Centennial of Naval Aviation

  • First flight off a ship

    First flight off a ship
    Nov. 14: Eugene Ely, a pilot for the Curtiss Aviation Company, makes the first flight off a ship, pilot a Curtiss plane from the cruiser Birmingham at Hampton Roads, Virginia. Ely, who could not swim, nearly crashed into the water. Photo by US Navy
  • Curtiss opens first flight school

    Curtiss opens first flight school
    Self taught engineer and flier Glenn Curtiss of Hammondsport, N.Y. opens the nation's first military flight school on North Island. His students include Theodore G. Ellyson, who became Naval Aviator No. 1. The school also taught the first Japanese aviators, including Lt. C. Yamada, head of Japanese naval aviation during World War II.
  • First flight of a seaplane

    First flight of a seaplane
    Curtiss makes the world’s first flight in a seaplane off Spanish Bight, North Island. He briefly rose into the air in his Curtiss Model D Hydroaeroplane.
  • Birth of naval aviation

    Navy buys its first aircraft, including a Curtiss A-1 Triad. The purchases mark the birth of naval aviation.
  • Ely makes first landing on a ship

    Exhibition pilot Eugene Ely becomes the first person to fly off a ship, piloting a Curtiss aircraft off the cruiser Birmingham at Hampton Roads, Virginia.
  • Reuben Fleet begins flight training

    Reuben Fleet begins flight training
    Reuben Fleet, the future founder of San Diego-based aircraft maker Consolidated Aircraft, attends Army Aviation School at Rockwell Field on North Island.
  • First catapult launch off a ship

    Navy Lt. Commander Henry Mustin makes the first successful catapult launch off a ship, flying from the station ship North Carolina.
  • Navy gets first carrier

    Navy gets first carrier
    The Langley, a converted cargo ship, becomes the Navy's first aircraft carrier. The ship is assigned to operate from North Island two years later. “Langley would routinely operate within sight of either Coronado Beach or Point Loma while pilots trained in carrier procedures and developed carrier-operating doctrine that, in some cases, are still in use today,” wrote historian Bruce Linder.
  • Ryan opens flying service in San Diego

    In September, T. Claude Ryan, a former Army reserve pilots, opens a flying service in San Diego. The company evolves beyond an airline, becoming one of San Diego's first aircraft manufacturers.
  • Two more carriers for San Diego

    July 1: Sensing opportunity, Congress authorizes the conversion of the cruisers Lexington and Saratoga into carriers. Both ships become homeported in San Diego.
  • Navy orders forerunner of helicopter

    Jan. 22: The Navy ordered the first autogyro, the XOP-1, a forerunner of the modern day helicopter. The advance comes during a decade of great technological achievement for naval aviation, including the move from fragile biplanes to metal monoplanes.
  • Navy orders PBYs from Consolidated

    Navy orders PBYs from Consolidated
    The Navy orders 60 PBY Catalinas from Consolidated at a price of $22 million, the biggest military aircraft order since World War I. The PBY was a long-range reconnaissance plane that came to perform many roles, including hunting for submarines, escorting convoys, conducting bombing patrols and performing air-sea rescues. The "eyes of the fleet," as the planes were sometimes called, played a pivotal role in World War II when PBY pilots spotting part of the Japanese invasion force heading for Mid
  • Consolidate begins developing B-24

    Consolidate begins developing B-24
    Army Air Corps suggests that Consolidated build the B-17 under license. But Consolidated said they could build a better plane, and did. The B-24. They get contract to build the plane on March 30.
  • Dauntless dive bomber debuts

    Dauntless dive bomber debuts
    The Douglas SBD Dauntless -- widely regarded as the most important American diver bomber during the early years of World War II -- goes into service.
  • Search radar debuts

    A PBY becomes the first American aircraft to carry search radar.
  • Corsair aircraft enters service

    Corsair aircraft enters service
    The Chance Vought F4U Corsair fighter aircraft enters service and quickly became known as one of the best fighters during World War II. The aircraft played an important role shielding American ships from Japanese Kamikaze aircraft, and the plane was a workhorse in such Pacific battle zones as the Solomon Islands. Second Lieutenant Kenneth A. Walsh, who became the first Corsair ace, described what the plane was like to an historian: "I learned quickly that altitude was paramount. Whoever had al
  • Consolidated reaches peak workforce

    Consolidated's employment peaked at about 45,000 during the middle of the war. Women made up roughly 40 percent of the company's workforce.
  • Angled decks added to carriers

    Angled decks allow ship to launch and recover planes simultaneously, and improve safety of landings.
  • Stronger aircraft emerge

    The 1930s was a period of great technological change, symbolized by the introduction of stronger monoplanes.