Less than twenty minutes later I arrive at U.S Navy Base at Pensacola Florida, home of the world famous Blue Angels and The National Museum Of Naval Aviation.
Parking and admission to the museum is free so it has already been worth the drive. To my surprise, 2011 is the 100th year anniversary of Naval Aviation which began in May of 1911. A free guided tour begins with a nice history lesson on the birth of the Naval Aviation and it's first airplane, a flying boat. For sure, in 1911 the operation of any flying machines was a dangerous mission and a few pilots were lost in the process.
Do you know where the first Navy bombing in foreign waters occurred? It was in Vera Cruz, Mexico. Apparently, while performing aerial reconnaissance over the area an irritated naval aviator dropped bars of soap on the Mexicans who were firing shots at his flying boat. Guess he was trying to get them to clean up their act.
This and many other interesting stories are told during our tour by a volunteer who has been involved with the Navy practically all his adult life. Did you know the Navy was responsible for seat belts in airplanes?
Today, all airplanes in the United States begin there registration number with the letter “N”. This process began as a part of Naval history attributed to the “Navy Curtis” (NC) which was a flying boat designed to patrol and fly across the Atlantic.
Even Henry Ford, the famous automaker has a part in Naval history. Mr. Ford's contribution, the fully aluminum framed, Ford Tri-Motor. Used as a transportation aircraft it took two days combined with an overnight train ride to get from the East Coast to Los Angeles. Now the same trip is done in about six hours.
Others like the PB2Y-R5 flew military officials around to places like Tokyo Harbor for the signing of the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II.
Today, flying boats and even the once thought to be sophisticated F-14 of the movie Top Gun fame are a thing of the past. With the advance of warfare systems and technology, the present Navy airplanes are machines that could not even be imagined one hundred years ago.
A far cry from a few bars of soap.
Who knows you might even meet or become a Blue Angel because of it.