Fly Navy: Celebrating the First Century of Naval Aviation

The history of naval aviation told in stories and photos.

Fly Navy Big
Fly Navy Big

Photographer Erik Hildebrandt has captured the spirit of naval aviation in his remarkable, 372-page book Fly Navy: Celebrating the First Century of Naval Aviation. This masterwork of aviation imagery intertwines stories told not by the author but instead by the people with a front-row seat to the U.S. Navy then and now.

Not that Hildebrandt didn’t have an up-front seat as well. For two years, he was afforded incredible access as he traveled around the globe documenting Navy flight activities in war-torn Afghanistan, the skies over Hawaii with the Blue Angles, and seemingly everywhere in between.

The book begins with a historical account of the Navy’s earliest flirtations with shipboard carrier landings in 1911 and takes readers through a 100-year journey that includes sections on naval aviator training, war fighting, aircraft, space involvement and the future role of the Navy, including unmanned aircraft. Throughout it all, Hildebrandt tells the tales through stunning expert photography, most of it his own, as he rides formation with some of the most visually striking aircraft in the Navy’s fleet.

Some of his most spectacular photos are of modern-day carrier operations. As an example, Hildebrandt was allowed a spot in the rear seat of a T-45 training aircraft for landings aboard the newly commissioned USS George H.W. Bush supercarrier. Hildebrandt's close-up formation flying shots are incredible as well, particularly his shots of nearly an entire air wing that includes 15 F/A-18 Hornets in a single frame over the Pacific Ocean.

Equally as impressive as the artwork and storytelling is the manufactured quality of this bound edition, which is printed on heavy stock paper with impeccable detail to layout. For more information, visit flynavybook.com, or turn to page 68 to see our story celebrating the centennial of naval aviation, which features some of Hildebrandt’s photos from the book.