Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Navy in Franklin, Virginia

NAAS Franklin from the air

Several dozen aircraft including  F6F Hellcats and SB2C Helldivers

F6F Hellcat

Shown here are a series of photos of Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Franklin, Virginia (about 40 miles west of Norfolk) during World War II.  Few things are more rooted in Virginia than U.S. naval aviation. In addition to Eugene Ely's first flight, all eleven ships of the Navy's current aircraft carrier fleet were built in Newport News, and five are homeported close by at Naval Station Norfolk. The planes that operate from these East Coast ships are local as well, with F-18 Hornets and Super Hornets from Virginia Beach's NAS Oceana and E-2 Hawkeyes and C-2 Greyhounds flying out of NAS Norfolk's Chambers Field.

Naval aircraft and their support ships and personnel have long been instrumental in national defense, from fighting in the skies over the Pacific in World War II to flying half of the fixed-wing sorties in Afghanistan today.While navies and ships have for centuries protected national shorelines and projected power abroad, naval aviation is relatively new. In the U.S., it began a hundred years ago in Virginia, on November 14, 1910, when a young pilot named Eugene Ely took off from a temporary wooden deck attached to the cruiser USS Birmingham. The partnerships the Navy has forged throughout these past one hundred years with Hampton Roads remain as important as ever and are no more evident than the Navy's current engagement with the City of Franklin and Isle of Wight county. The Navy is working together with the airport, elected officials and the community to reach a mutually beneficial arrangement that satisfies the Navy's training needs and provides benefits to the community and region.

The Navy's overarching requirements stem from the need to provide the most effective and realistic training possible to prepare our Aviators to support the Combatant Commander, and is anchored in improving aviation training capacity, fidelity and operational flexibility to support the Fleet Response Plan under all conditions. The Navy's proposed action for Franklin municipal Airport entails conducting Field Carrier Landing Practice (FCLP) for E-2/C-2 Fleet turbo-prop aircraft.

The Navy's presence in Franklin was an important one to the war effort back in the 1940s. The Acceptance and Delivery Unit (ADU) for Naval Air Center Hampton Roads was located at Monogram (in now what is Suffolk, VA) in 1943. Because Monogram's grass runways were unusable 35% of the time due to rain drainage, in January 1943 the Navy initially leased Franklin Municipal Airport, located in adjoining Isle of Wight County, and built the required infrastructure. The Navy commissioned the airfield NAAS Franklin on May 1943 and moved the ADU from Monogram shortly thereafter.

The ADU's mission at Franklin consisted of accepting new aircraft, maintaining a pool of spare aircraft, and transferring aircraft from that pool. Also aircraft that had been overhauled and repaired by Norfolk's Assembly and Repair Department were sent there, and like the new aircraft, were ferried to operational squadrons on awaiting aircraft carriers. During the course of NAAS Franklin's existence the station handled over 11,865 aircraft. By September 1945 over 500 aircraft were onboard the station at any one time. Four months later the Navy placed NAAS Franklin in caretaker status. NAAS Franklin initially had two 3000ft concrete runways. In 1945 the Navy lengthened the existing runways and added a new 4200ft runway, 09/27. In 1944 station personnel numbered seven officers and 86 enlisted personnel, while barracks accommodated up to 40 officers and 200 enlisted. The Navy returned the airfield to Franklin in a series of deeds in 1947 and 1948.

1 comment:

Margie said...

This article is important in so many ways. It illustrates just how important it is to Hampton Roads and specifically the City of Franklin and Isle of Wight County and the Navy that they all work together to bring the Navy back to Franklin Municipal Field. The past is often our best window into the future and in this case that is very true.