Naval Aviation Celebrates Centennial In 2011

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The U.S. Navy launched its flight program in 1911, and a number of events will mark the 100th anniversary this year. The official kick-off is set for Feb. 10-13 in San Diego. On Saturday the 12th, hundreds of historic and current Navy aircraft, including the Blue Angels, will take to the skies for a Parade of Flight above Naval Air Station North Island, which will host an Open House for the event. Visitors can view more than 75 historic aircraft displays, take tours of the Navy ships (including the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier), and enjoy live entertainment and food vendors. The event is free to the public, but visitors must carry identification and meet other criteria to enter the base; click here for a PDF with details. Other events planned for the weekend include a kick-off gala aboard the USS Midway museum ship. For more events and details, visit the Centennial website.

The launch of naval aviation dates to Feb. 17, 1911, according to the 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation. On that day, Glenn Curtiss taxied his seaplane to the battleship USS Pennsylvania, anchored in San Diego Bay. A boat hoisted the "hydroaeroplane" aboard the ship. Later, it was lowered to the water, and Curtiss returned to North Island. This event prompted the Secretary of the Navy's decision to purchase the Navy's first aircraft, the foundation says. The U.S. Naval Aviation program today includes three branches of the military: the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard. All aviators receive the same training and meet the same standards.