Skip to main content









Donation Heart Ribbon

San Diego Kicks Off Naval Aviation Centennial With 200-Plane Air Show

NAS North Island, San Diego, CA. View taken about 1926, showing Curtiss TS-2 ...

Credit: Naval Air Forces Centennial of Naval Aviation

Above: NAS North Island, San Diego, CA. View taken about 1926, showing Curtiss TS-2 floatplanes from VF-1 flying above USS Langley (CV 1).

It was 100 years ago on San Diego’s North Island that pioneer aviator Glenn Curtiss became the first person in America to fly a seaplane – just seven years after the Wright Brothers took to flight.

Centennial Of Naval Aviation

Parade of Flight begins at 1 p.m on Sat., Feb. 12, 2011.

Ship Visits: The USS Peleliu and USS Pinckney will be open to the public from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The USS Stennis will be open from 9 a.m. – 12 p.m.

Directions to Naval Air Station North Island

Curtiss sold his "hydroaeroplane” to the Navy and taught Navy officers how to fly. It was that purchase that marked the birth of naval aviation, and put North Island on the map, according to military historian Wallace Peck.

Peck said San Diego has been intertwined with the military since the beginning .

"As the Chamber of Commerce used to say, the fact that there is this large carrier base at North Island is largely responsible for the development of Harbor Island in a number of stages over the years," explained Peck.

USS Midway ship historian Karl Zingheim said Curtiss played a major role in developing San Diego as a military aviation center and major home-port for aircraft carriers. He said San Diego's military presence remains as prominent as ever.

“Even in the 1990s, with the series of base closures that were going on, San Diego actually had a net gain through that period,” Zingheim said.

A yearlong celebration of 100 years of Naval Aviation starts Saturday in San Diego. The Parade of Flight will feature the Blue Angels and nearly 200 Navy planes from every decade soaring above the Coronado Bridge and San Diego Bay. It will be the largest flyover since WWII, according to Zingheim.

Naval Air Station North Island is hosting an open house for military and civilians tomorrow, where guests will be invited to walk along the runways and tour the USS John C. Stennis aircraft carrier. The gates at Naval Air Station North Island will open at 8 a.m. Admission and parking are free.

Want more KPBS news?
Find us on Twitter and Facebook, or subscribe to our newsletters.

To view PDF documents, Download Acrobat Reader.