By Nelson Baltazar
Many historic aviation events took place in Northern California, including Eugene Ely’s legendary landing aboard a naval carrier. The late aviator was credited with having used a ship to successfully take flight and land. On January 18, 1911, the young adventurer landed a Curtiss Pusher airplane onto the USS Pennsylvania, stationed within the waters of the San Francisco Bay. Having survived the great earthquake and fire of 1906, Ely was no stranger to danger. The Iowa-born daredevil had left the Tanforan Racetrack in the nearby city of San Bruno a short time earlier before touching down on the ship. As a result of his brave feat, the utilization of aircrafts carriers as mobile marine runways became commonplace for aviation pilots.
Aside from the Curtiss Pusher replica on display in the museum, flight gear belonging to Ely can be found within the gallery. This wonderful exhibit includes his leather pilot’s helmet, which resembles the kind worn by early football players, and his pilot’s license, featuring an original photograph of the mid-western aviator. The latter serves as a testimony that Ely was indeed a “certified and skilled aviator.”