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Feature Story

A century of naval flight

Less than a decade after Wilbur Wright became the first man to pilot a powered aircraft, and just a few years before World War I broke out, a 26-year-old Naval Academy graduate became the first U.S. Navy pilot.

Under the tutelage of aircraft pioneer Glenn Curtiss, who is also credited with founding the U.S. aircraft industry, U.S. Navy Lt. Theodore Ellyson earned his wings in 1911.

Upon being certified as a pilot, Ellyson wrote, “In my opinion and that of Mr. Curtiss, I have qualified in practical aviation under favorable weather conditions.”

A century later and under all weather conditions and across the globe, Ellyson’s legacy lives on, as naval aviators and air and flight deck crews continue to serve their nation.

For 94 of those 100 years, Boeing has built and serviced naval aircraft – from the Model C to modern platforms like the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and the V-22 Osprey.

“Every one of us who supports our naval aviation customers understands their commitment and our responsibility to ensure they have the military aircraft and capabilities needed to complete their missions and return home safely.”

“In order to honor all those who have served and continue to serve, Boeing has been proud to sponsor events commemorating the 100th anniversary of naval aviation,” said Matt Moffit, vice president of Boeing Navy Systems. “We have an enduring commitment to the men and women of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard who make flight from the sea possible.”

“Every one of us who supports our naval aviation customers understands their commitment and our responsibility to ensure they have the military aircraft and capabilities needed to complete their missions and return home safely,” Moffit said. 

To see naval aircraft that Boeing and its heritage companies have built for the United States over more than nine decades, view the photo gallery above.

For a recap of the past year’s centennial events, read a Boeing posting here or visit the 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation website.