Willis B. Haviland – Pioneer American combat pilot.

Willis Bradley Haviland (1895-1944) was the 16th aviator to join the famed Lafayette Escadrille, the result of which is that he is one of the first Americans to engage in aerial combat. Joining the navy after America’s entry into World War I, he is seen here during World War II when he served as the first Executive Officer of NAS Whidbey Island, and then its second Commanding Officer. 

In these photos, Haviland is seen standing on the left in front of a SB2C Helldiver, and center, before a J4F-2 Widgeon during a visit to NAS Seattle. In honor of the former skipper, a hangar is named for him at NAS Whidbey. 


1942: The first PBY arrives at NAS Whidbey

ps2pdf.com (4)The date is December, 1942, and this is the first PBY to arrive at the brand new NAS Whidbey Island seaplane base. (Note the construction material littering the ramp in the background.) The installation was intended to be a support facility for PBYs from NAS Seattle, but even before work began the plan was altered to where Whidbey would be its own base.

This PBY’s arrival was not without some apprehension. The pilot, Lt. Morrison, stated that he circled the area for quite some time before spotting the “red girders of the seaplane hangar under construction.” Even then he had to land four or five miles out due to an abundance of logs floating in the harbor. After carefully picking his way through the debris he was met by a boat that succeeded in clearing a path for the incoming aircraft. 

This hangar (minus the ordnance carts parked alongside) still stands today, but with a different mission: It is now the Navy Exchange (NEX) department store.

From this angle, the former hangar looks pretty much the same now as it did then. Even though it looks nothing like a department store on the outside and, due to extensive renovation, nothing like a hangar on the inside, its parking lot is the original 1942 concrete with aircraft mooring points still intact.

“Lone Ranger” – The XPBB-1


The XPBB-1 “Sea Ranger” was Boeing’s effort at fulfilling the Navy’s need for a better long-range flying boat. Such aircraft are always a battle between aero and hydro dynamic engineers, but the XPBB was a remarkably streamlined and efficient design. Internal bomb bays with sliding doors were incorporated into the wing were one such aerodynamic feature. 

First flown on July 7, 1942, the XPBB proved a winner from the start and seemed to have a bright future, but…other forces were at work. Despite the Navy’s satisfaction with the project, Boeing’s talents (and factories) were needed for the B-29 program. This was given priority, and, with only one example built, The XPBB project was cancelled. The B-29 program, coupled with the Navy’s growing lack of enthusiasm for the future of large flying boats, caused the one and only XPBB-1 Sea Ranger to became known as the “Lone Ranger”.

Oddball Aircraft



Hahn Air Base, 1956