C.A.M.S.37A nr.40 (EMFA/CAVFA)

 Aviação Naval (Portuguese Naval Aviation) in brief

The story of the Portuguese Naval Aviation begins in 1916 when two Portuguese Navy officers - Sacadura Cabral and António Caseiro - were sent to France to obtain the "Wings".

Immediately after his return, Sacadura Cabral was invited by the War Minister to designate an appropriate location for a future Naval Air Station, for hydroplanes. While being at the same time flying instructor at the "Escola de Aeronáutica Militar" (E.A.M.) at Vila Nova da Rainha, he pointed out Lisbon as the right place. It was located in the right bank of the River Tagus, near the Belem Tower, and  became the  "Estação Aeronaval do Bom Sucesso"(Bom Sucesso Naval Air Station).

Sometime after these events, personnel from the Navy started receiving flying and aircraft maintenance instruction at E.A.M. and abroad (France).

In 1916, and due to the W.W.I, the French Government asked Portugal for hydroplane facilities at Aveiro, to the south of Porto. However the aircraft from the French Navy  started to operate from there only in 1918.

Meanwhile, in March 1917 two F.B.A. hydros for the Navy had arrived in Portugal ,and were assembled, tested and stored at E.A:M.

Finally, in September 1917, the Decree  3395 created the "Serviço e Escola de Aviação da Armada" (Naval Aviation Service and Flying School). It was installed at Bom Sucesso Naval Station in Lisbon docks, the place chosen some time before, as mentioned above.Tellier T.3 (EMFA/CAVFA)

The two F.B.A. hydros stored at E.A.M. left the installation and arrived at Bom Sucesso by December 1917, marking the beginning of flight operations by the Navy in their own base. These two hydros would be joined later by two Tellier T.3 also coming from E.A.M..

In January 1918 the "Serviço de Aviação da Armada" becomes the "Serviço da Aeronáutica Naval " (Naval Aeronautical Service).

In April 1918, the first hydros for the French Naval Air Station arrived to Aveiro  : two Donnet-Denhauts D.D.8 and two Georges Levy. From the Bom Sucesso station, patrols had already started, trying to find German submarines which were threatening the merchant ships passing along the Portuguese coast, mission that was also performed by the French hydros from Aveiro.

Also in 1918, the United States asked clearance for using the Açores Islands, for a Naval Air Station : again this request was granted and the Curtiss HS-2L hydros from the U.S.Navy arrived at Horta (Faial Island).

In August 23, 1918, the Tellier T.3 , from the Bom Sucesso Station,with the Navy serial number 5, disappeared in the sea near Cascais, while on patrol. This was the first Naval Aviation accident with the loss of all the crew.

When the war ended, the French left Aveiro, and in December 28, 1918, a Portuguese Navy officer took the command of the Naval Air Station, and received as a gift from the French Government, eighteen Donnet Denhaut (of which he managed to put on operation only 8), as well as two Georges Levy.

At the same time, the U.S.Navy left the Açores and offered also to the Portuguese Navy four HS-2L, which were disassembled and sent by ship to Lisbon. They were re-assembled at Bom Sucesso flying again only in 1923.

As a curiosity, it can be mentioned that during 1919, hydros from the Aveiro station were used against a pro-monarchy movement, which was trying to fight the Republican system installed nine years earlier.

Felixstowe F.3 at Funchal (Madeira Island) (EMFA/CAVFA)In May 1920, two brand new Felixstowe F.3 flying-boats bought in England were flown to Lisbon from Calshot. One of them (c/n 4018) was used in the first connection Lisbon-Funchal (Madeira Island) performed in 7 hrs 40 min in 1921.

This flight was used to test the navigation method by Sextant that was going to be used in the following year in the first South Atlantic crossing by plane. This memorable event took place in 1922, and was performed  by Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho (the navigator and renowned geographer) using the Fairey IID.  . Fokker T.IIIW nr.27 at Bom Sucesso. (EMFA/CAVFA)

Tragically, Sacadura Cabral disappeared in the North Sea in 1924, in a ferry flight from Holland. He was flying  one of the five Fokker T.IIIW bought with the funds of a public subscription  for the re-equipment of the Naval Aviation, after the South Atlantic mission.

In 1925 the aircraft inventory of the Naval Aviation consisted of four Fokker T.IIIW, four Fairey IIID,  three Tellier T.3 and four Curtiss HS-2L.

A third Naval Air Station was established in 1927 in Macau (a Portuguese colony in China) to where were sent three Fairey IIID.

New aircraft were received in 1927 (C.A.M.S.37A) and 1928 (Macchi M.18), these last ones being ferried to Lisbon , by  Portuguese pilots flying from Varese in Italy.Hanriot nr.37 (EMFA/CAVFA)

In 1931, the Naval Aviation acted for the second time against internal insurgents: four C.A.M.S. 37A were sent to Madeira Island by ship, where they made several reconnaissance sorties,  doing some dangerous flying alongside high C.A.M.S.37A nr.45 (EMFA/CAVFA)cliffs and with very strong winds. Some rifles and home made rockets were fired against the aircraft... All  four returned to Lisbon with some bullet holes , but otherwise in good shape.

Two Junkers K.43W (EMFA/CAVFA)From Sweden came in 1932 the first all metal aircraft for the Naval Aviation : the Junkers K.43W floatplane. These gave good service, being a rugged aircraft.

The type of aircraft used in greatest numbers by the Naval Aviation - the Fleet 10G and 11 trainer, began to arrive in 1934, and was delivered in several batches with Gipsy in-line and Kinner radial engines. When the last one was delivered, a total of thirty-one had been received, giving also good service in all Naval Stations.

By this time the Macau  Station was reinforced with eight Hawker Osprey floatplanes, two coming from  Portuguese Navy ships, and  six  ordered directly by the Ministry of Colonies, and handed over to the Naval Aviation.

Grumman G.21B nr.97 (EMFA/CAVFA)Other new and modern aircraft were also bought in 1939/40 - the Avro 626 with floats and the Grumman G-21B, these last ones allowing regular connections to the Açores and Madeira Islands. Also Ponta Delgada (Açores) Station was reinforced with Avro 626 and G-21B, becoming much more active. For instance, in May/June 1941, the three G-21B of Ponta Delgada,  performed 80 hours of flight in 28 sorties including  19 search and rescue missions.

In February 1941, a Short Sunderland flying from England to Gibraltar, was forced to alight in Portuguese waters due to high winds. It was interned, and after staying abandoned for some time, the Naval Aviation decided to refurbish it and tried a flight to Guiné-Bissau which was aborted due to malfunction of one engine

Also in 1941, twenty DH-82 Tiger Moths were received from a batch delivered to Portugal by England as a compensation for the facilities granted in the Açores. These aircraft allowed the reinforcement of the Aveiro school and the flying training on wheeled aircraft.

Bristol Blenheims and Oxfords were also received in 1943, having the same origin as the Tigers, and formed a land based flight at Lisbon Airport (which had been just finished). Sixteen Beaufighters  replaced the Blenheims, two years later.

The other important acquisition immediately after the war,  was the one involving several Beech D-18S and AT-11, which were chosen from a lot of war surplus aircraft by a Naval Aviation delegation sent to the United States. Those aircraft also gave  good service doing many trips to Açores and African colonies . Curtiss SB2C-5 Helldiver AS-6 (EMFA/CAVFA)

The final operational and one of the most important units of the Naval Aviation was the one formed in the beginning of the fifties with SB2C-5 Helldivers at São Jacinto (Aveiro). They attained a high level of efficiency in the anti-submarine role, but unfortunately they became the last unit to be formed within the structure of the Naval Aviation.

In effect, with the creation of the Portuguese Air Force in 1952, the two branches of the military aviation were joined , and the Naval Aviation was extinguished as an independent entity.

However their men and aircraft still continued to fly as an autonomous group within the Air Force as the "Forças Aeronavais" (Aeronaval Forces). The anti-submarine flight moved to Montijo Air Base  facing Lisbon. This airfield had been built some time before as a Naval Air Station. PV-2 aircraft were later received, and Squadrons 61 and 62 were activated to take over the Westland Lynx Mk.95 19204  at Tires 1997 (L.Tavares)anti-submarine role. Only by 1956/57 the integration was finally completed:  some pilots returned to the Navy continuing their careers as naval officers, and others stayed in the Air Force as pilots.

In 1993,  the Phoenix rose from the ashes when in June 2  the "Esquadrilha de Helicópteros da Marinha" (Navy Helicopter Flight) was created.The installations  at Montijo Air Force Base (B.A.6) were inaugurated in September 24, 1993. The flight is equipped with five Westland Lynx Mk.95 helicopters assigned to the MEKO class frigates.

Bibliography :

1 - "Quando a Marinha tinha Asas" - Viriato Tadeu - Lisboa 1984
2 - Revista da Marinha - Several issues


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