Floats Planes and Flying Boats: The U.S. Coast Guard and Early Naval Aviation


With nearly 300 vintage photographs and close to 300 pages of text, retired U.S. Coast Guard aviator Capt. Robert Workman presents a complete picture of naval aviation's rapid development between 1911 and 1938. Frustrated by the lack of information specifically about the Coast Guard's aviation heritage, the author undertook research of his own. The result is a balanced look at early naval aviation that, for the first time, gives full credit to the important contributions made by Coast Guardsmen. He shows that it...
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With nearly 300 vintage photographs and close to 300 pages of text, retired U.S. Coast Guard aviator Capt. Robert Workman presents a complete picture of naval aviation's rapid development between 1911 and 1938. Frustrated by the lack of information specifically about the Coast Guard's aviation heritage, the author undertook research of his own. The result is a balanced look at early naval aviation that, for the first time, gives full credit to the important contributions made by Coast Guardsmen. He shows that it was thanks to their creativity, skill, and determination, along with efforts by the other sea services, that such great strides were possible. Several chapters are devoted to the inventions of the float plane and flying boat and why the flying boat was considered more seaworthy and reliable.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Significant book…For aviation buffs, this book is an important addition to any home library."

-- Military History, July 2013

"The book is well illustrated, and comes with a comprehensive bibliography and copious footnotes which will make it an invaluable resource to anyone contemplating research in this area."

-- The Aerospace Professional, May 2013

"…Recommended for all aviation historians."

-- The Hook, Winter 2012

…Fills a gap with this well-illustrated and documented study of Coast Guard contributions to naval aviation between 1911 and 1938. Summing up: Essential."

-- Choice, February 2013

"This book sheds new light on the invention of the float plane and flying boat as they became more seaworthy and reliable… The chapters on the design and assembly of transatlantic flying boats and then the first transatlantic flight are fascinating as they describe the difficulties and solutions to build a suitable large flying boat… The abundance of photographs in this volume is a special bonus. Many have not been seen in other books on seaplanes."

-- Naval History Book Reviews, November 7, 2012

"In its diverse presentations of the overall story, Float Planes and Flying Boats will appeal to a wide-ranging audience. The book is equal parts narrative, documentary, and photographic history. Images and transcripts of official documents get right to the core of the issues confronting naval aviation during the period."

-- Naval History

"…Workman has provided a completely fresh perspective on this period. This book is well written and is organized in a chronological order. Each segment covers an evolutionary period of development. It provides not only an interesting and entertaining read, but can serve as a ready reference source as well. A book that any aviation historian would be proud to have in his collection."

-- AAHS Flightline, American Aviation Historical Society

"This is an important book which for the reviewer filled in quite a few of the blanks about early naval aviation. It also brings home the difficulties faced by early flyers in staying in the air or, in the case of the aircraft of the title, just getting airborne!"

-- Naval Books of the Year column in Warship, 2013

"Bob Workman has produced a remarkable and thoroughly documented history of the birth, struggles, and achievements of naval aviation. The story of those courageous pioneers and visionary aviators of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, working jointly to overcome engineering and operational hurdles, is told through many wonderful old photos and revealing narrative. For aviators, naval historians and aviation buffs, this book reveals some previously unpublished behind-the-scene activities in the fledgling era of naval flight…a great read!"

-- Vice Admiral D.C. "Deese" Thompson, USCG (Ret), Coast Guard Ancient Albatross #10

"Finally! Captain Workman presents an exceptionally well researched and thoroughly documented description of Coast Guard aviation's early days, leading to WWII. The contributions of CG aviator #1 (Naval Aviation #38) Elmer Stone--his extended assignments to the Navy in recognition of his unique engineering experience and recognized flying skills--is particularly informative. Stone was the pilot of NC-4 during the first transatlantic flight, May 1919, and was a pioneer in the design and development of powder catapult and carrier arresting gear systems. This book belongs in the library of anyone who has an interest in the history of naval aviation, not just the Coast Guard's role."

-- VADM Howard B. Thorsen, USCG (Ret), Coast Guard Aviator #776, Ancient Albatross #13
"Bob Workman has done a magnificent job chronicling the life of a pioneer and visionary whose accomplishments as a test pilot, designer, leader and experimenter cover almost every aspect of Naval Aviation. Elmer F. Stone, the Coast Guard's first Naval Aviator, balanced a career between the Navy, that wanted him, and his own service that disparaged him. He sacrificed what should have been a predictable rise to flag rank to make Naval Aviation what it is today. A truly inspirational story of dedication and self-sacrifice, marvelously well told."

-- Colonel Denis J. "Deej" Kiely, USMC (Ret.), Senior Editor, Naval Aviation Museum Foundation

"Captain Workman's extensive history of early contributions to naval aviation by Coast Guard officers and enlisted people brings to light a heretofore unrecognized past. His exhaustive research underscores the vital nature of the partnership that existed between the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard during the developmental years of our current aviation capabilities. This is particularly timely as we complete the Centennial of Naval Aviation."

-- Vice Admiral John Currier, USCG, 28th Vice Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard and the 23rd Ancient Albatross (longest serving aviator on active duty)

"Mrs. Theodore Ellyson, widow of Naval Aviation's first aviator, was once asked what the early Navy flyers were really like. In classic understatement, she answered, 'They knew that what they were doing was important.' In this book, Captain Workman has illuminated the skill, sheer daring and sense of purpose of these men from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, who sometimes worked in concert with each other. They went aloft, defying the risk inherent in the rudimentary flying machines of the day. In the process, these aviators and support personnel firmly established the foundation of today's U.S. Naval and U.S. Coast Guard Aviation organizations. Importantly, Workman shines a special light of recognition on Coast Guard Aviation and its heroes. The abundance of photographs in this volume is a special bonus."

-- Captain Rosario "Zip" Rausa, USNR (Ret.), editor, Wings of Gold Magazine

"In Float Planes and Flying Boats Robert Workman goes far beyond the subjects implied by the title and covers in carefully presented detail not only the history of early Naval Aviation but the detailed history of Coast Guard aviation and its continuing contributions to the defense of the United States and the safety of all its citizens. The story is well-presented backed by a collection of documentation, charts and photographs which alone will serve as a worthy reference for years to come."

-- Vice Admiral Robert F. Dunn, USN (Ret.), President, Naval Historical Foundation

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781612511078
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press
  • Publication date: 5/15/2012
  • Pages: 322
  • Sales rank: 1,434,462
  • Product dimensions: 16.20 (w) x 10.10 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Capt. Robert B. Workman, Jr., USCG (Ret.), a 1959 graduate of the Coast Guard Academy, flew both helicopters and fixed wing aircraft, including the last of the flying boats. He builds large-scale model Coast Guard aircraft and historical aircraft for museums around the country, dedicating over 700 hours to each model. Married with two children, seven grandchildren, and one great grandchild, Workman lives in Littleton, NC.
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Table of Contents

Foreword Vadm Gerland L. Hoewing MajGen Joseph T. Anderson Vadm Vivien S. Crea xi

Preface xvi

Acknowledgments xviii

Introduction xix

1 Emergence of Naval Aviation 1

2 Naval Aviation Conception and Birth: 1898-1912 8

3 Development and Growth: 1913-1919 23

4 First Transatlantic Flight NC Flying Boats-Design and Assembly: 1918 56

5 First Transatlantic Flight NC Flying Boats Shakedown: 1918-1919 74

6 First Transatlantic Flight: 1919 87

7 Evolving the Naval Aviation Test Organization: 1913-1926 124

8 Marine Corps Aviation and Coast Guard Aviation Develop to Support their Service Missions: 1917-1938 160

9 Catapults and Aircraft Carriers: 1917-1926 183

10 Years of Technical Advancement and Growth: 1930-1935 209

11 A New Treasury Secretary Expands Aviation Missions: 1934-1938 224


A Time Line of Events (1776-1938) 255

B Technology Inspired by the First Transatlantic Flight: 1919-1938 270

C List of Acronyms, Abbreviations, and Rank Structures 276

D Photograph and Document Credits 279

Notes 295

Index 313

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