MARINE CORPS AIR STATION NEW RIVER, N.C. --
On May 8, 1911, Navy Capt. Washington Chambers used funds appropriated by congress to purchase two Curtiss biplanes, marking the birth of naval aviation.
This year, naval aviation celebrates its 100th birthday, and with a century of defending the nation’s skies and supporting ground operations abroad, Marine Corps Air Station New River had a lot to celebrate. The Station held the 2011 Sounds of Freedom Air Show themed “Soaring for a Century, Celebrating 100 Years of Naval Aviation,” May 14 and 15, to commemorate the occasion.
The biennial show was free of charge and open to the public, although enhanced security measures were in place. Approximately 30,000 guests were attracted to the show’s exciting line up, despite warnings of poor weather.
Maj. Karl Kuga, air show director, told guests they would “see things you won’t see at a theater or amusement park.” About a year and a half’s worth of preparation went into creating the air show and the planning paid off. It was the first time Team Red Bull performed in Eastern Carolina and was one of only a handful of shows the Canadian Forces Snowbirds are scheduled to perform at in the United States.
The Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have come a long way since Navy Lt. Theodore Ellyson, the first naval aviator, flew the Curtiss A-1 Triad. An F/A-18 Super Hornet sped past air show guests at about 650 miles per hour, 10 times faster than the Triad, and an A/V-8B Harrier demonstrated its ability to go backward and side to side. Guests found themselves busy with about 20 acts, including the crowd-favorite Marine Air/Ground Task Force demonstration and jumps by the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Parachute Demonstration Team the Black Daggers. More than 30 static displays dotted the flightline, from a CH-46 Sea Knight from the Center for Naval Aviation Technical Training to modern weapon systems from Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division. Patrons were given the opportunity to get up close with equipment used by the U.S. military.
“It was just phenomenal,” said Kuga. “The feedback was that this was the best air show that’s ever taken place at New River.”
A series of showers around noon on the second day sent guests running for tents, putting chairs over their heads and covering themselves with blankets to keep dry. However, dedicated fans were not deterred and tried to tough it out. Josh Knight, a former Marine mortarman with 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, his wife and daughter were among those who stayed.
“It’s just like another day in the field,” said the Tampa, Fla., native. “I’m so used to it and we’re already wet, so there’s no point in going home.”
Unfortunately, the threat of lightning looming on the horizon five miles out eventually brought the air show to an early close.
“We were a bit disappointed,” Kuga explained. “Sometimes it’s more important to make sure everyone is safe.”
The 2011 Sounds of Freedom Air Show was just one of a few air shows and events that will celebrate the centennial of naval aviation this year. New River’s next airshow is scheduled for May 2013.
“We’re all naval aviators in the Marine Corps, Coast Guard and Navy,” said Kuga. “We have a great history that we’re very proud of. It means freedom, in my opinion.”