Salute to centennial of naval aviation

July 26, 2011

This Douglas A-4 Skyhawk attracted attention.

This Douglas A-4 Skyhawk attracted attention.

EAA AirVenture 2011 is hosting a wide variety of naval aircraft, both historic and active duty, in Oshkosh, Wis., this week as the association’s fifty-ninth annual fly-in convention pays tribute to the centennial of naval aviation. AirVenture featured “Navy Day” activities on July 27.

The largest collection of airworthy naval aircraft, ranging from meticulous restorations and replicas to today’s modern airplanes and helicopters, is being featured on ConocoPhillips Plaza, as well as a special parking area dubbed “NAS Oshkosh” located just east of Scotts Warbird Alley.

Current naval aircraft include several wearing paint schemes of their predecessors, specifically because of the centennial. More than 25 specially painted aircraft are scheduled to appear at AirVenture, including two T-45 Goshawks painted in yellow-winged, pre-World War II tactical aircraft schemes; an S-3B Viking wearing the same colors as Navy aircraft that fought in the World War II Battle of Midway, and an HH-60H Seahawk helicopter painted like the aircraft of Helicopter Attack (Light) Squadron Three (HAL-3) from the Vietnam era.

“I’m pretty honored to be here. This is my first time to be at Oshkosh,” said Lt. Jeremy DeBons, who flew an F/A-18F Super Hornet to AirVenture from Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. He is assigned to VF-23, an air test and evaluation squadron.

Being at Oshkosh has increased his interest in general aviation. “I started flying GA when I got back to the States nine months ago,” DeBons said. “It makes me want to buy an airplane.” He”s flying the Cessna 150, 152, and 172—and a Piper Arrow—at a local FBO. “My favorite is the 152 for what I need it for—two people going to lunch.”

“To be here right now, I feel a part of history,” said Lt. j.g. Jesse Nerius, who helped to fly an MH-60S Nighthawk helicopter from Norfolk to Oshkosh. “My dad was back in Vietnam. Seeing military aircraft at shows has always been inspiring. Being a part of it now is a dream come true.”

Nerius said he had wanted to fly since he was a child, growing up in Chicago. “It’s my first time here. I’ve never been able to be here before.” He logged about 15 hours of fixed-wing flying as a civilian before learning to fly helicopters in the Navy.

“There is no other place where you can see a gathering of aircraft of this magnitude, representing all eras of naval aviation over the past 100 years,” said Tom Poberezny, former chairman of EAA and AirVenture. “This epic event will not only honor the heritage of these legendary warbirds, but the men and women who served and sacrificed in them.”

A Corsair (left) and Avenger parked in the warbird area.

The lower crew entrance to a Grumman TBM Avenger is an interesting place.

Rockwell's T-2 Buckeye served the Navy as a trainer.

Tug maneuvers a just-arrived Navy Sea Hawk helicopter.

Gull wings are a hallmark of the World War II Corsair fighter.

A rare ex-Navy FJ-4B Fury was displayed on the flight line.

After arriving at Oshkosh the crew of a Navy MH53E secures their aircraft.

A Navy P-3 Orion maritime patrol aircraft towers above ConocoPhillips Plaza visitors.

Current Navy aircraft are displayed in ConocoPhillips Plaza.

A Grumman Bearcat was among Monday's Oshkosh arrivals.

Visitors are reflected in the polished flank of a TBM Avenger.