Naval Air Station Whiting Field
Naval Air Station Whiting Field in Milton, Florida is the busiest Naval Air Station in the world, responsible for an estimated 46 percent of the Chief of Naval Air Command's total flight time and over 10 percent of Navy and Marine Corps total flight time. Over 1,200 personnel complete their essential flight training yearly. NAS Whiting Field and Training Air Wing Five have an outstanding and unmatched safe flying record. The station has served as a naval aviation training facility since it was established as a naval air auxiliary station in July 1943. Its present mission is to train student naval aviators in the primary and intermediate phases of fixed-wing aviation, and in the advanced phases of helicopter training.
This installation hosts Training Wing Five (TRAWING 5) and its fixed wing primary training squadrons VT-2, VT-3, VT-6 and helicopter training squadron HT-8. NAS Whiting Field is located north of Milton, FL. NAS Whiting primarily operates in the Pensacola MOAs. While relatively free from aeronautical encroachment, the area is experiencing the growth characteristic of Florida, in both sheer numbers (Santa Rosa County experienced a 44.3% population increase in the 1990s) and in changing demographics. As a result, unconstrained use of DoN aviation facilities is challenged.
Whiting Field's fixed wing operations, primarily conducted in the Beech T-34C, use the Pensacola MOAs. Helicopter training does not require SUA; however, a vigorous mid air collision avoidance program is in place, necessitated by the combination of high density student training and the "funneling" effect of Eglin and Tyndall AFBs' overland SUA to the east. NAS Whiting itself lies about five miles south of the centerline of Federal Airway V-198/ V-241, a key east-west IFR link along the Gulf Coast, that is also flown by considerable VFR traffic.
Concerns for the future include identifying the infrastructure and airspace requirement to support the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) aircraft. The operating characteristics of the T-6A (Texan II) includes extended range and an operational ceiling of up to FL 300. The aircraft is currently in the testing stage and the command is monitoring test results to gain an understanding of the outyear requirements. An additional concern is the proposed move of the Navy's UAV school to NAS Whiting field and the proposal to operate the Pioneer UAV at NOLF Choctaw. If this proposal comes to pass, the level of coordination required between the Navy, the FAA Pensacola TRACON and the Air Force at Eglin AFB will increase. Plans are ongoing to develop a process to facilitate this coordination effort.
The NAS Whiting Field fuel facility is a compact system consisting of bulk JP5 tanks, a service station, and the fuel laboratory, all of which are operated and maintained by the Government (a separate Contractor). This includes manning and mobile equipment for aircraft and ground fuel support. The dispatch center, the driver's ready room, and the site manger and administrative office supporting that mission are located in building 2993. The Contractor's maintenance area is adjacent to the truck parking area.
Before the field was officially commissioned, personnel were already beginning to train aviators. Squadron 3-B of Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Saufley Field, Pensacola, Florida, began operations on July 1, 1943. Squadron 3-B was later joined by Squadron 3-A of Chevalier Field to form Training Squadron THREE. In only 14 weeks, Whiting Field came into being to fulfill the need for pilot training commands in WWII.
Commissioning ceremonies for Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Whiting Field were held on July 16, 1943, in the South Field Hanger. At 11 a.m. that day, Rear Admiral George D. Murray, Commandant of the Naval Air Training Center, welcomed some 1,500 persons and introduced Mrs. Kenneth Whiting, the widow of Naval hero, Captain Kenneth Whiting, for whom the station was named. The commissioning of Whiting Field took place at a crucial time in American history. Only six days before the commissioning, the invasion of Sicily had occurred. Throughout World War II, Whiting's mission was to train aviators for the fleet.
On July 12, 1945, Detachment THREE 1470 SCU was established. Detachment THREE, a prisoner of war (POW) camp for German soldiers, was operated through the efforts and cooperation of Naval authorities at NAS Pensacola and Army authorities at Camp Rucker, Alabama. Certified documents indicate that the purpose of Whiting Field's POW camp was ". . . to furnish manual labor details necessary for construction and soil erosion projects at the field." The first officer in charge of the POW camp was Army Captain Robert H. Fuller. He arrived on July 7, 1945. Two days later, he returned to Camp Rucker to escort the first group of 100 German POWs to Whiting. Assisting him were 19 enlisted soldiers who were assigned to Whiting to guard the prisoners and help run the camp.
On August 3, an additional 125 prisoners were sent to Whiting. The labor for construction of the prisoners' barracks was provided by the POWs. Other construction projects included rebuilding a storage shed for a barber's shop and erecting buildings to house the canteen and reading room for the prisoners. All construction was completed with salvaged materials. No new construction was necessary. A small dispensary also was provided as hospital quarters for the minor illnesses among the prisoners. With the end of the war came numerous victory celebrations. German POW's were returned to their homeland. Training flights for cadets and aviation pilots were suspended for several days so the men could decide whether to remain in the Navy or return to civilian life. The entire country breathed a sigh of relief.
Milton residents became accustomed to the sight of heavy and medium bombers in the skies. By 1949, Whiting Field was known throughout the Naval Air Basic Training Command as the backbone of the Navy's flight program.
During 1949 and 1950, the famed Navy precision flying team, the Blue Angels, made their home at Whiting Field, and the Navy's first jet training unit, JTU ONE (JTU-1), was commissioned. The outbreak of the Korean War in 1950 caused the stay of the Blue Angels and JTU-1 at Whiting Field to be short-lived, as the Blue Angels were ordered to disband and go into combat. Jet training was transferred to Kingsville, Texas. Once again, Whiting could concentrate on basic pilot training.
In 1955-56, Whiting adopted a new aircraft, the Beechcraft T-34B Mentor, a trainer with tricycle landing gear. In 1956, the instrument tactics phase of basic flight training was moved from NAAS Saufley Field to Whiting. During this time, the T-28 Trojan was brought to Whiting Field to augment student training. By 1957, the fighter-attack syllabus of flight training was phased into Whiting's flight program, and in December 1959, multi-engine training was moved to Whiting for a short period of time.
On 1 May 1960, Primary Training Squadrons TWO (VT-2), THREE (VT-3) and SIX (VT-6) were established. VT-2 and VT-6 were located at North Field; VT-3 at South Field. Beginning in 1965, Whiting Field underwent a major facelift as an estimated $10 million was spent on construction projects. Whiting Field was subsequently commissioned as a Naval Air Station.
In January 1972, as a result of a major reorganization of the Naval Air Training Command, Whiting Field became the home of Training Air Wing FIVE. Under the command of Commander, Training Air Wing FIVE (TRAWING-FIVE) were his staff, three primary training squadrons and support personnel attached to NAS Whiting Field. Also in 1972, Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHT (HT-8) came under the command of TRAWING-FIVE and was later split to form Helicopter Training Squadron EIGHTEEN (HT-18).
In 1973, helicopter training began. Helicopter Training Squadrons EIGHT and EIGHTEEN were assigned to South Whiting Field. Training Squadron THREE relocated to North Field, making North Field the home of the three fixed-wing squadrons. Since then, all graduates of Navy helicopter training have received their Wings of Gold at Whiting Field.
Academic and simulated-flight-trainer instruction are also provided. In April, 1977, the T-34C Procedure Training Cockpit was accepted into the syllabus and in the fall of that year, the station began its transition to the T-34C Turbo Mentor as the primary trainer.
In August 1980, the new simulator building was completed. The building houses numerous flight simulators for instructor-student and self-paced instruction and familiarization. In the spring of 1983, the T-28 was phased out and a static display was presented to the station. In the fall of 1983, the UH-1 was phased out. It was the end of an era.
The current T-34C will be replaced by the newly acquired turbo prop T-6A aircraft and associated training system equipment at Naval Air Station (NAS) Whiting Field, Milton, Florida. The effects of associated construction activities will also be evaluated in the EA. The aircraft and associated land-based system equipment are referred to as the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS). This system will replace all primary pilot training equipment in the Navy and Air Force inventory. The T-6A will be phased into service and the T-34C will be retired from service over a six to ten year period.
As of August 1999 five military construction projects, consisting of upgrades or modifications to existing facilities, were proposed at NAS Whiting Field to support the JPATS. The Navy proposed to extend the runway at Navy Outlying Landing Field (NOLF) Brewton, Alabama (Brewton Muni Airport). Additional plans include acquiring Clear Zone land at the NOLF Barin, Alabama, runway 27 approach end to accommodate the longer runway requirements of the T-6A.
The T-34C and T-6A are single-engine, propeller-driven aircraft. The annual number and frequency of aircraft takeoff, landing, and touch-and-go operations at the associated NOLFs is not expected to change as a result of this replacement project. Takeoffs and landings at NAS Whiting Field (North) are expected to increase by approximately 40%. Operations at NAS Whiting Field (South) may increase by 20%. NOLFs to be used by the JPATS aircraft include NOLF Barin, Alabama; NOLF Brewton, Alabama; NOLF Evergreen, Alabama; NOLF Saufley, Florida; and NOLF Choctaw, Florida. As more T-6A aircraft join the training fleet, operations will also commence at NOLF Summerdale, Alabama, and NOLF Silverhill, Alabama. These operations will require acquisition of land for the required Clear Zones to accommodate the longer runway requirements of the T-6A at NOLF Summerdale and NOLF Silverhill. These two projects will also require runway extensions.
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