The field was named in honor of Lt. j.g. Richard Caswell Saufley, designated Naval Aviator No. 14. Saufley was instrumental in setting up the rudiments of naval flight training at its inception in Pensacola around 1914. He set an altitude record of 16,072 feet in early 1916, flying an open-air seaplane. Saufley also set an endurance record of 8 hours, 43 minutes of continuous flight.
Saufley was killed in a crash off Santa Rosa Island in June 1916 while attempting to break his own endurance record. He had been flying for 8 hours, 51 minutes at the time of his crash. Saufley is enshrined in the National Museum of Naval Aviation’s Hall of Honor.
One month after the base opened in August 1940, an instrument flying school was transferred to Saufley Field bringing with it 50 SNJ Texans and 35 “Link” trainers. Two months later, the first primary training squadron was based there.
The outbreak of war in December 1941 brought increased numbers of student naval aviators. Soon the base was swarming with Sailors, and flying went on 24/7.
Saufley’s stature grew as the tempo of flying increased. On March 1, 1943, the base was commissioned Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Saufley Field and provided every phase of flight training except preflight.
Following World War II, the Navy began closing numerous Naval Auxiliary Air Stations, but Saufley remained open, and full operations continued for tactical and carrier qualification training.
In 1959, flight instructors were assigned to, and flying for, VT-1 and VT-5. These aviation-training squadrons were commissioned in May 1960 and designated tenant commands at Saufley Field. Saufley’s mission was revised to provide support for the training squadrons. VT-1 instructors, flying T-34Bs, provided flight indoctrination for NROTC and United States Naval Academy midshipmen. VT-5 provided primary flight training for pilots, flight officers and flight surgeons.
During the height of the Vietnam War, Saufley Field became a full-fledged naval air station July 31, 1968. The training squadrons and NAS Saufley Field were decommissioned by late 1976. Saufley became an outlying landing field. Saufley Field was reactivated in 1979 when Naval Education TrainingProgram Development Center moved from Ellyson Field.
Saufley Field celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2015. Today, there are about 900 acres and 60 buildings and structures at Saufley Field. There are approximately 1,400 military and civilian personnel assigned to NETPDC and tenant commands.