Pensacola is often known as the Western Gate to the Sunshine State. Located on the Western edge of Florida's Panhandle, the city is closer to Alabama than to the state capitol of Tallahassee. Pensacola has long been a popular vacation spot. The city is home to the US. Military's Aviation Training facilities. All Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard pilots begin their training at the air station that evolved from the Navy shipyard built in 1825. The station is also home to the Navy's Blue Angels who train weekly from March to November.
Pensacola's over 50 miles of protected shoreline boasts clear waters and sugary white sand. One of the world's longest barrier islands, Santa Rosa Island, is home to Pensacola Beach. Perdido Key lies just over ten miles to the West of Pensacola. Perdido has several beautiful, protected recreation areas. The world's longest fishing pier, the Pensacola Bay bridge, allows you to fish right out in the middle of the bay.
Diving offshore in the Pensacola area has improved greatly since the introduction of the Escambia County Artificial Reef Program in the 1970s. Florida and Alabama are currently the only states that allow private citizens to sink artificial reefs in designated areas. Seven of these permitted areas are offshore of Escambia. This aggressive artificial reef program has fostered a great expansion in marine life in the waters offshore of the Florida Panhandle.
Divers in Pensacola have been eagerly awaiting the reefing of the USS Oriskany, an 888-foot aircraft carrier that is awaiting a permit from the Environmental Protection Agency before being deployed as a reef. The Oriskany was built in 1945 and served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. She is the carrier from which Sen. John McCain took off before being shot down and taken prisoner in North Vietnam in 1967.
Prior to the sinking, a memorial service will be held, then controlled charges will sink the carrier in approximately 212 feet of water about 22 miles offshore of Pensacola. The USS Oriskany will then be the largest vessel intentionally sunk as a reef and the largest artificial reef in the world!