Story by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kathleen O’keefe

The Navy’s celebration of the Centennial of Naval Aviation (CoNA) kicked off Saturday at Naval Air Station North Island (NASNI) with a unique opportunity for the public to get the Navy experience.

The first successful hydroaeroplane flight, which occurred at NASNI in 1911, prompted government officials to recognize the utility of aircraft for naval operations.

Now known as the “Birthplace of Naval Aviation”, San Diego served as the backdrop for a unique Open House and Parade of Flight.

“The air show was really cool,” said Ship’s Serviceman 1st Class (SW) Ricky McCaig. “I loved seeing all the different types of aircraft flying in masses.”

“The last formation with airwing F/18s, Prowlers and Hawkeyes was beautiful,” said Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Luis Lozano. “I just love planes.”

The U.S. Navy flight demonstration team, the Blue Angels, led the “Parade of Flight” which featured modern aircraft as well as models predating World War II.

The Leapfrogs, the U.S. Navy parachute team, also performed for the crowd.

“The Leapfrogs are one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen,” said Yeoman Seaman Shonica Portley. “It was all well thought out and synchronized. As soon as a parachutist landed the Blue Angels would fly over and the whole crowd just went ‘ohh’ and ‘ahh’.”

People lined the pier to tour Stennis as well as the USS Peleliu (LHA 5) and the USS Pinckney (DDG 91).

The secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), Ray Mabus, visited with Sailors aboard Stennis while also enjoying the festivities.

“I got to shake SECNAV’s hand,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class (SW/AW) Donald Brazier. “It was really cool that he took the time to come over and talk with us. It really made my day.”

The Navy’s year-long celebration of the achievements of naval aviation honors the triumphs and progress of the past 100 years.

“Who would have figured somebody a long time ago would have said, ‘I’m going to take this airplane and fly it off this ship and then come back and land it again?’”, said Commanding Officer Capt. Joseph Kuzmick. “It is absolutely an amazing thing.”