Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Council Navy League of the US

July 21: Tour Naval Air Station Whidbey Island @ 0930



NAS Whidbey Island is the premier naval aviation installation in the Pacific Northwest and home of all Navy tactical electronic attack squadrons flying the EA-6B Prowler and EA-18G Growler. Adding to the depth and capability of the air station are four P-3 Orion Maritime Patrol squadrons and two Fleet Reconnaissance squadrons flying the EP-3E Aries.

History – On Jan. 17, 1941, almost 11 months before the United States entered World War II, the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations asked the commandant of the 13th Naval District to find a location for the re-arming and refueling of Navy patrol planes operating in defense of Puget Sound, should such defense be necessary. The commanding officer of Naval Air Station Seattle recommended the site of Saratoga Passage on the shores of Crescent Harbor and Forbes Point as a base suitable for seaplane takeoffs and landings under instrument conditions.

On Dec. 8, three workers started a topographic survey of what would become Ault Field, about 4 miles to the north. Clover Valley — level, well drained and accessible from any approach — seemed tailor-made for a landing field. The strategic location, commanding the eastern end of the Straits of Juan de Fuca, guarded the entrance to Puget Sound. It was far enough from populated areas to carry on operational training flights with live loads. The area experienced visual flying conditions about 89 percent of the time, and there was plenty of room to grow.

Actual construction of Ault Field started March 1, 1942. The first plane landed there Aug. 5. On Sept. 21, 1942, Commanding Officer Capt. Cyril Thomas Simard read the orders and the watch was set. U.S. Naval Air Station Whidbey Island was duly commissioned.

Squadrons of PBY Catalinas flew from the Seaplane Base, starting in December 1942 when Lt. J.A. Morrison brought in the first PBY. Like big flying boats, PBYs took off with a churning of water and a roar of engines for their practice runs in Saratoga Passage, then returned, skimming the hill above the hangar and settling into the bay to repeat the maneuver.

Over at Ault Field, the earliest squadrons of aircraft were F4F Wildcats, which came aboard in 1942, followed by F6F Hellcats. Later that year, PV-1 Venturas arrived for training. By the end of 1943, the F4Fs were gone, replaced by the F6F Hellcats. In 1944, SBD Dauntless dive bombers became the predominant aircraft at Ault Field.

On June 27th the last EA-6B Prowler will Fly off completing the transition to EA-18G Growlers. The P3 Orion patrol squadrons on base are in the process of converting to the P8 Poseidon aircraft, a militarized Boeing 737 airframe.

Start time will be about 9:30 AM. Some will go up the night before, but if you are coming on the morning ferry from Port Townsend, there is one at 8:00 AM. Reservations are advised in the summertime. Also need a reservation from Coupeville to PT at about 4:15 or 5 PM


If you are interested in this tour please contact Byron Faber by email: or phone: 360-434-1144