British aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious is to visit London to mark the Centenary Year of Naval Aviation during the first week of May, in case you’re a Naval Aviation enthusiast headed that way. It was on May 7, 1909, that the Admiralty set aside £35,000 for the development of an “airship,” which soon led to the formation of the Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm and Naval Aviation as we know it today.
In making the announcement, a Port of London Authority spokesperson said: “Those 100 years have seen a breathtaking development from flimsy aircraft that struggled to leave the ground to supersonic stealth fighters. As technology has developed so, too, has ideology. Naval Aviation began the 20th century as an interesting sideshow in the armament of the Royal Navy, and ended it as the centerpiece.”
Illustrious, one of the Royals Navy’s Invincible Class aircraft carriers, will visit London to add its considerable presence to Fly Navy 100 celebrations there. Greenwich and the Old Royal Naval College will make a stunning backdrop for photographers. Fly Navy 100 is a program of events and publications that aims to celebrate and commemorate the centenary. It aims to showcase the endurance, flexibility and, above all, the potency of Naval Aviation.
Aircraft were first launched from a ship in 1912 and in 1918 the first true aircraft carrier was commissioned. Today aircraft carriers set apart the world’s premier navies from the rest. “It is the punch of the nation and a symbol of its power,” the Port of London news release stated.
HMS Illustrious was laid down at the Swan Hunter shipyard on the River Tyne in 1976 and launched in 1978. As the ship neared the end of its fitting out period, the Falklands War broke out. As a consequence, work on Illustrious was speeded up. Although the war was over before Illustrious could be finished, until the RAF airfield on the Falklands was repaired, an aircraft carrier was required on station to protect the area. Since HMS Invincible had been on station there for many months, Illustrious was sent to relieve her. Because Illustrious was needed so quickly, the ship actually was commissioned while under way. After the RAF airfield was repaired, Illustrious returned to the UK for a full shakedown cruise and workup period, with a formal commissioning on 20 March 1983.