Pacific Aviation Museum celebrates Centennial of Naval Aviation

Under historic aicraft, guests dined at the Centennial of Naval Aviation dinner at the Pacific Aviation Museum on May 12.

Under historic aicraft, guests dined at the Centennial of Naval Aviation dinner at the Pacific Aviation Museum on May 12.

Story and photo by Chris Aguinaldo

Contributing Writer

Commemorating a century of strength and leadership in the air, the Pacific Aviation Museum (PAM) hosted its Centennial of Naval Aviation dinner May 12.

The celebration took place only four days after the official anniversary of the Navy committing to air power. On May 8, 1911, Navy Capt. Washington Irving Chambers, officer in charge of aviation, prepared contract specifications to purchase the Navy’s first aircraft, marking the birth of naval aviation.

Hundreds of attendees and guests mustered at the historic site at PAM last week to show their appreciation for naval aviators and their supporters.

U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Patrick Walsh took the opportunity to thank a crucial part of naval aviation’s continuing success: flight instructors.

“It begins, for all of us [new naval aviators], with an instructor, with someone who, by design, whether you like it or not, [is] gonna get [you] mentored and is going to see you through so that one day, you can be operating at a time and place that someone else chooses [and] you’ll be on stage, ready on time,” Walsh said.

That kind of readiness isn’t just at wartime, reminded Rear Adm. Charles Ray, commander, 14th District Coast Guard District, but also when naval aviators respond to cries of help.

“In an average year, Coast Guard air crews rescue over 3,000 people,” Ray shared with the audience. “We wear these wings of gold to give people back their lives.”

Hawaii’s naval aviation units were honored as part of the program. Receiving applause were Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 362, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 363, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, Marine Heavy Helicopter Squadron 463, Patrol Squadron 9, Patrol Squadron 47, Patrol Squadron 2 Special Projects, Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light 37, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 51, U.S. Coast Guard Air Station Barber’s Point and Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Kauai.

Also taking the stage were naval aviators and supporters spanning nearly a century. Aviators included 1st Lt. Kevin Roche, pilot, HMH-363, who was presented as Hawaii’s youngest naval aviator, and Chip Gunther, a World War II veteran.

The Pacific Fleet Band provided music while special guest Jim Nabors (“Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C”) ended the formal program, with a stirring rendition of “God Bless America.”

For more information about the Centennial of Naval Aviation, see the official site at

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Category: News