Richard V. Porcelli Biography
Born in the Bronx, New York, Richard Porcelli attended Columbia University, gaining Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees in Chemical Engineering. He worked for a prestigious chemical R&D company for almost twenty years and then in 1986 started his own firm that has provided consulting services to over 80 different international chemical and refining companies as well as government agencies in 15 countries.
But from his childhood, he has retained a deep passion for all things aeronautical. Over the years this passion has taken the form of visiting air fields and museums around the world, taking photographs and collecting information on various aircraft as well as related locations and events. He has also built a scale model aircraft collection so extensive that it could be ranked in terms of number of aircraft among the top ten air forces of the world!
More recently, Richard Porcelli has embarked on a new career, writing articles and books on aviation history. An article, published in Air Power magazine in 2004 recounted the story of an accident involving a nuclear-armed Bomarc missile near McGuire Air Force Base and the courageous actions of the first responders to avert a true disaster. His first book, to be published by Arcadia Publishing on March 19, 2012 is entitled Naval Air Station Atlantic City. It provides a history not only of the Navy’s activities at this historic air station, but also Atlantic City’s rich aviation history dating back to just a few years after the Wright Brothers’ first flight and the important role of FAA’s Technical Center in improving the safety of commercial air travel. Activities aimed at our national security by the resident New Jersey Air National Guard, United States Coast Guard as well as the Department of Homeland Security are also described.
Future topics currently in research include a specific day during the Luftwaffe’s Blitz on Bournemouth, England; and histories of other local airfields including Floyd Bennett Field, Mitchell Field and Naval Air Station Willow Grove.
“Naval Air Station Atlantic City”
Atlantic City’s involvement in the development of aviation started just a few years after the Wright brothers’ first flight. Atlantic City’s 1910 Atlantic Aero Meet was held just months after the world’s first such international air show in Paris. A landing field prepared for the event eventually became Atlantic City Municipal Airport, later known as Bader Field, the world’s first “Air Port.” As air traffic and the size of aircraft outgrew the existing field, Atlantic City started development of a new municipal airport west of Atlantic City in Pomona, but World War II intervened and the Navy took over the project which was commissioned as Naval Air Station Atlantic City [NASAC] in April, 1943.
During the war, NASAC became the east coast’s premier fighter training base as over fifty naval fighting squadrons were established and trained prior to deployment to aircraft carriers in the Pacific and European theatres of operation. The Air Station was also the site of the development of radar guided and ground controlled interception technology and methods, laying the foundation for future military capabilities as well as the civilian air traffic control system. At its peak, over 250 aircraft were based at Atlantic City, with facilities including three Outlying Landing Fields, a radar-based air controller training school, numerous bombing ranges as well as a rescue boat station.
After the war, NASAC’s role in the development of equipment and tactics continued. The base became the home of an air development squadron where all the new Navy tactical aircraft were tested and tactics developed, and two night/all-weather squadrons that deployed fighter and attack detachments to the fleet’s carriers during the Korean War and afterwards.
In 1958, the Navy decided to close Naval Air Station Atlantic City due to encroachment of nearby communities and the need to rationalize facilities. Coincidentally, the public outcry over the collision of two airliners over the Grand Canyon led the government to establish an organization to improve air safety, what would eventually become the Federal Aviation Agency. The former NASAC was chosen as an ideal site to establish the FAA’s National Aviation Facilities Experimental Center [NAFEC] to develop technology to improve the safety of the airways. Major developments in air traffic control and automation, in-flight and airport safety, crash survival, aero-medicine and more recently, anti-terrorism were achieved since then by engineers and scientists. The facility, now known as the FAA’s William J. Hughes Technical Center, continues with these activities and is at the heart of the NextGen air traffic control technology development.
Today the 5000 acre air field is also the home of Atlantic City International Airport, the NJ Air National Guard’s 177th Fighter Wing and Coast Guard Air Station Atlantic City. It is also the site of a number of Department of Homeland Security facilities vital in the War on Terrorism.
Thus, the close relationship between development of aviation and Atlantic City which began over 100 years ago is still vital. The former Naval Air Station Atlantic City continues to play a role in the defense of the nation, the protection of our shores and the safety of air travelers everywhere.