Naval Air Station Pensacola

Naval Air Station Pensacola
Forrest Sherman Field
Airport type Military: Naval Air Station
Operator United States Navy
Location Escambia County, near Pensacola, Florida
Built 1913
In use Active
Commander Captain Christopher Martin
Elevation AMSL 28 ft / 8.5 m
Coordinates 30°21′09″N 087°19′04″W / 30.35250°N 87.31778°W / 30.35250; -87.31778
Direction Length Surface
ft m
01/19 7,137 2,175 Asphalt/Concrete
07L/25R 8,002 2,439 Asphalt/Concrete
07R/25L 8,001 2,439 Asphalt/Concrete
The first lighthouse built by the U.S. on the Florida coast

Naval Air Station Pensacola or NAS Pensacola (IATA: NPA, ICAO: KNPA, FAA LID: NPA) (formerly NAS/KNAS until changed circa 1970 to allow Nassau International Airport, now Lynden Pindling International Airport, to have IATA code NAS), "The Cradle of Naval Aviation", is a United States Navy base located next to Warrington, Florida, a community southwest of the Pensacola city limits. It is best known as the initial primary training base for all Navy, Marine and Coast Guard aviators and Naval Flight Officers, the advanced training base for most Naval Flight Officers, and as the home base for the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the precision-flying team known as the Blue Angels. Because of contamination by heavy metals and other hazardous materials during this history, it is designated as a Superfund site needing environmental cleanup.[1]

The air station also hosts the Naval Education and Training Command (NETC) and the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute (NAMI), which provides training for all naval flight surgeons, aviation physiologists, and aviation experimental psychologists. With the closure of Naval Air Station Memphis in Millington, Tennessee and the transition of that facility to Naval Support Activity Mid-South, NAS Pensacola also became home to the Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC), providing technical training schools for nearly all enlisted aircraft maintenance and enlisted aircrew specialties in the U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard.

NAS Pensacola contains Forrest Sherman Field, home of Training Air Wing SIX, providing undergraduate flight training for all prospective Naval Flight Officers for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, and flight officers/navigators for other NATO/Allied/Coalition partners. TRAWING SIX consists of the Training Squadron 4 (VT-4) Warbucks, Training Squadron 10 (VT-10) Wildcats and Training Squadron 86 (VT-86) Sabrehawks, flying the T-45C Goshawk, and T-6A Texan II.

A select number of prospective U.S. Air Force Navigator/Combat Systems Officers, destined for certain fighter and bomber aircraft, were previously trained via TRAWING SIX, with command of VT-10 rotating periodically to a USAF officer. Today, all USAF Undergraduate CSO Training (UCSOT) for all USAF aircraft is consolidated at NAS Pensacola as a strictly USAF organization and operation under the 479th Flying Training Group (479 FTG), an Air Education and Training Command (AETC) unit. The 479 FTG is a tenant activity at NAS Pensacola and a geographically separated unit (GSU) of the 12th Flying Training Wing (12 FTW) at Randolph AFB, Texas. The 479 FTG operates USAF T-6A Texan II and T-1A Jayhawk aircraft.

Other tenant activities include the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, flying F/A-18 Hornets and a single USMC C-130T Hercules; and the 2nd German Air Force Training Squadron USA (German: 2. Deutsche Luftwaffenausbildungsstaffel USA  abbreviated “2. DtLwAusbStff”). A total of 131 aircraft operate out of Sherman Field, generating 110,000 flight operations each year.

The National Naval Aviation Museum (formerly known as the National Museum of Naval Aviation), the Pensacola Naval Air Station Historic District, the National Park Service-administered Fort Barrancas and its associated Advance Redoubt, and the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum (see Pensacola Light) are all located at NAS Pensacola, as well as Barrancas National Cemetery.


The site now occupied by NAS Pensacola has been controlled by varying nations. In 1559, Spanish explorer Don Tristan de Luna founded a colony on Santa Rosa Island, considered the first European settlement of the Pensacola area. The Spanish built the wooden Fort San Carlos de Austria on this bluff in 1697-1698. Although besieged by Indians in 1707, the fort was not taken. Spain was competing in North America with the French, who settled lower Louisiana and the Illinois Country and areas to the North. The French destroyed this fort when they captured Pensacola in 1719. After Great Britain defeated the French in the Seven Years' War and exchanging some territory with Spain, British colonists took over this site and West Florida in 1763.

In 1781, as an ally of the American rebels during the American Revolutionary War, the Spanish captured Pensacola. Britain ceded West Florida to Spain following the war. The Spanish completed the fort San Carlos de Barrancas in 1797.[2][3] Barranca is a Spanish word for bluff, the natural terrain feature that makes this location ideal for the fortress.

Pensacola was taken by General Andrew Jackson in November 1814 during the War of 1812 between Great Britain and the United States. British forces destroyed Fort San Carlos as they swept through the area. The Spanish remained in control of the region until 1821, when the Adams-Onís Treaty confirmed the purchase of Spanish Florida by the United States, and Spain ceded this territory to the US.

In 1825, the US designated this area for the Pensacola Navy Yard was designated and Congress appropriated $6,000 for a lighthouse. Operational that year, it "is said to be haunted by a light keeper murdered by his wife."[4] Fort Barrancas was rebuilt, 1839-1844, the U.S. Army deactivating it on 15 April 1947. Designated a National Historic Site (NHL) in 1960, control of the site was transferred to the National Park Service in 1971. After extensive restoration during 1971-1980, Fort Barrancas was opened to the public. It has a visitor's center.[4]

Realizing the advantages of the Pensacola harbor and the large timber reserves nearby for shipbuilding, in 1825 President John Quincy Adams and Secretary of the Navy Samuel Southard made arrangements to build a Navy Yard on the southern tip of Escambia County, where the air station is today. Navy captains William Bainbridge, Lewis Warrington, and James Biddle selected the site on Pensacola Bay.

Construction began in April 1826, and the Pensacola Navy Yard, also known as the Warrington Navy Yard, became one of the best equipped naval stations in the country. In its early years, the garrison of the West Indies Squadron dealt mainly with the suppression of the African slave trade and piracy in the Gulf and Caribbean. The US and Great Britain had outlawed the international slave trade effective 1808, but smuggling continued for decades, especially as Cuba and certain South American nations continued with slavery.

On 12 January 1861, just prior to the commencement of the Civil War, the Warrington Navy Yard surrendered to secessionists.[5] When Union forces captured New Orleans in 1862, Confederate troops, fearing attack from the west, retreated from the Navy Yard and reduced most of the facilities to rubble. At the time, they also abandoned Fort Barrancas and Fort McRee.

After the war, the ruins at the yard were cleared away and work was begun to rebuild the base. Many of the present structures on the air station were built during this period, including the stately two- and three-story houses on North Avenue. In 1906, many of these newly rebuilt structures were destroyed by a great hurricane and tidal wave.

The Pensacola and Fort Barrancas Railroad was constructed in 1870 during the Reconstruction era, bringing rail service aboard the Navy Yard, and improving connections to the city of Pensacola. The company was incorporated by a special act of the State of Florida on 12 February 1870 to improve infrastructure, and was granted an easement by Congress to run through the federal Navy Yard reservation on 30 January 1871.[6]

NAS Pensacola in 1918

The Navy Department awakened to the possibilities of naval aviation through the efforts of Captain Washington Irving Chambers; he prevailed upon Congress to include in the Naval Appropriation Act enacted in 191112 a provision for aeronautical development. Chambers was ordered to devote all of his time to naval aviation. In October 1913, Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, appointed a board, with Captain Chambers as chairman, to make a survey of aeronautical needs and to establish a policy to guide future development. One of the board's most important recommendations was the establishment of an aviation training station in Pensacola.

On 20 January 1914, LCdr. Henry C. Mustin, Naval Aviator No. 11, and Lt. John H. Towers, Naval Aviator No. 3, arrived in Pensacola on the former battleship USS Mississippi with the men and aircraft from the Naval Aviation Camp at Annapolis, Maryland. "The aviation unit consisted of nine officers, 23 enlisted men, and seven aircraft."[7] The first flight occurred on 2 February 1914, with Lt. Towers and Ens. Godfrey deC. Chevalier, Naval Aviator No. 7, at the controls.

Upon the entry of the United States into World War I on 6 April 1917, Pensacola, still the only naval air station, had 38 naval aviators, 163 enlisted men trained in aviation support, and 54 fixed-wing aircraft. Two years later, by the signing of the armistice in November 1918, the air station, with 438 officers and 5,538 enlisted men, had trained 1,000 naval aviators. At war's end, seaplanes, dirigibles, and free kite balloons were housed in steel and wooden hangars stretching a mile down the air station beach.

In the years following World War I, aviation training slowed down. An average of 100 pilots were graduating annually from the 12-month flight course. This was before the category of aviation cadets was established; officers were accepted for the flight training program only after at least two years of sea duty. The majority were Annapolis graduates, although a few reserve officers and enlisted men also graduated. Naval Air Station Pensacola became known as the "Annapolis of the Air".

Station Field was created on the north side of the navy yard in 1922. Enlarged, it was renamed Chevalier Field in 1935 for Lt. Cdr. Godfrey DeCourcelles Chevalier, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy in 1910, and an early Naval Air Pilot, designated as No. 7 on 7 November 1915. With the advent of jet aviation, its 3,100-foot runway was too short for new aircraft entering service. Forrest Sherman Field was opened in 1954 for most fixed-wing operations.

With the inauguration in 1935 of the cadet training program, activity at Pensacola again expanded. When Pensacola's training facilities could no longer accommodate the ever increasing number of cadets accepted by the Navy, two more naval air stations were createdone in Jacksonville, Florida, and the other in Corpus Christi, Texas. (During this period, the Southern Democratic block exerted considerable influence in Congress, as the South was a one-party region. Democrats occupied key committee chairman positions by seniority and directed many projects to their region.)

In August 1940, a larger auxiliary base, Saufley Field, named for LT R.C. Saufley, Naval Aviator 14, was added to Pensacola's activities. In October 1941, a third field, Ellyson Field, named after CDR Theodore G. “Spuds” Ellyson, the Navy’s first aviator, was added.

Aerial view of NAS Pensacola in the mid-1940s. Chevalier Field is at the upper right.

With the start of World War II, NAS Pensacola once again became the hub of air training activities. NAS Pensacola expanded again, training 1,100 cadets a month, 11 times the number trained annually in the 1920s. The growth of NAS Pensacola from 10 tents to the world's greatest naval aviation center was emphasized by then-Senator Owen Brewster's statement: "The growth of naval aviation during World War II is one of the wonders of the modern world." Naval aviators from NAS Pensacola were called upon to train the Doolittle Raiders at Eglin Field in 1942 for carrier take-offs in their B-25 Mitchell bombers. Navy LT Henry Miller supervised their takeoff training and accompanied the crews to the launch. For his efforts, LT Miller is considered an honorary member of the Raider group.[8]

During the Korean War, the military was caught in the midst of transition from propellers to jets. The air station had to revise its courses and training techniques. NAS Pensacola produced 6,000 aviators from 1950 to 1953.

Forrest Sherman Field was opened in 1954 on the western side of NAS Pensacola. This jet airfield was named after the late Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, a former Chief of Naval Operations. Shortly thereafter the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels, relocated from NAS Corpus Christi, Texas.

Pilot training requirements shifted upward to meet the demands for the Vietnam War, which occupied much of the 1960s and 1970s. From a low of 1,413 in 1962, before the entry of the US in any substantive way, pilot training in 1968 produced 2,552 graduates.

From the earliest days of naval aviation at Pensacola, an aircraft maintenance facility operated at the air station. Initially known as the Construction and Repair Department, in 1923 it was redesignated an Assembly and Repair Department, and in 1948 to the Overhaul and Repair Department. In 1967, the status of the facility at NAS Pensacola and at five other Navy and one Marine Corps air stations were changed to that of separate commands, each called a Naval Air Rework Facility and directed to report to the Commander of the Naval Air Systems Command instead of the air station commanding officer. Former seaplane hangars along the south edge of the air station, as well as a large structure at Chevalier Field were utilized for aircraft overhauls, and Pensacola was a designated as an A-4 Skyhawk rework site.

In 1987 the name Naval Aviation Depot replaced the name Naval Air Rework Facility to more accurately reflect the range of their activities. Three Naval Aviation Depots were closed under the 1993 BRAC Committee recommendations including that at NAS Pensacola, and most of the buildings on the air station involved in these tasks razed.[9]

Monthly inspection of the Naval Photography School at NAS Pensacola, 29 July 1944. Photograph by Joseph Janney Steinmetz

The Naval Photography School was located at base. Howard Zieff learned photography there and the monthly inspection at the school was photographed by Joseph Janney Steinmetz in 1944.

Modern history

Flyover with troops in formation

In 1971, NAS Pensacola was picked as the headquarters site for CNET (Chief of Naval Education and Training), a new command which combined direction and control of all Navy education and training activities and organizations. The Naval Air Basic Training Command was absorbed by the Naval Air Training Command, which moved to NAS Corpus Christi, Texas. In 2003, CNET was replaced by the Naval Education and Training Command(NETC).[10]

Also located on board NAS Pensacola is Naval Aviation Schools Command (NAVAVSCOLSCOM). This command has the following subordinate schools:

NAVAVSCOLSCOM also previously oversaw Aviation Officer Candidate School (AOCS) until that program's disestablishment and merger into Officer Candidate School (OCS) under Officer Training Command at NETC Newport, Rhode Island in 2007.

The Pensacola Naval Complex in Escambia and Santa Rosa counties employs more than 16,000 military and 7,400 civilian personnel.

During the 2005 round of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), people in Florida and the Navy feared that NAS Pensacola might be closed, despite its naval hub status, due to extensive damage by Hurricane Ivan in late 2004. Nearly every building on the installation had suffered heavy damage, with near total destruction of the air station's southeastern complex . The main barracks, Chevalier Hall, did not reopen until late January 2005, four months after the storm. When the list was released on 13 May 2005, NAS Pensacola and other military bases hit by Ivan in Northwest Florida were not on the BRAC list. Their facilities were rebuilt.

Archaeologists examine the remains of 16th century shipwreck on the beach at NAS Pensacola

In May 2006, Navy construction crews unearthed a Spanish ship during an archeological excavation. It may date to the mid-16th century. The ship remains were discovered during the rebuilding of the base's rescue swimmer school, which was destroyed by Hurricane Ivan.[11]

On March 3, 2010 the commander of the base, Captain William Reavey Jr., was relieved of command after a Navy investigation into alleged improper conduct. Reavey was replaced by Captain Christopher Plummer.[12]

United States Air Force at NAS Pensacola

NAS Pensacola is host to the 479th Flying Training Group (479 FTG) of the Air Education and Training Command (AETC). The 479 FTG is composed of the 451st Flying Training Squadron, 455th Flying Training Squadron and 479th Operations Support Squadron. The 479 FTG is part of the 12th Flying Training Wing at Randolph AFB, Texas, but student information and files are handled through Tyndall AFB, Florida while they train at NAS Pensacola. With the divestment of Specialized Undergraduate Navigator Training (SUNT) and the retirement of the T-43 Bobcat from the 12th Flying Training Wing main operation at Randolph AFB, the 479 FTG assumed responsibility for the renamed Undergraduate Combat Systems Officer Training (UCSOT) for all prospective USAF CSOs. The 479 FTG operates USAF T-6 Texan II and T-1 Jayhawk aircraft at NAS Pensacola.

NAS Pensacola is also home to AETC's Detachment 1, 359th Training Squadron (359 TRS). A geographically separated unit of the 359 TRS at Eglin AFB, Florida, and falls under the 82nd TRW at Sheppard AFB, Texas. This school provides enlisted technical training for all USAF Low Obersavable Aircraft Structural Maintenance, Non-Destructive Inspections (NDI) and Aircraft Structural Maintenance (ASM) students. The 359 TRS, Det 1, graduates approximately 1200 students annually.

The USAF's Detachment 2, 66th Training Squadron (a geographically separated part of the 336th Training Group's Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) school at Fairchild Air Force Base) was located here at NAS Pensacola, dedicated to aircrew parachute water survival training, but relocated to Fairchild AFB in August, 2015.[13]

Incidents and accidents

On 20 February 1939, a squadron of twelve U.S. Navy aircraft, described as "fast combat ships", were returning to NAS Pensacola, Florida, from a routine training trip and found the Gulf Coast socked in by a fog described as one of the heaviest ever witnessed in the region. Eight planes were lost with two pilots killed. Three aircraft piloted by instructors, and one other plane, were diverted by radio and outran the fogbank to land safely at Atmore and Greenville, Alabama.

"Six of the Navy's flying students bailed out in the darkness and reached ground safely in their first parachute jumps. Their planes were wrecked beyond repair. Lt. G. F. Presser, Brazilian Navy flyer, in training at the Naval Air Station, crashed and was killed at Corry Field. His plane burned. The fog was so dense that the intense glow of the burning plane could not be seen by attendants on the field. Lt. N. M. Ostergren, U. S. Navy, was found dead at his crashed plane near McDavid the next morning. Officers said the wreckage of the eight planes - they declined to estimate their worth, but aviation circles here said the fast combat ships would cost from $18,000 to $20,000 each - was the air station's second heaviest loss. In 1926 a hurricane wrecked planes on the ground, hangars and other equipment for a total damage of about $1,000,000."[14]

The aircraft involved were all Boeing F4B-4 fighters. These included: BuNos. A9014, A9040, 9242, 9243, 9258, and 9719.[15]

See also


  1. Archived October 30, 2004, at the Wayback Machine.
  2. "The Forts of Pensacola Bay" (history), Visit Florida Online, 2006, webpage: VFO-Forts.
  3. "Fort San Carlos de Barrancas" (history), National Park Service (NPS), webpage: NPS-fort2.
  4. 1 2 Shettle, Jr., M. L., "United States Naval Air Stations of World War II, Volume I: Eastern States", Schaertel Publishing Co., Bowersville, Georgia, 1995, Library of Congress card number 94-68879, ISBN 0-9643388-0-7, page 178.
  5. Miller, J. Michael. "Marine's Telling of 1861 Florida Navy Yard Fall Given", Fortitudine, vol XX, no. 4 (Spring 1991): 8.
  6. Turner, Gregg M., A Journey Into Florida Railroad History, University Press of Florida, Library of Congress card number 2007050375, ISBN 978-0-8130-3233-7, page 94.
  7. Shettle, Jr., M. L., United States Naval Air Stations of World War II, Volume I: Eastern States, Schaertel Publishing Co., Bowersville, Georgia, 1995, Library of Congress card number 94-68879, ISBN 0-9643388-0-7, page 177.
  8. Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, Memorial site of Richard O. Joyce
  9. United States General Accounting Office, "Closing Maintenance Depots: Savings, Workload, and Redistribution Issues", United States General Accounting Office / National Security and International Affairs Division, Washington, D.C., GAO/NSIAD-96-29, March 1996, Appendix I - History of the Services' Depot Systems, page 62.
  11. , Albuquerque Tribune Archived June 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. Tilghman, Andrew, "NAS Pensacola CO’s firing made permanent", Military Times, March 4, 2010.
  13. Parachute water survival moves to Fairchild
  14. Crestview, Florida, "8 Planes Wrecked In Fog - Two Lose Lives As Eight Planes Wreck At Air Station", Okaloosa News-Journal, 24 February 1939, Volume 25, Number 8, page 1.
  15. "US Navy & US Marine Corps Aircraft Accidents 1920 to 1955". Retrieved 2014-03-03.


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Coordinates: 30°21′N 87°17′W / 30.35°N 87.29°W / 30.35; -87.29

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