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As commander of the Great Lakes Naval Training Center, Capt. William Moffett formed an aviation training squadron in June 1917. Moffett’s attitude on the importance of aviation was greatly influenced by his North Shore neighbors and ACI members, particularly William Wrigley Jr., Jack Vilas and Pop Dickinson.

Using equipment donated by various ACI members, the new training unit used three flying boats to instruct both pilots and mechanics. Wrigley’s son Philip was the first ensign put in charge of the flight school. Other privileged young men who joined the squadron included Joseph Pulitzer and Logan Vilas.

It quickly became obvious that winter in Chicago was not the best time for flight instruction in open cockpit hydroaeroplanes on Lake Michigan. In October 1917, Moffett transferred flight training to Pensacola, but Great Lakes continued training mechanics and support personnel, graduating 2,100 by the end of WW I.

After Moffett left Great Lakes, the Navy promoted him to Rear Admiral in 1921 and placed him in charge of organizing the Navy’s Bureau of Aeronautics. Moffett is unofficially known as the Father of Naval Aviation.[1]


[1]            Admiral William A. Moffett: Architect of Naval Aviation; by William F. Trimble; Annapolis MD: Naval Institute Press, 2007, p. 54-60.

                Balloons to Jets: A Century of Aviation in Illinois 1855–1955; by Howard L. Scamehorn; Carbondale IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000. p.115-127.

                Chicago Aviation: An Illustrated History;by David M. Young; DeKalb IL: Northern Illinois University Press, 2003, p. 93.