Military News

Friday, May 15, 2015

Abraham Lincoln Officer Presents Plaque to Honor Pioneer Aviator

By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Patrick Maher, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs

NORFOLK (NNS) -- Cmdr. Todd D. Tavolazzi, strike operations officer assigned to USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), presented a plaque on behalf of the Hampton Roads Navy League to Capt. Bob Clark, commanding officer of Naval Station Norfolk, during a ceremony commemorating Eugene Ely at Ely Hall, May 8.

Tavolazzi and Clark were joined by Capt. Ronald Ravelo, Lincoln commanding officer and Capt. Doug Beaver, executive officer of Naval Station Norfolk as they hung the plaque, which details the significance of Ely above a statue of his likeness in the building named for him.

On Nov. 14, 1910, Ely piloted the first aircraft to take off from a ship, the USS Birmingham (CL-2) in Hampton Roads. Ely would eventually land his aircraft safely on Willoughby Spit in Norfolk.

"When I was stationed as a junior officer at a helicopter squadron at Naval Station Norfolk from 2006-2011, the squadrons used to stay in a duty room in Ely Hall," Tavolazzi said. "Every time I would pass through the lobby I would see the lonely statue of Eugene Ely with nothing to inform anyone who he was and what his significance was for the U.S. Navy, naval aviation and Naval Station Norfolk in particular."

Seeing a problem, Tavolazzi then went forward to find a solution to get Ely the recognition that he deserved.

"I happened to speak to Maryellen Baldwin of the Navy League Hampton Roads about Naval history and Eugene Ely during the centennial of Naval Aviation commemoration events in 2010 and 2011," Tavolazzi said. "I mentioned that it was a shame that there was not an explanation of how important Eugene Ely was to naval aviation in the very building named after him."

Tavolazzi's efforts and teamwork with the Navy League were appreciated by Naval Station Norfolk leadership.

"This is the good stuff, the stuff we like to celebrate," Clark said. "When a Sailor notices something that needs to be changed, goes out and gets it done."

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