USNB North Island, Coronado
Originally, guests of the Hotel Del Coronado used the unihabited sand flat at the northern end of Coronado for horseback riding and hunting in the nineteenth century.
Later, North Island became a flying school until the beginning of World War I.
Glenn Curtiss, the famed aviation pioneer and owner of the flight school happened to train Yamada, who became head of Japan's Naval aviation during WWII.
North Island was commissioned a Naval Air Station in 1917 and was officially recognized as the "Birthplace of U.S. Naval Aviation."
Many "Firsts" are attributed to Naval Air Station North Island:
Commander Earl W. Spencer Jr. USN,(Husband of the infamous Wallis Warfield Spencer Simpson Windsor, Duchess of Windsor.) was the first commanding officer of the base.
1911: The first seaplane flight.
1923: The first mid-air refueling
1923: The first non-stop transcontinental flight,
1927: The flight of Charles A. Lindbergh from New York to Paris originated at North Island on May 9.
1928: The "Blue Angels" began astounding audiences with their daring and talented flight demonstrations.
Until 11 September 2001 it was possible to take a tour of the base with the Old Town Trolley Tours.
However now, a view of North Island from the Bay while on a Harbor Cruise, may be the only way you can see the base. Unless of course, you have a US Military ID.
There are just a few ways that non-military persons can see this sight. One of them is to take a Harbor Cruise and as your tour passes an aircraft carrier you may see this or more. You won't be able to see aircraft taking off or landing on the carrier at Coronado, they only do that out at sea.
There are other glimpses of the Military presence in Coronado as well. At the north end of the Silver Strand on the west side, next to those huge towering condo buildings, you can see burnt out helicopters and other remnants of a "beach landing." This is a training site and it can seem like watching a movie when the action is taking place.
Another sight that is quite impressive is the groups of US Marines jogging along the beach from one end to the other, to keep in shape, and in shape they are. When jogging for training, they are in full uniform however, many of these guys jog during off duty hours and are not so full of clothes. This can be seen any time while sunbating on the sand at the beach in Coronado.
Aircraft Carriers parked in the bay at North Island.
Unlike many other countries, it is okay to photograph ships or planes in the USA. All our "classified" stuff is not out in the open.
As mentioned in the Introduction to my Coronado page, the U.S. Military plays an important role in Coronado and it's influence in the development of this city, though subtle to tourists, is very clear to the locals.
This view of the recently arrived aircraft carrier, U.S.S. Ronald Reagan, is from the vantage point of one of Coronado's mini-parks on First Avenue.
I'll mention too, that if you are driving around the residential sections and end up finding yourself at one of the gates to the Naval Air Station, don't panic. The guard will simply tell you how to turn around.
This is the runway at North Island Naval Air Station.
Years ago I worked for the Navy at North Island and it was my habit of going down to the beach area with a lunch. I enjoyed the fresh air, the sun and the sea.
One day I invited a co-worker along and as I drove my little TR-3 convertible towards my favorite spot, she screamed out in horror that I was driving on the runway!
I never knew.
Quickly I turned the car off the runway and onto the sand strip near by.
Yes, the car got stuck and we could do nothing to get it out. We were worried about getting back to work on time. Luckily an AWAC flew overhead, we waved wildly, and of course the plane kept on going.
A few minutes later, we were rescued by the MPs (Military Police) because the AWAC had radioed in our location and dilemma. In those days we were young and cute and didn't get into trouble. :-)
Unfortunately, that was the end of my lovely lunches on the beach near the runway.
However, you can experience a simple lunch as I did in those days.
Just go to the north end of Coronado beach, just before you reach the back gate to North Island and either have your picnic at the grassy park or walk out on the sand.
Most likely a few planes will fly overhead while you're there and it's quite possible some very good looking guys and gals will be seen as they jog down the beach in training or just to get a work-out.