The following paragraphs chart the history of naval
aviation from 1910 to the present.
The first successful launch of a aircraft from a ship
was made by Eugene Ely, who flew a Curtiss biplane
from a specially built 83-foot wooden platform on the
forecastle of the cruiser Birmingham. See figure 1-1.
On 8 May 1911, the Navy purchased its first
aircraft from Glenn Curtiss the A-1 Triad. This date
of purchase became the official birthday of naval
aviation. The Wright brothers soon sold the Navy
another aircraft. Curtiss and the Wrights agreed to train
a pilot and a mechanic.
Eugene Ely landed on a 120-foot wooden platform
built on the after turret of the Pennsylvania (fig. 1-2).
Then, Ely launched from the wooden platform and flew
back to shore. The day of the "aircraft carrier" had
arrived. By the end of 1911, the U.S. Navy had three
aircraft, four pilots, and one naval air station located at
Greenbury Point, near Annapolis, Maryland. The
station eventually moved to North Island, California.
Later, the Naval Aeronautic Station, Pensacola,
Florida, was established and became the primary
training facility for all naval aviators and enlisted
When the U.S. declared war on Germany on 6 April
1917, naval aviation had 48 officers and 239 enlisted
men. There were 54 aircraft, 1 airship, 3 balloons, and 1
naval air station. By the end of WWI, naval aviation had
6,716 officers, 30,693 enlisted men, 252 land air craft,
and 1,865 flying boats and seaplanes. Naval aviation
had grown enormously and was well on its way.
The converted collier ship Jupiter (AC-3) was
renamed USS Langley and commissioned. It became
the first official aircraft carrier (CV-1) supporting
fighter and torpedo bomber squadrons. See figure 1-3.
Five more aircraft carriers joined the carrier task
force before the outbreak of World War II.
1941. The U.S. Congress declared a state of war
with Japan. During World War II, the F-6F Hellcat,
Figure 1-1.Eugene Ely in the first takeoff from a ship, November 14, 1910.