the entire air wing of 80 plus aircraft, when in fact there were 35 airplanes overhead. I guess I just don’t understand the need to try to hype this event up to try to make it more than it turned out to be, especially when what it turned out to be was really pretty terrific!

It isn’t often that we get to go to an air show and get a close-up look at an aircraft carrier, let alone many of the rare aircraft that were there. This was the first time we had seen the A-1 Triad close up and they even took off from the bay for a very brief flight. There was a great collection of aircraft representing the many eras of Naval flight and while there were a few key planes missing, like the F-14 or the F-4, the event was very enjoyable and did a good job building reverence for the history of Naval Aviation, we had a great time and would go again if ever fortunate enough to get a similar opportunity.

A-1 Triad, TD2C-1 Culver, TBM Avenger, P-3 Orion, EA-6B Prowler, F/A-18 E & F Super Hornets, F/A-18G Growler, F/A-18C & D Hornet, C-40 Clipper, T-28 Trojan, T-38 Talon, T-34 Mentor, PV-2 Harpoon, AV-8B Harrier, B-17 Flying Fortress, B-25 Mitchell, FJ-4B Fury, HU-25 Guardian, PB4Y-2 Privateer, PT-22 Recruit, OV-10 Bronco, MH-60, MV-22 Osprey, LCAC Hovercraft, JN-4H Jenny, Texan II, HU-16 Albatross, T-33 Shooting Star, Stearman Kaydet, S3-B Viking, T-2 Buckeye, F4U Corsair, F6F Hellcat, CH-46 Sea Knight, CH-53E Super Stallion, UH-1 Huey, AH-1 Cobra, LCAC Hovercraft, E-2C Hawkeye and many many more!

AV-8B Harrier

This AV-8B was especially marked for famed Ace Greg “Pappy” Boyington. Dan Thow ©

F/A-18G Growler

FA-18G Growler in special Naval Centennial paint scheme  Photo: John Thow ©

Dan keeps shooting in front of this row of Navy MH-60 helicopters

Dan keeps shooting in front of this row of Navy MH-60 helicopters. Photo: John Thow ©

custom paint on Sea Hawk helicopter

Check out the custom paintwork on this Sea Hawk!  Photo: Dan Thow ©

The US Navy Blue Angels get into the act at the centennial celebration. Dan Thow ©

The US Navy Blue Angels get into the act at the centennial celebration.  Photo: Dan Thow ©

AV-8B Harriers

AV-8B Harriers of the United States Marine Corps. Dan Thow ©

P-3 Orion, sub hunter aircraft

P-3 Orion, sub hunter aircraft on static display John Thow ©

Top Hatters FA-18E Super Hornet on the deck of the USS John C Stennis

Top Hatters FA-18E Super Hornet on the deck of the USS John C Stennis in front of EA-6B Prowler. Photo: John Thow

Photography, Aviation Illustration, and MORE...