Sunday, November 14, 2010
Navy Celebrates First Flight Centennial
Norfolk November 13, 2010 - Naval Station (NS) Norfolk hosted a ceremony Nov. 12 to celebrate the centennial of naval aviation and the Navy's first flight which took place Nov. 14, 1910, nearly 100 years ago.
That's when "an act of daring by Eugene Ely set the stage for a revolution in naval warfare, and changed the face of the United States Navy forever," said Rear Adm. Richard J. O'Hanlon, commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic.
Ely flew a rudimentary one-seater Curtis Pusher Biplane off the deck of the light cruiser USS Birmingham, thus ushering in the beginning of naval aviation. His flight was the first launch of an airplane from a ship; and the Navy hasn't looked back since, O'Hanlon said.
"Flash forward 100 years and we can see - through the lens of history - just what an incredible change this daring flight set in motion," O'Hanlon said. "The spirit of innovation, daring and foresight that were displayed in 1910 have become part of the fabric of naval aviation."
The ceremony is the first of a series of events the Navy will sponsor next year to commemorate the importance of naval aviation, during its 100th anniversary year.
Virginia Senator Mark Warner spoke at the event, and Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell issued a proclamation commending the Navy for its historic achievements in flight.
"Naval aviation… has evolved into a force that supports the national strategy across the full spectrum of operations, ranging from preventing conflict to direct combat," McDonnell said.
Keynote speaker Adm. Robert F. Willard, commander, U.S. Pacific Command, said naval aviation has helped to transform the U.S. military into the world's pre-eminent military force.
"Naval aviation gives our military a decisive asymmetric advantage in counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency warfare," Willard said. "Without question, the quality of our Sailors is our greatest asymmetric advantage."
A replica of the Curtis Pusher Biplane was flown during the ceremony, outside the hangar and alongside the flight line. Strong winds had threatened to ground the aircraft; however, Bob Coolbaugh, a pilot and retired naval aviator, was determined to brave the wind and make the flight, just as Ely had braved more difficult weather conditions a century ago.
Attendees also had the opportunity to see current and recent vintage Navy aircraft - the MH-53E, MH-60S, T-28T, E-2C Hawkeye, and F/A-18 Hornet - fly overhead and in formation.
The pilots and aircrews flying these aircraft are "the next generation [of naval aviators], who are carrying on naval aviation's legacy every day," O'Hanlon said. "Our forces are doing amazing work every day and around the world, and I assure you we are making a difference."
Naval aviation plays an integral role in supporting America's maritime strategy and is branching out into new mission areas including irregular and special warfare, humanitarian missions, and disaster relief, O'Hanlon said.