Happy birthday, naval aviation | Editorial

There’s a big birthday party taking place today at Whidbey Island Naval Air Station and no one should miss it, particularly families with children.

The base is throwing a party for the 100th anniversary of naval aviation. In 1911 a Curtiss pusher biplane with its 50 horsepower motor proved airplanes could fly from the deck of a ship, and Lt. Gordon “Spuds” Ellyson became the first official naval aviator. Amazingly this was only eight years after the Wright Brothers made history with their first powered, manned flight.

Both Ault Field off Highway 20 and the Seaplane Base at the end of Pioneer Way will have entertaining and informative displays of naval aviation. Planes never before seen by kids and most adults will be on display, and many heroic aviators from the past will tell their tales to attentive listeners. These “Tales of Naval Aviation” should be a highlight of the day when families can learn firsthand the sacrifices made over the decades to keep them free. This personalized approach to naval history was a great idea, with eight speakers scheduled from 10:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at Ault Field’s Hangar 1.

When we think in terms of the Navy’s 69-year presence in Oak Harbor, we often speak of the air station’s economic impact. But we should think more of the aviators and support crews themselves, who have fought in every war and skirmish since World War II, following orders to the letter. Ten years ago, nobody thought carrier-based Prowlers would be land-based in landlocked Afghanistan, but that’s what happened. Making the impossible happen is a specialty of naval aviation.

Scores of aviators based at Whidbey have sacrificed their lives for their country in battles and accidents throughout the world and continue to do so today. That’s why we’re still a free country, able to set our own course in the world without fear of foreign powers. Today provides an opportunity for the rest of us to fully appreciate that sacrifice. Don’t miss the Naval Aviation Centennial at NAS Whidbey.


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