Pensacola Celebrates a Century of Naval Aviation

To mark a century of training the Navy’s top pilots, and more than 50 years since the opening of the National Museum of Naval Aviation, the Pensacola Naval Air Station held a gala on September 20, 2014, attended by a host of dignitaries, some of whom were once trainees at the legendary institution. The event featured a slide presentation paying tribute to the first naval aviators, as well as a speech by Jeb Bush Jr., grandson of former President George H.W. Bush, during which he read a letter from his grandfather. Also present was former US Navy Blue Angels pilot, now Aviation Museum director, retired Navy Captain Bob Rasmussen, who expressed his hope that the museum will continue to expand, as it has since it opened in 1962.

Located just southwest of the Pensacola city limits the Naval Air Station Pensacola is often referred to as “The Cradle of Naval Aviation”. It is the home base of the Blue Angels, and the initial training base for Navy, Marine and Coast Guard pilots, as well as Naval Flight Officers. It is also home to the National Naval Aviation Museum, offering visitors the opportunity to discover the history of naval aviation through exhibits, multimedia displays, an IMAX theater and more.

The entrance hall of the museum features a static display of an F14 Tomcat, with bronze statues of support personnel preparing the iconic aircraft for takeoff. Upon entering the museum itself, visitors will see superbly restored vintage aircraft suspended overhead. There are more than 150 aircraft at the museum, ranging from early World War I through to modern day. Large-scale models of aircraft carriers, complete with aircraft on their flat decks, give visitors an idea of the immense size of these craft.

On most Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, between March and November, the Blue Angels can be seen practicing in the skies above the museum. Practice starts at 11:30 am and continues for about an hour. There is a viewing area with bleachers and visitors may bring lawn chairs, although it should be noted that for security reasons, no backpacks, daypacks etc. are permitted in the area during practice.

Entrance to the museum and to watch the Blue Angels practice sessions is free of charge. For a fee, visitors can watch an aviation themed movie in the IMAX theater, or experience what it’s like to be a jet plane pilot in the Flight Simulator. Visit the National Naval Aviation Museum website for more information and to plan your visit.