Naval Air Station Pensacola Overview
The first onsite construction at Pensacola Bay took place in 1826. The original purpose of the yard was to suppress slave trade and piracy throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean. The base was rebuilt after the Civil War to be used as a naval yard, but by 1911, the yard had fallen into disuse and was decommissioned. The site became the location of the first Aeronautic Center in 1913, and in the following year, a flight school was established.
The USS Langley (CV-1), the Navy’s first aircraft carrier, was based at the Pensacola station for several months in 1922 and then again in 1923. In March 1928, the Lexington (CV-3) came to the Pensacola Navy Yard to carry out further experiments in naval aviation. Thousands of naval pilots received training at Pensacola Navy Yard and its auxiliary fields during World War II.
Today, this site is revered as a historic landmark. It is home to the Naval Aerospace Medical Institute and the Blue Angels—a group of pilots who give flight demonstrations for the public. It also serves as home base for the USS Lexington (AVT 16), a veteran warship that educated students in the art of taking off from and landing on a seagoing airfield.
When Hurricane Ivan damaged 43 buildings at the site, the National Trust for Historic Preservation fought hard against plans to bulldoze them. Despite the National Trust’s protests, the site lost 33 of its buildings, which had held official landmark status since 1976. The station was first constructed in 1826, and since then, it has been rebuilt several times. Pensacola was the country’s only naval air station through WWI, and it was the first military base to train pilots.