Special Report: Flying High at 75

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VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — One of the most important military installations in the United States is celebrating a big birthday this year.

Naval Air Station Oceana is turning 75.

The Navy purchased 330 acres of the Potter’s Farm in 1940.  The cost: $35,000.

The jet noise has been a familiar sound in Virginia Beach.

“Here they come,” said resident Stephen Buescher.

“He’s coming in hot, buddy,” added resident Frank Overton.

Every day, no matter how young or old they are, people line up taking photos along Oceana Boulevard.  They hoping to land the perfect glimpse of a fighter jet.

“Yeah I love it,” Overton said.  “It’s the sound of freedom.”

“They all do different things when they land,” Buescher added.

Who knew 75 years ago when the Navy purchased the farm land it would become a home to every Naval jet fighter produced. 

“As you can see, all these aircraft are going to and from aircraft carriers,” said Oceana Air Traffic Controller Mark McDaniel.  “They are going on missions all over the water.”

Oceana was created to help Naval Station Norfolk.  It began as an auxiliary landing field for pilots to train during World War II.

“Oceana is really a strategic asset, because if you think about it, all East Coast fighters are based out of here,” said Captain Chad Vinceleet, Oceana Commander.

The base is home to 330 jets and 17 fighter squadrons. 

“This is a really popular spot in our community,” added Commander Kevin Chlan from VFA-31. “We want to come and be stationed here. It’s such a great place to live and a great community.”

The pilots of today are very aware of those who took to the sky before them.

“I feel very honored to hopefully continue the tradition they started,” said Commander James Huddleston from VFA-106.

“It speaks volumes to the many men and women who have gone before us and who served throughout the decades,” Chlan added.

From the A-6 to the F-14 to today’s Super Hornet, they have all been at Oceana.

“The A-6 Intruder was my favorite airplane growing up,” Huddleston said.  “Unfortunately it was decommissioned by the time I got into the business.  I just want to show up to work every day and do my job, do it correctly.”

But one has to think about the future.  What’s in store for the next generation of sailors based at Oceana.

“I think the aircraft are going to be different and we may be moving towards that unmanned in 75 years,” Vincelette added.

“75 years from now I’m confident that this base will still be here and that the community will still be supporting the base whatever the aircraft will look like at that time,” Chlan said.

One thing is for sure.  The community will be right there for support.

“One of the coolest things you can do when you don’t have much money and you have three young kids is to take them to Oceana,” Buescher said.  “It would entertain them for hours.”

The Navy is holding several events over the summer to celebrate Oceana’s 75th birthday, including the 2018 NAS Oceana Air Show and the Naval Air Symposium

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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