18 January 1911: At 11:01 a.m., Eugene Ely, flying the same Curtiss pusher used to take off from Birmingham (CL 2), landed on a specially built platform aboard the armored cruiser Pennsylvania (Armored cruiser No. 4) at anchor in San Francisco Bay. At 11:58 he took off and returned to Selfridge Field, San Francisco, completing the earliest demonstration of the adaptability of aircraft to shipboard operations.

And so it began. Fragile constructs of wire, canvas and wood, given flight by human guts and ingenuity would give way to immensely more powerful creatures flying from the decks of leviathans that themselves, were once the sole provence of fantasy writers. In so doing, the margins of naval warfare were stretched to fantastic margins and capabilities. Powerful naval forces, centered on aircraft carriers and their embarked airwings and supported by land- and sea-based maritime patrol would dominate broad swaths of the mightiest ocean barely thirty years later. Fifty years hence supersonic fighters would lift from the deck of the first nuclear-powered carrier while Naval Aviators prepared for the first manned spaceflight. And today – 100 years on, the edge of the envelope continues to be stretched and pushed as Naval Aviation in all its forms – carrier-based, rotary winged and maritime patrol provide critical and flexible options to our nation’s leaders – in times of peace and war.

As part of the celebrations and observances for this milestone, there will be regular posts based on this theme here and at other sites – like that hosted by the Naval Institute and of course, the official site for the celebration. Check the “Centennial of Naval Aviation: 1911-2011” block over on the right for updates and links to special events. Over at the U.S. Naval Air Forces Facebook site you will find additional information, including a growing collection of aircraft which are receiving “retro” paint schemes based on period aircraft (personal favorites are the tri-color schemes from 1944).

More to follow…

Article Series - Centenary of Naval Aviation (1911-2011)

  1. Flightdeck Friday: Smoke and the Battle of Midway
  2. Flightdeck Friday: RF-8 Crusaders and BLUE MOON
  3. Flightdeck Friday: Midway POV – Wade McClusky
  4. Flightdeck Friday: 23 October 1972 and The End of Linebacker I
  5. Former VFP-62 CO and DFC Recipient, CAPT William Ecker, USN-Ret Passes Away
  6. CAPT John E. “Jack” Taylor, USN-Ret.
  7. Flightdeck Friday: USS MACON Added to National Register of Historical Places
  8. Tailhook Association and Association of Naval Aviation
  9. Flightdeck Friday: Speed and Seaplanes – The Curtiss CR-3 and R3C-2
  10. Flightdeck Friday: A Family Remembers a Father, Naval Officer and Former Vigilante B/N
  11. Out of the Box Thinking and Execution 68 Years Ago: The Doolittle Raid
  12. The ENTERPRISE Petition – A Gentle Reminder
  13. USS Enterprise (CVAN/CVN-65) At Fifty
  14. A Golden Anniversary: The Hawkeye At 50
  15. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy
  16. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part II)
  17. Project CADILLAC: The Beginning of AEW in the US Navy (Part III)
  18. Reflections on the E-2 Hawkeye’s 50th Anniversary
  19. An Open Letter to “The 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation”
  20. U.S. Naval Aviation – 100 Years
  21. Doolittle’s Raiders: Last Surviving Bomber Pilot of WWII Doolittle Raid, Dies at 93
  22. More Naval Aviation Heritage Aircraft (But Still No Hawkeye)
  23. Naval Aviation Centennial: Neptune’s Atomic Trident (1950)
  24. Naval Aviation Centennial: One Astronaut, A Future Astronaut and Reaching for New Heights
  25. Flightdeck Friday Special Edition: The Space Shuttle – Thirty Years of Dreams, Sweat and Tears
  26. Flightdeck Friday – Postings from the Naval Aviation Museum
  27. Saturday Matinee: US Naval Aviation – the First 100 Years
  28. National Museum of Naval Aviation – Some Thoughts and A Call to Action
  29. Flightdeck Friday – 100 Years of Naval Aviation and the USCG
  30. Guest Post: THE U.S. NAVY’S FLEET PROBLEMS OF THE THIRTIES — A Dive Bomber Pilot’s Perspective
  31. This Date in Naval Aviaiton History: Sept 18, 1962 – Changing Designators
  32. Centennial Of Naval Aviation – The Shadow Warriors


  1. Charley A.

    I have to say that whoever came up with the idea to paint current aircraft in historic schemes has my vote for PR genius of the year.


    I quite agree, the tri-color schemes were the best.

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