NAS Pensacola Editorial by Ralph Williams
NAS Pensacola, Pensacola Florida
NAS Pensacola is a US Navy Air Station located near the City of Pensacola, Florida, westernmost city in the Florida Panhandle. Called “The Cradle of Naval Aviation,” it is where all Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard Aviators and Flight Officers receive their initial training. It is also the home base to the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.
NAS Pensacola has a long history with origins that date back to Spanish colonial days in the 1500s. After the USA acquired Florida from Spain in 1821, investment was made to the Pensacola Bay area for support to the naval ships operating in the Gulf of Mexico that the USA now had a major interest in protecting. With the advent of the aviation age in 1914 the Navy directed that the first naval air station be established at NAS Pensacola. During World War I, NAS Pensacola which had started with only 38 aviators, greatly expanded to train a total of 1,000 naval aviators in a short 2-year period. With the maturing aviation age and it’s changing technological requirements on the navy, the base was expanded many times in the inter-war era. By WWII, NAS Pensacola was training 1,000 naval aviators a month. The base has served to provide naval aviators for the US military in all modern conflicts it has been in and does so in the present day as the eminent home of US Naval Aviation. Beside its slogan as “The Cradle of Naval Aviation” it is also referred to as the “Annapolis of the Air.” NAS Pensacola not only trains American naval aviators but also those of our Allies, one notable example is the British Royal Navy which has had 4,000 aviation graduates as well.
I have visited the base and area, it is a great destination for a family trip. Besides the base and its impressive museum (open to the public!), there are numerous attractions and federal parks close by such as the preserved Pensacola lighthouse and an abundance of historic forts. From my experience as a visitor, with beautiful beaches and exciting military and historical places to visit, it is a base well worth going to for a great Florida vacation.
Facilities and Quality of Life
Because of its advanced age as a military base, there is an abundance of historical architecture to view. A historic district was established that encompasses 82 acres and includes buildings dating to the post-Civil War period when it was a navy yard. Buildings you can observe are the original navy yard commander's house, a chapel built in 1865 and many service buildings used for different uses throughout their history. During my family vacation I remember strolling on base and being among stately old trees along with buildings from the 1800s. Although the base has historic parts it has also been modernized through it’s life. There are new recreational facilities throughout the base. These include such amenities as three 18-hole golf courses, a marina with rental craft, many hiking trails, picnic areas, a large paintball area and an updated bowling alley.
The surrounding area of Pensacola includes some outstanding “sugar white” beaches on the (mostly) calm Gulf of Mexico, teaming with wildlife such as aquatic birds and sea life. If you spend time at the beach you will probably see dolphins swimming closely offshore. All of this, combined with the tropical weather, makes NAS Pensacola one of the best places to serve on according to an article listed at the Navy Times of the Top 5 naval bases.
One of the many highlights of visiting NAS Pensacola is staying on the base. The Navy Lodge on base is modern and has a touch of luxury. It is located next to the beach and is a big hit. For campers there are 158 RV spots with water and electrical hookups listed on the MWR website at one park alone with cottages and other camping sites available elsewhere on the base.
Military Displays and Shows
NAS Pensacola is the home to our naval aviation and as such is proud to share its story with the public. This base is open to the general public, something that has become increasingly hard to find with heightened security. The Navy has taken effective use in presenting itself to the public, this includes a massive Naval Aviation Museum that rivals a trip to the Smithsonian in Washington DC. Here there are dozens of vintage aircraft from all phases of the base’s life to the present day. The displays are incredibly well kept and include many interactive displays such as an anti-aircraft mount you can sit in and rotate along with an immersive Blue Angels ride that draws a big crowd.
Pensacola Florida Area/ Summary of NAS Pensacola
NAS Pensacola and the city of Pensacola are in the Emerald Coast of Florida. This area is noted for its tranquil white beaches and is a vacation destination for travelers around the world. The area is close to many major cities in the area yet maintains a relaxing beach vibe to it. Major events include Food Festivals and other events centering around this large military community with the Blue Angels doing a beach show or a homecoming show on base. A historic base with modern upgrades located in a pristine region of Florida Panhandle, the tropical vibe of this gulf-side area makes everyone that much happier and a makes NAS Pensacola a pleasure to visit.