2011 Centennial of Naval Aviation Airshow - Naval Air Station North Island, San Diego, California
Boeing T-45C Goshawk - 2011 Centennial of Naval Aviation
Boeing T-45C Goshawk - 2011 Centennial of Naval Aviation
Boeing F/A-18E Super  Hornet - 2011 Centennial of Naval Aviation
US Navy Ship: USS Pinckney - 2011 Centennial of Naval Aviation
Article and Photography by Britt Dietz | February 23, 2011
The official Centennial of Naval Aviation logo applied to many of the aircraft at the event - Photo by Britt DietzThe official Centennial of Naval Aviation logo applied to many of the aircraft at the event. -Photo by Britt Dietz San Diego, California - You could say that it was 100 years in the making, a celebration of epic proportions. United States Naval Aviation has a big birthday this month, turning the big 100 years old and what type of party would this be without a big celebration? Not just any birthday party, a year long multi event celebration of the Centennial of US Naval Aviation spanning across the USA. Starting off this incredible party hosted by the United States Military was the kick-off event held at Naval Air Station North Island on Coronado Island in San Diego, California. This one-of-a-kind event took place on February 12, 2011, and showcased Naval Aviation throughout the years ending with an incredible look at modern US Naval Airpower with an entire Carrier Air Wing formation flyover. While 100 years may seem like a long time for most, it's just the beginning for the US Navy compared to many centuries of military might evolution in other countries. What sets the United States apart, however, is the rapid development of Military technology and the ability to stay ahead of the world with cutting edge weaponry.

From the first test flight of an aircraft off a US Navy warship in 1910 to the first Naval Aviator taking flight in a seaplane in 1911, the US Navy led the way for aquatic aircraft in military service.  A group of US Navy F/A-18 E&F Super Hornets pass in formation over NAS North Island - Photo by Britt Dietz A group of US Navy F/A-18 E&F Super Hornets pass in formation over NAS North Island. -Photo by Britt DietzThe idea and concept for the first naval catapult for aircraft off ships was developed in 1915 by a Captain in the Navy. Naval aviation was just getting started, but developing quickly. While Naval aviation played a key role in those early years and through World War 1, it wasn't until the second World War that the true potential for military aviation, especially with the entrance of the Aircraft Carrier as a key component of war, truly came to light as the future for military might and air dominance. The Aircraft Carrier became the decisive and strategic way to win battles, changing the shape of the war in the pacific during the famous Battle of Midway where US Carrier forces delivered a crippling blow to the Japanese Naval forces sinking 4 carriers and other naval ships. The Aircraft Carriers on both sides never actually spotted each other, nor shells fired from Naval ships accompanying the Carries; no this battle was fought with air power from those Carriers. Many of the most famous Naval Aircraft in history patrolled the skies during World War 2, including household names like the Corsair, Hellcat, Avenger, and Catalina that are still well known today.

A 1950s Grumman HU-16C Albatross amphibious flying boat sits on static display at NAS North Island - Photo by Britt DietzA 1950s Grumman HU-16C Albatross amphibious flying boat sits on static display at NAS North Island. -Photo by Britt DietzNaval Aviation continued to advance at a fast rate after World War 2, using propeller aircraft a little longer than the newly created Air Force along with new jet powered aircraft. With the FH-1 Phantom being the first jet aircraft to operate on a carrier, soon the Bearcats and Tigercats gave way to new breeds of jet aircraft including the famous F9F Panther. Moving right on forward into the 1970s, the entrance of the F-4 Phantom II ushered an age of supersonic high tech aircraft into the mix, eventually leading the way for the most well known and iconic Naval aircraft, the F-14 Tomcat, to rule the Naval skies. Staying in operation until 2006 after being replaced by the Navyís current front line fighter, the F/A-18 Hornet, the Tomcat truly earned its place in Naval history. Now, with the F/A-18 Super Hornet leading the way into the future for the Navy, a new type of fighter has started to emerge in the form of the Joint Strike Fighter.

The US Navy isnít the only branch celebrating an amazing history as the US Marines are also taking part in this celebration with the Centennial of Marine Crops Aviation. Sharing much of the same aircraft as the Navy, the US Marines have also used the F/A-18 Hornet as their main fighter of choice along with their own AV-8B Harrier vertical take-off and landing strike jet and their workhorse heavy lifting helicopters including the mighty CH-53 Super Stallion and the brand new MV-22 Osprey. With all of this rich history of aviation coming together this year, an airshow of epic proportions was needed to showcase this celebration, and the decision came to host it at the birthplace of Naval Aviation, San Diego California.

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Author and photographer BRITT DIETZ has been attending airshows for as long as he can remember.  Growing up with the former Marine Corps Air Stations El Toro and Tustin in his backyard, he's been exposed to every type of modern military aircraft.  Britt began shooting photography at Airshows during the last El Toro airshow in 1997, shortly before the base closed. He soon found an intense passion for the aviation photography trade, and continued to harness this love traveling to airshows all over the West Coast. In 2003, Britt launched his first Aviation Photography website and company called Warbird Photos Aviation Photography, and has been shooting professional aviation photography ever since having been published in various magazines, newspapers, books, and calendars.