Early Naval Aviation


Information and images provided by Joseph C. Baldwin Jr, son of Marine Aviator Lt.Col. J.C. Baldwin.

Eugene Burton Ely, born 21 OCT 1879 in Williamsburg Iowa. His first flight attempt at Portland OR. in 1910 ended in a crash, but a few months later, after repairing his aircraft, he learned to fly. He was awarded "Federal Pilot's License No. 17" on 05 OCT 1910.
After moving to Minneapolis, MN. he met Glenn Curtiss, maker of the biplane he crashed and repaired earlier that year. Curtiss had been charged by the Secretary of the Navy, George von Lengerke Meyer, with investigating the military uses of aviation for the navy.
On 14 NOV 1910 Ely took off in a Curtiss Pusher from a temporary 83 foot wooden platform erected on the bow of the U.S.S. Birmingham, a light cruiser anchored at Norfolk VA. Reportedly, his aircraft's wheels touched the water, but the launch was successful. On 18 JAN 1911 Ely landed the Curtiss Pusher on a platform on the cruiser U.S.S. Pennsylvania anchored in San Francisco Bay. The aircraft utilized a tail-hook arrangement designed by Hugh Robinson, a circus performer and aviator.
Ely offered his services to the U.S. Navy, but naval aviation was not yet organized and so Ely continued flying exhibitions.
Ely died after a crash during an exhibition at Macon, Georgia on 19 OCT 1911. In 1933 President Franklin D.Roosevelt awarded Ely the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously for his contributions to naval aviation.

In celebration of one hundred years of Naval Aviation, see these you-tube videos:
Part 1
Part 2


Note: the two man "cockpit", and the "shared" flight controls.
This pictured is believed to be of Ellyson and Towers at the time of their flight over Chesapeake Bay in OCT 1911. It was the longest over the water flight at that time, from Annapolis, Maryland to Fort Monroe, Virginia. They flew a Curtiss seaplane.
Theodore "Spuds" Ellyson trained at the Glen Curtiss flight training school in San Diego and was the first seaplane student of that school. As the navy's first pilot, Lieutenant Ellyson flew with Curtis on the test flights of the Curtiss seaplane on 26 JAN 1911.
Ellyson was involved with most of the Navy's early developments in naval aviation, including the first catapult launch of a Curtis A-1.
Commander Ellyson was killed in a crash off Hampton Roads, VA. in FEB 1928.

WWII Top Aces

Joesph Foss, USMC, scored 26 victories in the Pacific Theater, earning him the Medal of Honor.

Cecil E. Harris, USN, scored 24 victories, most while flying the Navy's F-5F Hellcat. Harris was awarded the Navy Cross, Silver Star with second gold star, Distinguished Flying Cross with second and third gold stars, and the Air Medal with two gold stars.

NOTE: Gregory "Pappy" Boyington, USMC, is credited with 28 victories, six of those were with the American Volunteer Group (Flying Tigers) and the remaining with the USMC.

Early "mirror" testing
From "Paddles", to "mirrors", to the Fresnel Lens; the Naval Aviator's landing aids have changed drastically over the years. The first Land Signal Officer, or LSO, used cloth paddles or lighted wands to guide landing aircraft. Thus the LSO moniker of "Paddles". The first mirror landing aid was introduced into the U.S. Navy in 1955, and along with the angled flight deck provided a much safer landing environment for Naval Aviators. They are used aboard carriers on stabilized platforms, and at air stations for training.

Pilot Landing Aid Television.
The PLAT provides a accurate assessment of the landing of an aircraft aboard a aircraft carrier. With a camera mounted flush within the landing area of the flight deck, pointed into the landing glide path, an accurate recording of the landing aircraft's position within the glide path is provided.


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