Wednesday, February 16, 2011

CoNA Kick-Off Naval Air Station North Island – February 2011

By Connie May

It was a day of remembrance, a day of looking to the future, a day of celebrating the 100-year milestone of Naval Aviation on North Island Naval Air Station. San Diego. NASNI hosted the spectacular Centennial event and open house February 12, marking the pioneering innovation, foresight and progress of Naval Aviation. It all began in 1911 when that first aircraft, built by Glenn Curtiss operated from the water in San Diego Bay and carried-out the first ship-based takeoff and landing.

North Island was a bustle with an estimated 70,000 spectators who braved the traffic jams, rode bikes and walked to the base to marvel at the more than 75 static displays of planes ranging from a 1918 JN-4J Jenny to the mighty F/A-18 and the Global Hawk (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle).
Frank Schelling from Pleasant Hill, Calif. owner of the Jenny was thrilled to see all the spectators in the static area. “This is a great show, I am so glad to be a part of it,” he said.

Visitors were allowed to tour the 96,000-ton USS John C. Stennis Aircraft Carrier as well as the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu and the guided missile destroyer USS Pinkney.

Those who waited in line to be welcomed aboard the Stennis had the luxury of riding one of the aircraft elevators to the four-acre flight deck rather the brave the steep stairs and narrow passageways onboard the ship.

Ceremonies at the event began with a U.S. Navy Parachute Team, the Leap Frogs descending onboard the Stennis.

And, certainly not like your average hometown parade—the Centennial’s Parade of Flight decorated the clear skies over San Diego Bay with airplanes and helicopters spanning Naval Aviation’s 100-year history.  Across the skies flew a B-25, a Douglas, SBD Dauntless, a PBY Catalina, the Navy’s Blue Angels, dozens of helicopters and a myriad of aircraft delighting the crowds all over the bay.

“This is a once in a lifetime celebration,” said Jarrod Bell, who drove from Riverside to attend the event. “There is so much history here and to see all these planes flying is fantastic.” The event culminated with a spectacular flyover of 36 planes from squadrons attached to the Stennis.  “It looks like a giant triangle of airplanes,” said Samantha Meester of El Cajon, Calif.

A large number of distinguished visitors and Navy families viewed flight activities from the deck of the Stennis. I was fortunate to be one of the Stennis family members who witnessed this most memorable air show event. It was definitely worth the trip and especially to see the progress our military has made throughout the years.

My son is an Aircraft Handler on the Stennis and said he was amazed at the number of aircraft he saw flying. He is around planes all the time, but thought seeing the old warbirds and vintage planes was really cool.

San Diego’s kickoff event was the beginning of many celebrations throughout the year honoring 100 years of Naval Aviation. For more information visit:


No comments: