COMMAND HISTORY of the NASP METOC
The “Aerological” Office at Naval Air Station, Pensacola, is almost
as old as naval aviation itself. It was the first weather office
established to support naval aviation.
The requirement for an Aerological Unit was identified on 8 May 1917
when a request was made to the Commandant of the Pensacola Naval Station
to employ a competent civilian to keep records of air conditions and other
meteorological phenomena at NAS Pensacola. The necessity for a Meteorological
Unit was further recognized when wind directions and velocities aloft to
altitudes of approximately 1,500 feet were needed in connection with the
dirigible, free balloon, and kite balloon work which was being carried
on at that time. This information could not be obtained from the
Weather Bureau, due to the manpower shortage caused by the war.
Prompted by these requirements, the Bureau of Navigation was requested
to furnish a meteorology officer, and on 17 April 1918, LT William F. Reed,
Jr., USNRF, reported to NAS Pensacola, Florida for “Aerographical Duty.”
His superior was LCDR E. F. Johnson, Superintendent of Aeronautics.
The following summation of entries in the NAS Pensacola Meteorological
Office Log document the early developments of meteorology and its history
in the U.S. Navy (the original log book is now held at the National Museum
of Naval Aviation in Pensacola):
… During the month of April 1918, the meteorological observatory began
receiving weather reports via the Western Union Office, at Pensacola, Florida;
instrument shelters were constructed, and an anemometer and single register
installed. Plans were submitted to have a nephoscope and a gustograph
built. The first weather maps were drawn and arrangements were made with
dirigible officers for equipping a “Nurse” to carry instruments for upper
air work and the construction of a gas kite. Authority was received from
the Commandant to take cloud photos and make lantern slides for instruction
work. LT Reed started giving lectures to advanced flying classes on ‘Exploration
of the Air.’ It is noteworthy that the majority of the instruments
used in the meteorological observatory were designed and built by personnel
attached to the aerographic office.
In May 1918, LT Reed, with ENS Maxwell as the pilot, made the first
weather reconnaissance flight over the Gulf of Mexico in an R6 aircraft.
Specific flights were conducted during this period to detect “bumps.”
In May 1918, upper-air work with a “Nurse” balloon and gas kites commenced.
In June 1918, the nephoscope designed by LT Reed was received from the
machine shop and put to use. Blackboard weather maps were completed
and installed at the south entrance of the flying school.
In August 1918, the Aerographic Office began transmitting weather conditions
to Miami, Hampton Roads, Cape May, and the Blue Hill Observatory.
In November 1918, drawings were completed for a “Pilot Balloon Aerograph.”
The blueprints were forwarded to the Bureau of Navigation with a request
that authority be granted for the manufacture of two aerographs--one for
the Aerographer and one for the use of pilots for navigation flights.
During this period, an altitude-recording anemometer designed by LT
Reed and instrument maker Dean was received. It was a half-size anemometer
which mechanically recorded miles, ½ miles, ¼ miles, and
1/8 miles on a barograph sheet. The barograph was encased with a
clock drum geared to make one revolution in three hours. The instrument
was devised to be sent up on kites or held by hand in the basket of an
observation balloon to get the altitude and wind velocity. An excerpt
from the 20th of November 1918 log entry states:
… The observation balloon was put up for an endurance test in the afternoon
and a Robinson anemometer was sent up for wind rates, connections being
made to a single register in the wind shed. The circuit was completed
by returning the kite cable through the circle of the pulley in the grounding
block. This enabled the kite to remain aloft at 300 feet all night.
Previously, a separate reel had been installed for the work, which was
reeled in and out by hand, as the kite went up and down.
On 19 December 1918, a booklet on “Aviation Meteorology” was submitted
to the Superintendent of Aeronautics. This booklet was prepared by
LT Reed, with suggestions from LT H. F. Farr, Naval Instructor, Royal Navy,
and other British officers. There was also input as to the needs
of the service from the American flight officers under the direction of
the Superintendent of Aeronautics.
On 20 January 1919, the Aerographic Office began taking winds-aloft
observations utilizing the present method of determining them. This
system, now in universal use, was first developed at Fort Omaha, Nebraska
during the period 28 November to 17 December 1917, and consisted of plotting
pilot balloon positions as recorded by the use of a theodolite; assuming
a given rate of ascent of a balloon of a given free lift. Prior to
this time, the only methods of determining winds aloft was by ascertaining
the movements of various cloud formations by means of a nephoscope, or
else by obtaining actual wind velocity records with an anemometer attached
to a kite or balloon.
Even with the seemingly crude methods and lack of personnel (one officer,
two rated men and one seaman) the value of the unit can be readily seen
from the Questionnaire Pensacola WFR:AR:AB, Director of Naval Aviation
dated 13 June 1919 which is quoted:
… The Aerographic personnel are of inestimable value to this station
in its warnings of approaching squalls and general storms for use in the
protection of aircraft and floating property. The early preparation
at this station, each day, of charts showing the general condition of the
weather over the country, the Gulf of Mexico, and the western Caribbean
Sea, and issuance of special bulletins on expected weather and winds has
an important bearing on the general flight work of the station. The
forces of wind with direction are obtained for altitudes up to 5,000 feet
during flight hours for seaplane and airship navigation, and special advises
are given the seaplane and airship school by the Aerographic Officer when
long flights are used.
On 24 June 1919, ENS L. H. Lovelace reported for duty as LT Reed’s assistant,
until the lieutenant’s detachment.
The first known aerograph flights in naval meteorology were conducted
in July 1919. Log entries dated 17, 22, 23 and 28 July 1919 follow:
Thursday, 17 July 1919
… Received 1 Aerograph #75 made by Schneider Bros. Inst. Co. and shipped
from the Naval Observatory. Only 5 blanks were received with the
Tuesday, 22 July 1919
… Aerograph case swung between right wings on an N10 and flight made
without the recording device but with weight equaling the recording device
in order to test the method of suspension with screen door pull springs.
The test was satisfactory.
Wednesday, 23 July 1919
… First aerograph flight was made between 1:58 p.m. and 2:28 p.m. in
an N9 #2474, LT(jg) G. S. Mason, Pilot; LT W. F. Reed Jr., Observer.
A very satisfactory record was made by the aerograph only a slight broadening
of trace by vibration. The instrument was calibrated for temperature
by taking it into the Power House where temperature was 90 and into the
cold storage where the temperature 38. The altimeter was read frequently
during the flight.
Monday, 28 July 1919
… ENS Lovelace made flight with aerograph from 12:15 to 1:57 reaching
an altitude of 7,300 feet.
On 8 November 1919, the first use of the terms “Aerology” and “Aerologist”
was noted. The terms “Aerographic,” “Aerography,” and “Aerographer”
(for naval officers) were in exclusive use up until this time.
During this period, several notations were made in the log about officer
students in training as “aerographers.” On 1 December 1919, the first
log entry was made concerning officer students and Naval and Marine enlisted
students reporting aboard for instruction in meteorology. It is significant
that Army enlisted students were also enrolled in the Aerographer School
during this period. Specific entries mention Army officers being
briefed on methods and instruments in the meteorological observatory.
The aerology training program continued with the indoctrination and
training of both enlisted men and officers alike throughout the 1920s.
As the aerological facilities in the United States Navy continued to expand,
aerological officers began to be trained in postgraduate courses at several
universities in the country. On 15 May 1924, the Aerological School
was closed and moved from NAS Pensacola to NAS Anacostia, Washington, D.C.
On 27 June 1924, the first entry mentioning the Aerographer rating was
made in the log entry:
… John Dungan, Rating changed from CSM to CAEROG.
On 22 September 1941, a continuous, twenty-four hour watch was inaugurated.
OTHER FIELDS ESTABLISHED
In November 1942, the aerological unit was inaugurated at Bronson Field,
and in December of that year, personnel were detached for duty at Barin,
Corry, Saufley, and Ellyson Fields. On 26 July 1943, ten days after
NAS Whiting Field was commissioned, their Aerological Office was placed
in operation with a complement of three Aerographer’s Mates.
During the period June 1941 to October 1944, the needs of the United
States Navy for additional personnel trained in aerographic duties were
greater than what could be provided from normal sources. The monthly
average of personnel under instruction at NAS Pensacola was ten officers
and twenty-five enlisted men.
THE MOVE TO SHERMAN FIELD
The original aerological office was located in the old sail loft building
(Building 45), built in 1849, and located very near the seaplane hangars.
Originally, only seaplanes operated from NAS Pensacola; fixed wing aircraft
operated from nearby Corry Field, but received their weather information
from NAS Pensacola. Building 45 was four stories tall and had a good
view of the bay, the ship piers, and the air station in general.
It is said that the anemometer was blown off the roof of the building in
the Hurricane of 1926. The weather office remained in Building 45
until 1955 when it was relocated to the newly established Forrest Sherman
Field, about five miles west of the original air station.
Of the many earlier outlying fields, only NAS Whiting Field, about 35
miles northeast of NAS Pensacola remains active. Saufley Field, located
about ten miles north of NAS Pensacola is now used only for practice landings
and take-offs (“touch and go’s”) by training aircraft from other fields.
In addition, training aircraft from NAS Pensacola use an Outlying Field
(OLF) about 35 miles west-northwest of NAS, called OLF Silverhill.
OVER SEVENTY YEARS...
The growth of naval meteorology closely parallels that of naval aviation.
The Naval Air Station Pensacola Meteorological Office celebrated its seventy-fifth
anniversary in April 1992.
...AND STILL GOING STRONG
The requirements placed on meteorology by the advances in aviation have
resulted in equivalent advances in the Naval Weather Service. Naval
Meteorology has graduated from the early crude instruments and methods
to electronic observational instruments, radars, and computers with correspondingly
more sophisticated prognoses.
In 1985, as a Detachment, the office began operational evaluation of
a Doppler weather radar to support forecast and warning responsibilities,
primarily for thunderstorm development and movement. It was a big
success, improving both the accuracy and timeliness of thunderstorm warnings.
Operational in 1989, the radar became the first Doppler weather radar in
use at a Naval Oceanography Command Detachment.
In 1987, personnel at the Pensacola detachment developed the first automated
(desktop computer-based) program to provide remote flight weather briefings
for local-area flights. These briefings are assembled for various
local-area training routes and delivered to aviators in their squadron’s
ready rooms via remote terminals connected to the weather office computer.
The program was subsequently adopted for use Navy-wide.
The first meteorological office, the first aerographic school for officers
and men, the first weather reconnaissance flight, the first aerograph flight,
the first text on aviation meteorology, the first training department devoted
specifically to the training of Meteorological and Oceanography Officers
and Aerographer’s Mates, the first operational use of a Doppler weather
radar by the Naval Oceanography Command, and the first development of an
automated flight weather briefing system all happened here at NAS Pensacola.
The Aerological (later Meteorological) Office was part of the Air Operations
Department until the Naval Weather Service Command was established in the
early 1960s. It then became the Naval Weather Service Environmental
Detachment under the direction of an Officer-in-Charge. In 1971,
it was upgraded to a Naval Weather Service Facility with a Commanding Officer
and responsibility for several other detachments in addition to reserve
program coordination and training support for Aerographer’s Mates and meteorological
officers. In 1978, the Navy command organization became the Naval
Oceanography Command, and in 1981 the NAS Pensacola weather office was
downgraded to a Naval Oceanography Command Detachment again, with an Officer-in-Charge.
In August 1994, the Pensacola weather office was again upgraded to Facility
status. With a new name and expanded mission, the Naval Training
Meteorology and Oceanography Facility (NAVTRAMETOCFAC) was commissioned.
The facility gained a Commanding Officer and 11 subordinate detachments,
(NAVTRAMETOCDETs). As an Echelon Four Command, the Facility reports
to Naval Atlantic Meteorology and Oceanography Center at Norfolk, Virginia.