Centennial of Naval Aviation Exhibit

Curtiss A-1 Triad

Centennial of Naval Aviation Exhibition


The San Diego Air and Space Museum has created an outstanding tribute to 100 years of Naval Aviation with its Centennial of Naval Aviation (CONA) exhibit in downtown San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park. Encompassing many aspects of the proud and glorious history of the US Navy, it stands alone in quality and content as a true tribute to the Navy and a proud accomplishment of the museum.


The centerpiece of the exhibit is the museum’s own Curtiss A-1 Triad aircraft, an exact reproduction of the first flying machine purchased by the Navy in 1911. The Triad was placed in the exhibit after it was successfully flown off the waters of San Diego Bay adjacent to NAS North Island, highlighting the first CONA event of the year on February 12, 2011.


Visitors to the exhibit enjoy contrasting the new and old in the form of large scale models of the USS Langley (CV-1) and the USS Lincoln (CVN-72) displayed in a glass case stationed beneath the Triad. Bios of eight heroic Navy and Marine Corps pilots flank the model case and lend a personal sense of history while giving life to the model ships.


The uniform like that once worn by Naval Aviator number one, TG Ellyson, along with other period artifacts is displayed in front of a picture of Ellyson seated on a Curtiss pusher. An operating miniature Curtiss OX-5 engine shares the case with the early uniform and cap.


The large perimeter wall of the exhibit depicts a graphic historical timeline of naval air operations over the past 100 years. The decisive battles, numerical aircraft inventory, aeronautical and engineering landmarks, and carrier development are all featured along with, perhaps most importantly, the accomplishments of those iconic individuals who often devoted the better part of their lives to the success of Naval Aviation.


As a tribute to the personalities and the camaraderie of the naval air, a large display case contains examples of colorful helmets worn by our proud aviators while doing what they all cherished doing---flying for the US Navy.


A large glass display cabinet containing numerous artifacts including uniforms, paintings, an ejection seat, a WWII ready-room chair (occupied), ceremonial swords, models, posters, combat awards, a tail hook, and many additional items spanning the history of the Navy’s first 100 years of aviation, rounds out the museum’s extensive tribute to the Navy, its aviators, and its heritage.

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