Defense Media Network

Colorful Aircraft Mark the 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation

Centennial of Naval Aviation

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of naval aviation in 2011, the U.S. Navy is painting about 20 of its airplanes and helicopters in historic “retro” paint designs. One of the first is an S-3B Viking at Jacksonville, Fla., that now wears the colors of aircraft that fought in the 1942 battle of Midway – considered a turning point of World War II in the Pacific.

The anniversary activity also honors the Marine Corps and Coast Guard, which are considered part of naval aviation.

An MH-60S Knighthawk helicopter belonging to Navy squadron HSC-2 at Norfolk, Va., is now painted in the dark blue colors used during the Korean War. The paint scheme honors Capt. John W. Thornton, who was awarded the Navy Cross for a hazardous rescue attempt in Korea.

Other “retro” naval aircraft include a T-45C Goshawk trainer at Kingsville, Texas, in the Navy’s pre-war tactical colors, another T-45C at Meridian, Mississippi with vintage Marine markings, and a T-44C Pegasus multi-engine trainer being repainted in Perryville, Mo., also in pre-war colors.

A VX-30 S-3 Viking, painted in vintage 1942 Navy colors, taxis down the NAS Jacksonville runway as stormy weather threatens Nov. 4, 2010. U.S. Navy photo by Vic Pitts.

No fewer than 33 open houses and air shows will celebrate the anniversary. Numerous other events are honoring flyers in the nation’s sea services. Bob Coolbaugh of New Market, Va., built and flew a replica of the biplane in which pioneer Eugene Ely made the first takeoff from a ship on Jan. 18, 1911. The colorful Marine T-45C made an appearance on the USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on Nov. 4.

“We have brought back this paint scheme as part of the Heritage Paint Project,” said Capt. Richard Dann, Centennial of Naval Aviation director of history and outreach in a Navy news release. “An aircraft painted like this hasn’t been seen conducting operations on an aircraft carrier for nearly 70 years, and we are using these aircraft to teach the fleet a little bit about aviation heritage.”

A gala event to conclude the celebrations will take place at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, National Air and Space Museum, Dulles, Va., in December 2011.


Robert F. Dorr is an author, U.S. Air Force veteran, and retired American diplomat who...