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Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin congratulate the United States Coast Guard upon the induction of its HH-52A Seaguard helicopter – the first U.S. Coast Guard aircraft so honored – into the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. We are proud of our long relationship with the U.S. Coast Guard and honored to support its critical lifesaving missions. The brave men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard, past and present, inspire us to continue our mission of pioneering flight solutions that bring people home everywhere…every time. Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin commend the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center for its tribute to the HH-52A Seaguard helicopter, as well as the organization’s commitment to preserving aviation history and dedication to promoting the importance of flight to humanity. Learn more at


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The United States Coast Guard did not select or approve this advertiser and does not endorse and is not responsible for the views or statements contained in this advertisement.

PHOENIX TABLE OF RISING CONTENTS PHOENIX RISING 2 HH-52A SEAGUARD 1426 Published by Faircount Media Group 701 North West Shore Blvd. Tampa, FL 33609 Tel: 813.639.1900

The U.S. Coast Guard will at last be represented in the Smithsonian Institution. By Petty Officer 2nd Class Nate Littlejohn

EDITORIAL Editor in Chief: Chuck Oldham Managing Editor: Ana E. Lopez Editor: Rhonda Carpenter Contributing Writers: Rhonda Carpenter, Robert F. Dorr, Cmdr. Chris Kilgore, USCG (Ret.), Petty Officer 2nd Class Nate Littlejohn DESIGN AND PRODUCTION Art Director: Robin K. McDowall Designers: Daniel Mrgan, Kenia Y. Perez-Ayala Ad Traffic Manager: Rebecca Laborde ADVERTISING Ad Sales Manager: Steve Chidel


By Cmdr. Chris Kilgore, USCG (Ret.)

By Robert F. Dorr

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A few of the U.S. Coast Guard’s greatest air rescues By Rhonda Carpenter

©Copyright Faircount LLC. All rights reserved. Reproduction of editorial content in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Faircount LLC does not assume responsibility for the advertisements, nor any representation made therein, nor the quality or deliverability of the products themselves. Reproduction of articles and photographs, in whole or in part, contained herein is prohibited without expressed written consent of the publisher, with the exception of reprinting for news media use. Printed in the United States of America. Contents of this publication are not necessarily the official views of, or endorsed by, the U.S. government, the Department of Homeland Security, or the U.S. Coast Guard. The appearance of advertising in this publication does not constitute an endorsement by the Coast Guard or the contractor of the firms, products, or services advertised.



Phoenix Rising

HH-52A 1426 ready for induction.


The U.S. Coast Guard will at last be represented in the Smithsonian Institution.

HUMAN FLIGHT IS INHERENTLY AMAZING. For people looking to satisfy their wonder, or to simply bask in astonishment at accomplishments in the history of aviation, there’s no better place than the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. UdvarHazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia. The museum includes representative aircraft from every U.S. military branch, with the exception of one – the U.S. Coast Guard. The life-saving service famous for hoisting survivors at sea to its helicopters doesn’t yet have one on display there, though that’s about to change. The companion facility to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., the center includes two enormous hangars – the Boeing Aviation Hangar and the James S. McDonnell Space Hangar – where visitors can find thousands of aviation and space artifacts that tell fascinating stories of women


Phoenix Rising

and men taking to the skies and stars. Visitors stand awed before sights like the Boeing B-29 Superfortress Enola Gay, the first aircraft to drop an atomic bomb, and the Space Shuttle Discovery, world record holder for most spaceflights. Soon to join the ranks of these artifacts is the Coast Guard HH-52A Seaguard helicopter, tail number 1426. Like many of its soon-to-be museum counterparts, the 1426 was an aircraft piloted in the performance of famous feats. What makes it so special, like the service it represents, is the missions it performed saving peoples’ lives. One particular mission performed by a 1426 crew stands out not only as one of the greatest for that airframe, but perhaps in Coast Guard aviation history. On the morning of Nov. 1, 1979, then Lt. j.g. Chris Kilgore and Lt. J.C. Cobb, both pilots, along with Petty Officer 2nd Class Thomas Wynn, an aviation electrician’s mate, rescued 22 survivors from



“The arrival of the 1426 and its subsequent display in the museum presents not only an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of Coast Guard aviation to American life, but to illustrate the role of the helicopter and what it can do for humanity in general.”

the burning tanker Burmah Agate and freighter Mimosa after the two vessels collided near Galveston, Texas. Burmah Agate was fully loaded with fuel, and the collision resulted in an explosion that ignited leaking oil. The tanker went down soon after the collision, [settling to the shallow bottom and continuing to burn], while the burning Mimosa remained underway, slowly circling around a dropped anchor. The 1426 crew was one of two helicopter crews from Air Station Houston to respond and hoist survivors from the ships. A memoir of the famous case titled “Just in Time,” (see p.5) written by 1426 co-pilot Kilgore, details his firsthand account of what the rescuers faced that day. He wrote of explosions, intense heat from the fire, turbulent air, taking on survivors until the helicopter exceeded its maximum allowable weight – and dropping them off on a nearby oil platCoast Guard aviators, many whose careers involved flying one. form before returning to rescue more. These dedicated people worked tirelessly behind the scenes over “With the two survivors on board, we turned our attention to the past decade, giving generously their time and resources. Mimosa,” wrote Kilgore. “The fire on that vessel was spreading from The Coast Guard Aviation Association (CGAA), known also as the forward area aft, toward the superstructure. The crew appeared the Ancient Order of the Pterodactyl, is dedicated to preserving to all be crowded onto the port bridge wing. Over the next sevU.S. Coast Guard aviation history, as well as camaraderie among eral minutes, we hoisted 10 crew members in three hoists. Although the former and current Coast Guard aviators who make up its the fire danger was not as immediate, these were interesting hoists majority. In 2005, then CGAA president, retired Capt. George nonetheless. When the basket was lowered, the ship’s crew were all Krietmeyer initiated the idea to locate, acquire and restore an clamoring to get into it, all grabbing for the basket at once. To make HH-52A Seaguard helicopter for display in the Smithsonian. The it more interesting, the ship was underway, but without command resulting effort was later named “Project Phoenix” by retired of the rudder it was doing a constant 360-degree turn. Because of Capt. Tom King – a metaphor comparing the helicopter to the weight and wind, we could not follow the ship around. The situonce beautiful bird rising from ashes and obtaining new life. ation was further complicated by the masts, wires, antennae and The project involved numerous CGAA volunteers and active-duty other gear above the bridge, necessitating a high hoist.” Coast Guard leaders who are quick to credit others for the project’s The Coast Guard will be represented by the 1426 in perhaps the success, including retired Rear Adm. Robert Johanson. Ask anyone best possible location for reaching a national audience interested and they’ll tell you he’s been the backbone of the initiative from its in aviation history, hosting 1.6 million visitors in 2015. The helicopconception. Reluctant to accept recognition, Johanson has a sense ter is scheduled to become a permanent exhibit at the museum in of humor on par with his drive for making things happen. the spring of 2016 – a highly-anticipated event for both the Coast “I’m just glad to know there’s a Coast Guard helicopter going into Guard and the Smithsonian, which coincides with the centennial the Smithsonian while I’m still on the right side of the grass,” he joked. anniversary of Coast Guard aviation. Locating a structurally-sound Seaguard helicopter suitable for “The big driver for this happening is museum-quality restoration was the first Coast Guard aviation’s 100th anniversary necessary step in what would become a coming up this spring,” said Cmdr. Michael decade-long project. Coast Guard personnel Frawley, systems management chief for the The CGAA identified several candidates restoring HH-52A 1426. office of aeronautical engineering at Coast over the years, acquiring three HH-52s from Guard Headquarters. “This was the time to the Aberdeen Proving Ground, a U.S. Army make this happen.” facility in Aberdeen, Maryland. The heli“The arrival of the 1426 and its subsequent copters ultimately did not make the cut, display in the museum presents not only an though some of their parts were eventually opportunity to demonstrate the importance used to restore the selected Phoenix. of Coast Guard aviation to American life, but The road to finding the ideal bird came to illustrate the role of the helicopter and to a few dead ends along the way, but what it can do for humanity in general,” said that didn’t stop Johanson and his fellow Roger Connor, museum specialist and curaPterodactyls, led by then CGAA president, tor of the vertical flight collection. retired Capt. Mont Smith, from persisting. HH-52s, the first amphibious helicopters, Who needed roads? These were men used were last flown by the Coast Guard Sept. to flying. Overcoming various legal chal12, 1989. The legendary helicopters’ suclenges that restricted funding and limited cess made rotary-wing aircraft central to human resources for the project, the CGAA Coast Guard aviation missions during the airdid the majority of the leg work while active frame’s 26 years of service. In all, Coast Guard duty Coast Guardsmen who were crucial HH-52A crews saved more than 15,000 lives. to the project were primarily focused on The driving force behind placing one day-to-day operations. At times, it seemed of these magnificent machines in the the service didn’t have the time or manSmithsonian is a collection of dedicated power to see the project to its end. Still Phoenix Rising


Phoenix Rising

Personnel who worked to restore HH-52A Seaguard 1426.

the Pterodactyls persisted, working patiently with changing Coast Guard leadership, forging ahead with ways to make it work. Finally, in 2012, the Pterodactyls soared into promising skies as a museum-quality helicopter was identified at the North Valley Occupational Center in Van Nuys, California. The HH-52A Seaguard 1426 was donated by the Coast Guard and flown to the school in 1989. There, it served as a classroom aircraft where students learned and practiced aviation maintenance for 25 years. As a result, the helicopter was in good shape. The Coast Guard couldn’t just buy the helicopter back from the school – that would violate policy – but Johanson and others worked with Bill Lucas, ethics attorney at Coast Guard Headquarters, and retired Capt. Norm Schweitzer at General Services Administration, to find a way. Military services are allowed to trade assets or artifacts with other organizations after considering market value of the objects in question. If what the military wants to give in trade exceeds the value of what the military hopes to get in exchange, that object of lesser dollar value must be determined an historical artifact significant to the military, and the transaction must be approved at several levels. It just so happened the Coast Guard was retiring the last of its HU-25 Falcon jets, and the school agreed to trade one for its HH-52. The instructors agreed the HU-25 was a better teaching subject for students preparing for careers with airlines. The determination was made that the Coast Guard helicopter


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was in fact an historical artifact that would well-represent the Department of Homeland Security and Coast Guard’s humanitarian missions. Johanson worked with officials at Coast Guard Headquarters throughout the process to acquire the 1426 in trade for an HU-25 Falcon – a process that began in late 2012 and culminated in 2014 upon approval by the Secretary of Homeland Security. After working out specifics of the trade with the school, the helicopter was transported to the Aviation Logistics Center at Base Elizabeth City, North Carolina. There, 1426 was restored to Smithsonian display standards by contractor Vector CSP under the supervision of CGAA restoration project managers, retired Captains Mont Smith and Ray Miller, and augmented by an HH-52A restoration team comprised of Coast Guard active duty and retired volunteers. Over the course of about nine months, team members supported restoration efforts – repairing and restoring major airframe structures, primary mission equipment and original component identification markings, among many others tasks, to restore the Phoenix to its authentic appearance – as if it were brand new in 1975. Though it took a decade, the people behind Project Phoenix could not have selected a better aircraft to symbolize Coast Guard aviation, nor people to get the job done. Their hard work and dedication will result in honor and preservation of the service’s rich history, for the enjoyment of future and current Coast Guard aviators, and those who admire them. /




IT WAS APPROXIMATELY 0500 ON A THURSDAY MORNING [NOV. 1, J.C., since it was his call. He looked at me, and without a word 1979]. We were asleep, and our watch would be over in just a few between us, I knew we were of one mind on the issue – we hours. In fact, for Lt. Cmdr. J.C. Cobb, the Senior Duty Officer, this was resumed our respective tasks and headed toward the scene. It his last watch before retirement. From the speaker in the wardroom was dark, but wouldn’t be for much longer; besides, we could see we heard the call, “Air Station Houston, RCC [Regional Coordination that there was plenty of light on scene. Center]!” As the radio watch responded, J.C. and I were out of our I don’t recall today the time from notice to launch, but when we racks and reaching for our flight suits. A routine alert over the SARTEL checked it later, it was fast, very fast, only a few minutes.1 And in rarely merited more than this case, it would make a partially raised eyelid a difference. until the details came in – The scene was drabut there was an unusual matic. The tanker urgency in the tone this Burmah Agate was an time. As we all know, inferno, fully engulfed, there is SAR [search and as was much of the water rescue] and there is SAR; around it for a considerand the entire watch able distance, particuseemed to sense that larly aft of the vessel. this one was different, Nearby, the freighter even before we knew Mimosa was aflame as what it was. well. We later learned J.C. was on his way to that M/T Burmah Agate, ops for the briefing as with 10.7 million galRCC reported a collision lons of crude oil aboard, and a tanker on fire off had been anchored in the Galveston sea buoy. I Bolivar Roads when the ran into the hangar as the outbound M/V Mimosa, PA system announced on a perfectly clear HH-52A 1426 crewmember assists a survivor into the cabin. “put the ready helo on night, slammed into her the line,” joining our at full speed.2 Oil from duty crewman, AE2 Tom one of Burmah Agate’s Wynn. I noted that the breached tanks poured tug was already manned and the hangar doors were being pushed into the empty Mimosa through a gash in Mimosa’s bow. Even as back. One of my particular memories of this mission was how every Mimosa disengaged, a substantial fire developed on her as well. In aspect seemed to be anticipated by those involved. Commands and total, 31 seamen died, most of them from Burmah Agate.3 requests were “pro forma,” the entire mission seemed to run on Approaching the Burmah Agate, there seemed to be little we autopilot – a testament to superb training and standardization. could do – it appeared unlikely that there would be any survivors As soon as the helo cleared the hangar, I started the engine. still on board. We intended to pass from the stern, along the port J.C. arrived a very short while later; the run-up was complete and side (windward and least involved), searching the vessel and the we were ready to go. Although datum was almost 40 miles diswater. As we neared, and just after deploying the DMB [datum tant, sitting on the ground we could see the glow on the horizon. marker buoy] near a lifeless body afloat, one of the forward tanks However, as we lifted off, the RADALT [radar altimeter] failed! exploded. The fireball towered above us – and we were still at 200 The aircraft is prohibited from night flight over water without feet or so! Suddenly, flying along the side of the vessel did not seem an operating RADALT, so normal procedure would require us like such a good idea. At that moment Wynn informed us that he to abort the takeoff and get the back-up aircraft. I glanced at had two crewmen in sight, on the aft main deck. Phoenix Rising


Instantly after J.C. gave the command to rig the basket, we heard “basket’s out the door,” followed by vectors. We slid into position at the same moment the basket reached the two survivors. The heat was intense and the air turbulent. It was clear that we were not going to be able to hold a position this close to the vessel, but much to our surprise we heard “two persons in the basket, basket coming up.” After only a moment in position, we were sliding off to the left, clear of the vessel and the towering flames. With the two survivors on board, we turned our attention to Mimosa. The fire on that vessel was spreading from the forward area aft, toward the superstructure. The crew appeared to all be crowded onto the port bridge wing. Over the next several minutes, we hoisted 10 crewmembers in three hoists. Although the fire danger was not as immediate, these were interesting hoists nonetheless. When the basket was lowered, the ship’s crew were all clamoring to get into it, all grabbing for the basket at once. To make it more interesting, the ship was underway, but without command of the rudder it was doing a constant 360 degree turn. Because of

The resulting fire after the Burmah Agate and Mimosa collision in the Gulf of Mexico.


Just in Time

weight and wind, we could not follow the ship around. The situBurmah Agate continued to burn for 69 days. It was estimated ation was further complicated by the masts, wires, antennae and that approximately 7.8 million gallons were consumed by the fire, other gear above the bridge, necessitating a high hoist. We allowed another 2.6 million gallons released. The Burmah Agate oil spill is the ship to turn under us and passed control of the helo back and still listed as one of the major oil spills of all time. forth, depending on who had a visual on the ship at the time. The entire operation, including containment and recovery of With 12 survivors now on board, we had run out of room. We the spilled crude, would continue for months. decided that we would take them to a nearby manned oil platThe most interesting thing about this rescue, for me anyway, came form and return to get the others. Moving away from Mimosa, from a subsequent hospital interview of the two crewmembers of we discovered that we had been enjoying the assistance of Burmah Agate that we had rescued. It seems they were best friends. updrafts on the windward side of the vessel as well as the risOne of them could not swim, and they did not have PFDs. While ing air from the fire below. As the helo slid off to the side, the their shipmates jumped into the water to escape the exploding and bottom fell out. A short breathless moment later, the blades bit burning ship, these two stayed, one vowing not to leave his noninto clean air as we gained translational lift, leveled off and flew swimming friend alone. (None of those who jumped into the water away, albeit a bit lower than we started. (After all, what’s a ressurvived.) Eventually, the metal deck became too hot for them to cue without a little salt spray?) stand on, so they climbed up onto the wooden railing. Then, there We returned to Mimosa twice more, hoisting was a huge explosion (the one we observed on six, then four, for a total of 22, before reaching approach). At that point they decided that they a critical fuel state. A second helo rescued five would have no choice but to take their chances others from Mimosa. The second helo on scene in the water. They were poised to jump when was commanded by Cmdr. David Ciancaglini.4 suddenly there was a bright light, a rush of wind I don’t recall the other crewmembers on that and the basket appeared directly in front of aircraft. They hoisted a number of folks from them – as if from heaven. Mimosa as well. They also brought the Air Not quite, just the United States Coast Station Corpsman, HM1 “Doc” Blanchard, with Guard, but for them, at that moment, it was a them and put him on the oil rig to which we distinction without a difference. were taking the survivors in order to perform triage, first aid, etc. POSTSCRIPT And then it got really interesting. As the circling and un-commanded Mimosa began to – We wondered if anyone else had ever drift toward nearby oil and gas platforms, the flown an HH-52 with full SAR gear, 15 POB situation on scene became even more tense. [persons on board], and a half bag of fuel to The efforts to stop Mimosa, eventually accomboot! We contemplated doing a weight & balJ.C. Cobb (front) and Tom Wynn. plished by fouling her propeller, is an exciting ance after the fact, but decided it would probstory by itself. ably constitute an admission against interest.5


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They were poised to jump when suddenly there was a bright light, a rush of wind and the basket appeared directly in front of them – as if from heaven. Not quite, just the United States Coast Guard, but for them, at that moment, it was a distinction without a difference.

Coast Guard HH-52A 1426 aboard the CGC Valiant, Nov. 5, 1979.

– CGC Valiant was launched as OSC [on-scene commander] that morning. I returned to the scene a couple of days later and staged from Valiant. I had been deployed with Valiant a number of times, the most recent just a couple of months earlier – the ship and its crew were well known to me. Arriving on the bridge, I found my favorite captain looking a bit casually dressed, and definitely out of uniform. It seems they had just returned from a lengthy deployment the night before the collision. He was just getting settled in for some well-deserved rest at home when he got the urgent call to return immediately and deploy as OSC. Among the things that Cmdr. Jim Loy forgot rushing out the door was his belt.6 – At the time I first began this tale, circa 2005, I noted that shortly after his retirement, J.C. Cobb died of a heart attack. I recalled being informed of J.C.’s passing while I was still at Air Station Houston, in ’80 or ‘81. J.C. kept to himself, so outside of work, I really knew very little about him. In early 2016, we began a search for his next of kin. Much to my surprise, on Friday, 12 Feb. 2016, I received a call from J.C.! It seems the rumor of his demise was a bit premature. That morning, Rear Adm. Johanson, working through the Personnel Center, had caught up with him, still alive and kicking. He was not surprised that no one knew where he might be (or that we might believe him dead). He said he “dropped out” for awhile, lived on a sailboat and had generally been out of the loop. J.C. was not surprised to learn about 1426’s pending trip to the NASM. In any event, I apologize for any inconvenience my premature obituary may have caused him.


POST-POSTSCRIPT During the search for a suitable airframe to restore for the Smithsonian Institution, we received requests to find whatever records we had for certain airframes, but it seems that none of the original batch were suitable for restoration. After some period of time, in 2013 I believe, 1426 was announced as a potential candidate. In response I drafted a summary of my logbook

entries related to 1426 during the three years or so that I had flown her. It just so happened that, years before, circa 2005, during a slack period, I had written a few short summaries of some of my CG adventures, including the one above. With 1426 likely to head to the Smithsonian, I undertook to try and locate Tom Wynn, the crewman on this mission. It took a little effort, but eventually I found him. It turns out he too had written about that night, but for an entirely different reason. … His experience from this mission came as a huge and profound epiphany for me. I started flying helicopters in 1967, with the Army. During the next 15 years I would fly thousands of missions on crew served aircraft, some of which could be described as somewhat intense – most notably in combat in Vietnam and later with the Coast Guard. But until reading Tom’s account, I had given little, if any, real thought to just how different the view is from the back. From there, it’s a lot more intense in a very up-close and personal way – particularly in the world of CG SAR. Tom’s view of this mission was from a totally different vantage point and his memories of things I never even noticed. I gained a whole new perspective and although I’ve always greatly admired and respected the absolutely professional performance of our aircrews, I’ve come to admire their work even more. Bravo Zulu to Tom and to all Coast Guard aircrew! /

1. I’ve been told the logs reflect that the time from notice to launch was seven minutes. 2. Not surprisingly, exactly how the collision occurred was the subject of much dispute. The factual findings of various investigative reports vary considerably. 3. As we understood it at the time. Various numbers have appeared in different sources, between 31 and 35. 4. Later Rear Adm. Ciancaglini. 5. Our SAR configuration, as I recall, had four seats in the cabin - one for the crewman and three passenger seats. Theoretically, if you took out the SAR gear, the manual says you can install up to 10 seats in the cabin. 6. Later, Adm. James Loy, Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard. Subsequently, Administrator of the Transportation Security Administration and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

Phoenix Rising


A rare photograph of the Navy seaplane NC-4 during flight operations. NC-4 successfully crossed the Atlantic in 1919, eight years before Charles Lindbergh. Coast Guard Cmdr. (then a lieutenant) Elmer Stone piloted the NC-4.


Phoenix Rising


A Hundred Years of Coast Guard Aviation


Phoenix Rising


A Hundred Years of Coast Guard Aviation AT ITS 100TH BIRTHDAY, U.S. Coast Guard aviation excels in many missions, accomplishing more with less across a range of circumstances and challenges. That makes it tough to find a central theme for this unique air arm – a small aviation force operating as part of a small but formidable sea service – which performs humanitarian missions, law enforcement, drug interdiction, anti-terrorist duty, and specialized, scarcely noticed tasks like fisheries protection and international ice patrol. One way to sum up Coast Guard aviation is to say that it always seems to circle back to its humanitarian roots. At its inception, Coast Guard aviation saved souls in distress. A century later, it still does. History keeps butting in with enormous distractions – Prohibition, World War II, the Cold War, the drug war, the terrorist attacks of 9/11 – but once each new challenge is met, the pendulum swings back to Coast Guard aviation rescuing people. Even when the need for rescue itself arrives with the force of a sledgehammer – think Hurricane Katrina – Coast Guard aviation is always about saving souls.

LONG TRADITION The Coast Guard and its predecessor services have been doing the nation’s work since 1790. The aviation history of the Coast Guard dates to August 1916, when President Woodrow Wilson signed a law establishing an “Aerial Coast Patrol.” Beginning with Cmdr. Elmer Stone, the service’s first aviator, Coast Guardsmen pioneered offshore patrol work with early seaplanes including the F-Boat designed by Glenn L. Curtiss. Even in its youngest and most hopeful moments, Coast Guard aviation sometimes encountered false starts. In Washington, D.C., Coast Guard officers drew up blueprints for a “flying surfboat,” a marvelous air-sea machine that placed wings on a simple seagoing vessel. The concept never materialized, but a handful of intrepid Coast Guardsmen pioneered offshore patrol work in early seaplanes. During World War I in 1918, the Coast Guard came under the Navy Department. Coast Guardsmen flew in combat with Navy units. The Coast Guard is a sea service, so it’s fitting that one of the first and most famous Coast Guard aviation events centered on an aircraft designed to operate from the sea. Stone made a brief but lasting impact as pilot of the Navy seaplane NC-4, designed by Curtiss, which mounted an attempt by the Navy to complete history’s first trans-Atlantic flight. The NC-4 started from the Naval Air Station at Rockaway, New York, on May 8, 1919, in concert with two other aircraft that did not complete the journey. The NC-4 successfully crossed the Atlantic and landed in Lisbon, Portugal, on May 27, 1919. It was a spectacular aviation achievement for its time, but because the NC-4 made stops along the way, the accomplishment was eclipsed in the minds of the public by the first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight made two weeks later on June 14, 1919, by Royal Air Force pilots John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown. Stone later established a world speed record for amphibious aircraft and aided in development of the catapult and deck landing gear for aircraft carriers. From the beginning, a handful of visionaries saw Coast Guard aviation as essential to the service’s future. Seaplanes were eventually augmented by landplanes and, in later years, by helicopters, with the Coast Guard playing a leading role as a pioneer of rotarywing aviation. But during the long, lean years after the armistice that ended World War I, not everyone was convinced that aircraft were here to stay, or that practical uses existed for them.


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The years between world wars were a time of small budgets and limited support for the nation’s sea services. Capt. William P. Wishar, commander of the first Coast Guard air station at Morehead City, North Carolina – which he’d operated for two years – wrote in 1920 that his station was being forced to operate on a shoestring. Despite a difficult climate and rough weather, Morehead City had been opened – in preference to Key West, Florida, after a study – because it was close to what seamen called the “graveyard of the Atlantic,” meaning Cape Hatteras. “We would have more opportunities to locate vessels in distress, derelicts, menaces to navigation, and vessels ashore on Diamond Shoals, Lookout Shoals, and Frying Pan Shoals,” Wishar wrote. Although Coast Guardsmen scrimped and scrounged under Wishar’s leadership – and saved lives – the station ran out of funding in 1922 and went out of business. As the Roaring Twenties unfolded with the Great Depression looming just ahead, the future of Coast Guard aviation may have appeared to be no future at all. More Americans than ever were engaged in coastal seafaring activities, ranging from fishing to pleasure cruises, a trend that would continue until today, but it was unclear whether there would be enough money to keep the Coast Guard’s air arm alive. Ironically, the solution would come not by saving souls but by interdicting alcohol.

STEPPING BACK It may surprise some, but the true history of Coast Guard aviation began before there was a Coast Guard (established Jan. 28, 1915, through a merger of the Life-Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service) and before there was an aircraft that functioned anywhere in the world (beginning Dec. 17, 1903). When Ohio bicycle mechanics Wilbur and Orville Wright came down to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, beginning in 1901 to take advantage of strong winds – blowing from the sea – they received substantial help from surfmen of the Life-Saving Service at the Kill Devil Hill Lifeboat station. Members of the Coast Guard’s predecessor service, including Adam Etheridge, William Tate, and John T. Daniels, were on the scene and helped three years in a row when the Wrights assembled devices they’d come to test. On the morning of Dec. 17, 1903, three surfmen helped carry the fragile device – once completed, it was clearly an airplane, although no human being had so far made a controlled, powered flight in one – from the Wrights’ shed to their planned launch site. As the Coast Guard’s own website tells us, lifesavers like Tate and Daniels continued to help the Wrights in later years when the brothers returned for other flight experiments. The underpaid, brave, and tough government employees became local heroes and were bombarded by the press during the anniversary celebrations over decades that followed. Tate helped place historic markers at Kitty Hawk during the 25th anniversary celebrations while Daniels overcame his fear of flying during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the first flight and took a ride as a passenger aboard another revolutionary aircraft, a Coast Guard helicopter. Lt. Stewart Graham – Coast Guard helicopter pilot No. 2 – an aviation pioneer in his own right, was the pilot.

THE ROARING TWENTIES The first Coast Guard aircraft not borrowed from the Navy was a Loening OL-5 amphibian acquired in 1926 by ubiquitous aviator Stone. It was a “quirky bird,” said another Coast Guardsman whose name is lost to history, “solid and dependable but demanding the utmost of constant attention.”


During Prohibition, the Coast Guard received an influx of congressional cash and orders to stop the flow into the United States of contraband whisky. The ban on booze lasted from 1920 to 1933. It was a difficult if not thankless task, having much in common with drug interdiction efforts in later years. Lt. Cmdr. Carl C. von Paulsen borrowed a Vought UO-1 seaplane from the Navy to demonstrate the potential of aviation. The first use of an aircraft to chase a rumrunner was on June 20, 1925. The UO-1 assisted in the first capture of a rumrunner with aviation support on June 24, 1925. Operating from Squantum, Massachusetts, von Paulsen’s daily flights substantially curtailed smuggling in his area. The service acquired two of its own versions of the Vought seaplane, designated UO-4.

Writing in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings (in January 1933), Marine Corps Col. Harold C. Reisinger revealed the dirty little secret: Coast Guardsmen disliked chasing rumrunners. As with the drug wars to come in later decades, they never figured out whether seizing a lot of contraband was a sign of success or of failure. Many had been attracted to the Coast Guard to save those in peril on the sea. “It seems to be the popular view that the principal activity of the Coast Guard at present is in the enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment – the prevention of the introduction into the United States of demon rum,” wrote Reisinger. “It is true that when the Coast Guard got into the air, it began to make life miserable for the seagoing rumrunner and to a great extent changed his hitherto established plans of operation. The ability of the plane, in a

The Coast Guard experimented with mounting Lewis machine guns on board Loening OL-5s during Prohibition. The effort was short-lived and Coast Guard aircraft weren’t armed again in peacetime until creation of the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, or HITRON, in the late 1990s.

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A Hundred Years of Coast Guard Aviation

brief time, to bring under observation a thousand square miles of sea and coast, has made rum running a difficult occupation. Once the ‘suspect’ speed boat is spotted, there is but small chance of its eluding the plane, which, by radio, is calling the surface patrol to close in and effect the capture. “So much publicity is given to this onerous and unpopular duty,” Reisinger continued, “that the great service of the Coast Guard to commerce and humanity is but dimly discerned.” Toward the end of the Prohibition era, Coast Guard aviation changed its emphasis from law enforcement to search and rescue (SAR). The fledgling air arm was making a return to its roots.

FLYING LIFE BOAT In 1928, specifications were drawn to develop a flying life boat to serve alongside 13 Douglas RD-2 Dolphins. Initially a product of Fokker before that company went defunct, the General Aviation Flying Life Boat – different models were designated PJ-1 and PJ-2 – was a flying boat designed from the start to meet Coast Guard rescue requirements and not a hand-me-down from another service


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branch. Five were built and they were very substantial aircraft for their era, weighing 11,000 pounds and offering a range of 1,000 miles. The first PJ-1 was named Arcturus and was quickly called to service, flying from Miami in darkness and stormy weather to rescue a critically ill passenger aboard the Army transport ship Republic. During another PJ-1 incident, von Paulsen set down in heavy seas during January 1933 off Cape Canaveral, Florida, to rescue a boy adrift in a skiff. The Flying Life Boat sustained so much damage during the open water landing that it was unable to take off. Eventually, Arcturus taxied to shore and everyone aboard, including the boy, was saved. As the nation grappled with the Great Depression in the 1930s, the Coast Guard struggled with now-familiar tight budgets and operated a mix of aircraft in very small numbers. For $8,000, which was not a small sum, the service purchased a single Consolidated N4Y-1, or Model 21-A open-cockpit biplane trainer and used it mostly as a “hack,” or taxi, from 1932 to 1941. It was similar in appearance to the Stearman N2S-3, a version of the Army’s PT-17 primary trainer, and the Coast Guard picked up 11 of those for training and courier duties. Also similar in appearance, and


Coast Guard aircraft from Coast Guard Air Station Miami, Florida, greeting the new 165-foot patrol boat Pandora upon arrival at that port on Dec. 6, 1934. From top to bottom are flying boat Acamar, the Douglas RD Dolphin amphibian Sirius, and flying boat Arcturus. The Coast Guard acquired 13 RDs beginning in 1931. It proved to be a popular choice among Coast Guard aviators.


A Coast Guard OS2U Kingfisher on anti-submarine patrol during World War II.

acquired because of good experience with the earlier OU-1 and OU-4, was the Vought O2U-2 Corsair, a stately biplane deemed ideal for coastal survey duties. Also during the 1930s, a high-wing Stinson RQ-1 Reliant cabin monoplane pulled light transport liaison duty. Other land- and sea-based aircraft continued to save lives, patrol coastlines, and enforce laws as Coast Guardsmen lived rugged and uncomfortable lives and the nation coped with the great downturn that preceded history’s greatest war. During the 1930s, aircraft were deployed aboard cutters for the first time. Each 327-foot cutter embarked a Grumman JF-2 or Curtiss SOC-4 biplane amphibian to assist with opium smuggling patrols off the West Coast, fishery patrols in Alaskan waters, and a standby for SAR missions. It was a decade when several new air stations were opened. On Jan. 22, 1936, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia announced that the city of New York had executed a 50-year lease to the Coast Guard to occupy almost 10 acres on Jamaica Bay. On April 23, 1938, the Coast Guard Air Station (AirSta) Floyd Bennett Field, also called AirSta Brooklyn, was established. It had a long and distinguished

life as home for fixed-wing and later rotary-wing aircraft until decommissioned in May 1998. The Coast Guard invested in two generations of Hall biplane amphibians and one of these, a PH-3, was among aircraft destroyed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

WORLD AT WAR In World War II, the service expanded from 17,000 personnel at the outbreak to a peak of more than 175,000. Coast Guardsmen operated an air arm that guarded American shores, pioneered the development of helicopters, and expanded SAR to reach thousands who needed it. The war did not absolve the Coast Guard of its mission of non-combat rescue. In November 1942, Lt. John A. Pritchard and Radioman Benjamin A. Bottoms rescued two members of a crashed B-17 Flying Fortress bomber in Greenland, but lost their lives in an attempt to rescue a third member of the downed aircraft. By chance, that was the same year the Coast Guard participated in the establishment of the first air-sea rescue unit at San Phoenix Rising


A Hundred Years of Coast Guard Aviation

Diego, California, beginning a long history of military components dedicated solely to helping others to live. As part of its World War II saga (during which time it reported to the Navy), the Coast Guard operated what was, for many years, its only flying squadron. Patrol Squadron Six (VP-6) was established Oct. 5, 1943, at Argentia, Newfoundland, under Cmdr. Donald MacDiarmid with six PBY-5A Catalina amphibians. The squadron was redesignated Patrol Bomber Squadron Six (VPB-6) in October 1944 and operated in Greenland. When it was disestablished in January 1946, for decades later, it was the only flying squadron the Coast Guard had ever operated. Coast Guardsmen take tremendous pride at having flown aircraft as large as the Catalina, the bigger Consolidated P4Y-2G Privateer, a naval version of the B-24 Liberator bomber and, in later years, the HC-130J Hercules.

HELICOPTERS Not well known is that the Coast Guard, acting in its wartime role on behalf of the Navy, was ahead of the other services in helicopter development. Here is where Floyd Bennett Field gained special importance. On Jan. 1, 1944, a helicopter pilot training program


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began under the Coast Guard – working for the Navy – at Floyd Bennett Field. In 1944, tests with Sikorsky HNS-1 and HOS-1 helicopters aboard the ancient cutter Cobb were the very first American shipboard landings of helicopters. Frank A. Erickson, who had been designated a Coast Guard aviator a decade earlier, became the Coast Guard’s first helicopter pilot. In 1944, he flew through howling winds and snow to complete the first lifesaving mission with a helicopter. Erickson was a calm, steady, persistent figure who traveled a zigzag course to his destination as a Coast Guard air icon. He was an enlisted sailor in the Navy, a dropout from the Naval Academy, and an enlisted Coast Guardsman before attending and graduating from the Coast Guard Academy in 1931. He was at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941. With the United States at war, Erickson was ordered to the Sikorsky Aircraft plant at Bridgeport, Connecticut, for training in the construction and operation of helicopters and to establish liaison with the manufacturer. He led two other officers and five aviation machinist mates who formed the first Coast Guard Helicopter Detachment. Sergei Sikorsky, son of the famous helicopter maker Igor Sikorsky, said in an interview that Erickson could be “stubborn” and “relentless,” but “had a talent for energizing those


Early helicopter landing tests aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Cobb.

around him.” Like the Coast Guard itself, Erickson was ahead of the rest of the world in having a vision of the good work helicopters could perform on land, sea, and air. As a commander, Erickson developed the idea and the techniques of power hoist equipment for practical use in helicopters. He demonstrated this in Jamaica Bay in 1944 as the pilot of the first helicopter pickup of a man on Aug. 11, 1944; the first pickup of a man floating in water on Aug. 14; and the first pickup of a man from a life raft on Sept. 25. In a letter to Sikorsky workers, Erickson pointed to a future for the helicopter that many, even within the Coast Guard, were only beginning to see. “These helicopters you are building [at Sikorsky] are especially suited for rescue missions,” Erickson wrote. “Every one of these machines can be adapted for battle area rescue and ambulance work. It is perfectly feasible to equip these machines with a stretcher which can be lowered 25 or 30 feet in hovering flight to remove men from jungles, very high ground or the open seas where even the helicopter cannot land.” In years to follow, the Coast Guard would pull off tens of thousands of rescues just as Erickson foresaw. In the mid-1940s, the Coast Guard ordered a few more Sikorsky helicopters while other services debated whether rotary-winged flying machines had any practical role. The Coast Guard operated two Army R-5A models under the designation HO2S-1. The design was altered significantly (adding a nose-wheel undercarriage) by the time the civilian variant, the fourseat S-51, made its first flight on Feb. 16, 1946. Nine S-51s went to the Coast Guard as HO3S-1Gs. The Navy also operated the S-51, and many Americans remember Mickey Rooney at the controls in Hollywood’s The Bridges at Toko-ri (1954). In 1945, the Coast Guard had nine air stations and 165 aircraft. The Navy returned 11 more air stations after war’s end. Now, Americans wanted to enjoy themselves, and an explosion of recreational boats created a booming clientele of people in need of being rescued. The helicopter was ideally suited to this mission. Able to react swiftly, it could lift entire pleasure boat crews from imminent disaster or, in less trying circumstances, deliver de-watering pumps and fuel. But as Coast Guard historian Robert L. Scheina, Ph.D., puts it, in its early years, the helicopter had a major handicap: The pilot needed three hands to fly it! Still, there were remarkable achievements. On April 6, 1948, a Coast Guard H03S-lG completed the longest unescorted helicopter ferry flight on record. The trip from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, to Port Angeles, Washington, via San Diego, California, a distance of 3,750 miles, took 10 1/2 days to complete and involved a total flight time of 57.6 hours. The versatility of the helicopter was demonstrated during a series of floods in the United States in the 1950s. To carry out this rescue work, the helicopter had to hover among trees, telephone poles, television antennas, and the like. In 1955, Coast Guard helicopters rescued more than 300 people as rivers overflowed in Connecticut and Massachusetts. In December of that year, the Coast Guard on-scene commander directed the rescue of thousands in California. In one incident, a single helicopter operated by two crews rescued 138 people during a 12-hour period. From 1946, Coast Guard aircraft were used on the international ice patrol. The objective of ice patrol flights is to observe

ice floating in the vicinity of the Grand Banks, so that shipping in that well-traveled area can be advised of conditions throughout the iceberg season. Ice patrol flight tracks are normally between 1,200 and 1,700 miles. Since 1983, the flights have used HC-130H Hercules aircraft carrying SLAR (side-looking aerial radar) equipment as the primary reconnaissance tool, and a typical mission has meant six to eight hours in the air. At the normal altitude of 8,000 feet, the SLAR can cover a swath extending 35 miles on each side of the aircraft.

THE 1950S In the 1950s, the Coast Guard carried out its difficult missions with “hand me down” aircraft that made the service resemble a walking, talking World War II museum. The legendary PBY Catalina was still in inventory, used now to hunt stranded mariners rather than hostile U-boats. The PB4Y-2G Privateer, its designation shortened to P4Y-2G and later to P-4A, offered both long range and heavy load-carrying capacity for offshore rescue missions. The wartime PBM Mariner seaplane/amphibian was joined in the 1950s by its postwar offspring, the P5M-1G Marlin (also operated in a T-tailed, P5M-2G version), which became the next-to-last seaplane in U.S. service. Marlins had huge metal hulls and cavernous interiors, and they possessed the range to reconnoiter thousands of miles of seacoast. Most were retired by 1961. Not much newer was the HU-16E Albatross. It was originally dubbed the UF-1G and UF-2G in naval parlance and was equivalent to the Air Force SA-16A and SA-16B but shall forever be known to Coast Guard members as “the Goat,” for reasons no one remembers. The Coast Guard eventually operated 88 of these aircraft, with all but five of the original UF-1Gs being upgraded to the more robust UF-2G – HU-16E – configuration. The Albatross was a full-fledged amphibian, capable of launching and recovering at sea or on land. The first was delivered to the Coast Guard by planemaker Grumman in May 1951. During the 1950-53 Korean conflict, Coast Guard destroyer escorts were stationed in the Pacific as aircraft rescue sites. The Coast Guard’s history with the C-130 Hercules dates to 1958, when it first ordered the R8V-1G, later designated HC-130B, for long-range, over-water patrols and for transport and enforcement functions. The Hercules, also flown by Coast Guardsmen with the Air Force in Vietnam, is suitable for a variety of missions – a fourengined, high-wing aircraft that can carry up to 92 passengers, though the usual number is 44, with 14 web seats and two pallets with 15 airline-style seats each. The HC-130H can also carry 51,000 pounds of cargo, rescue, or oil-pollution-control equipment. In 1957, the Coast Guard ordered its first HH-3F Pelican mediumrange rescue helicopter, a distant relative of the Navy’s SH-3 Sea King. “It had its idiosyncrasies but it was a pleasure to fly,” said former Lt. Cmdr. James Howell. “Once you’re up in the air, it handled like a baby, even in extreme temperatures or rough weather.” The service acquired 40 of the twin-turbine HH-3Fs and later added three similar CH-3E models acquired at no cost from the Air Force. In common with a much later helicopter, the HH-52A Seaguard, the Pelican was much loved by pilots and maintainers and proved especially useful for its ability to operate on water.

“Once you’re up in the air, it handled like a baby, even in extreme temperatures or rough weather.”

Phoenix Rising


A Hundred Years of Coast Guard Aviation

A NEW ERA The 1960s were a new time, but for Coast Guard aviation, it was a familiar time. Busy competing with the Soviet Union, the U.S. military establishment had few resources or money left over for Coast Guard aviation and its now mostly humanitarian duties. In 1963, the first Sikorsky HH-52A Seaguard helicopter joined the Coast Guard – like the flying life boat of three decades earlier, one of the few aircraft designed to Coast Guard specifications and not used by any other service branch. A unique design, the single turbine-powered Seaguard was the first amphibious helicopter built with a flying boat-type hull. It was the first gas turbine-powered helicopter used by the service. The Coast Guard says that the HH-52A, with more than 15,000 lives saved in its 25 years of service, has rescued more persons than any other helicopter in the world. “It became the international icon for rescue and proved the worth of the helicopter many times over,” reads a statement from the service. “A good advance for us,” is what then-Commandant Adm. Edwin J. Roland called the aircraft when he accepted the first four Seaguards at the Sikorsky’s Connecticut factory on Jan. 9, 1963. The first Seaguard went to the air station at Salem, Massachusetts. The HH-52A was the first aircraft to be operated at the new air station in Houston, Texas, beginning on Dec. 23, 1963. When Hurricane Betsy struck New Orleans in fall 1965, Coast Guardsmen flew Seaguards around the clock. Although threatened by power lines, trees, and flooding, they rescued 1,200 people who were stranded by the raging storm. The CGC Reliance was the first Coast Guard vessel to operate in the Gulf of Mexico with a helicopter, where it conducted trials with the Seaguard in October 1964. Deck crews pioneered new methods of taking a helicopter aboard as the HH-52A began operating from the service’s new 210-foot cutters. Coast Guardsmen found the Seaguard to be versatile and easy to use. It helped considerably that its main design used the same main rotor, tail rotor, and transmission system used by the piston-powered Sikorsky S-55 (the Coast Guard’s HO4S-1G). But the HH-52A’s fuselage was entirely new, being designed for fully amphibious operation with a waterproof, flying boat hull and semi-retractable main undercarriage wheels mounted in the two outrigger stabilizing floats. Designed from the start for amphibious operations, the Seaguard proved itself able to function safely in 8- to 10-foot waves. An innovative feature was a platform that folded out from the cabin floor, extending over the water where crewmembers could reach out to assist accident survivors.

Two U.S. Coast Guard HH-52A Seaguards fly over Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The Seaguard holds the record for the most lives saved (some 15,000) of any helicopter.

In Vietnam, Coast Guard helicopter pilots did not bring their own aircraft to the war zone but flew on exchange duty with the Air Force. Many served with combat SAR forces that operated HH-3E “Jolly Green” and HH-53 Stallion or “Super Jolly Green” rotorcraft that traveled behind enemy lines to save downed airmen. A Memorandum of Agreement with the Air Force inked on March 31, 1967, took care of the formalities that laid the foundation for an aviator exchange program. Altogether, 11 Coast Guard fliers were in the Southeast Asia war. One of the most recognized was Lt. Jack Rittichier, who, with the entire crew of “Jolly 23” perished while attempting to rescue a downed Marine Corps fighter pilot in a mountainous region west


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of Da Nang in June 1968. Rittichier was posthumously awarded the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, and Purple Heart. Lts. Thomas F. Frischmann and James Casey Quinn signed up to fly HU-16E Albatross rescue missions. When it became clear the Air Force equivalent of the Albatross was being phased out – no Coast Guard-owned aircraft made it to Southeast Asia – both officers received training in the Air Force HC-130P Combat King, the airrefueler/combat-rescue version of the Hercules tactical airlifter. The Combat King was the unsung hero of the massive combat SAR effort that saved hundreds in North Vietnam. It “passed gas” to rescue helicopters and functioned as an airborne command post when appropriate. HC-130Ps came under fire in the air and even when parked in revetments on the ground.



U.S.-manufactured 740-shaft horsepower Lycoming LTS-101 turboshaft engines and 39-foot rotors – and difficult to support because of its lack of commonality with other U.S. military helicopters. Coast Guard efforts overcame these challenges and the Dolphin has had a successful career. Today, Dolphins operate up to 150 miles offshore and will fly comfortably at 120 knots for three hours. When armament was added to the Dolphin fleet, existing aircraft, which had also received other upgrades, were redesignated MH-65B and MH-65C. Further upgrades have led to the MH-65D and MH-65E in development today. The 1980s were also the period when a familiar, large turboprop plane became the service’s ice patroller. Since 1983, international ice patrol flights have used the HC-130H and later HC-130J versions of the Hercules with a typical mission lasting eight hours or more.

RESCUE SWIMMERS In 1983, the merchant ship M/V Marine Electric went down in rough seas at night off the coast of Virginia. In rescue efforts that began the following morning with an HH-3F Pelican, the Coast Guard had to call upon the Navy for assistance. Thanks to Navy rescue swimmer Petty Officer James McCann, three lives were saved, although, because of delays, 31 were lost. Congress immediately asked why the Navy, which had no helicopters on alert, had rescue swimmers while the Coast Guard, which kept helicopters constantly ready, had no swimmers. For decades, the Coast Guard had plucked survivors from the sea without being equipped to go into the water to help them. Legislation for fiscal year 1984 specified that the Coast Guard must “establish a helicopter rescue swimmer program for the purpose of training selected Coast Guard personnel in rescue swimming skills.” By the end of 1986, the service had rescue swimmers at six air stations. The swimmers operated aboard HH-3F, HH-65, HH-60J, and HH-52A helos. When the program became operational, there was initial reluctance to deploy rescue swimmers except under favorable conditions. It soon became apparent, however, that the service’s rescue swimmers would frequently be called upon in extreme weather conditions. The Coast Guard’s website relates this tale:

MORE MONEY There were just two short periods when Coast Guard aviation had larger budgets than usual – the Reagan-era 1980s and the period just after 9/11. An influx of funding helped to underwrite the most numerous helicopter operated by the Coast Guard, the HH-65 Dauphin (Dolphin), a French design that makes extensive use of composite materials, prompting Capt. Peter Prindle to nickname it the “Plastic Puppy.” The HH-65A first flew in 1980 and, after technical delays, entered service at New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1985. At one time, the Dolphin model had a less than 50 percent mission capable rate and was widely criticized for being underpowered – with twin,

On 10 December 1987, Air Station Sitka, Alaska, received a distress call from a 26 foot fishing vessel taking on water about 10 miles southwest of Sitka. An HH-3F was quickly launched to search for the vessel, but the weather conditions were terrible. Visibility was down to 1/4 [mile] in a severe snow storm, the seas were running at about 25 to 30 feet and the wind was blowing at 35 knots with gusts up to 70 knots. Aboard the vessel were a 33-year-old man and his 6-year-old son, both of whom were wearing survival suits. In the heavy seas, the tall rigging of the sinking boat swayed violently from side to side, with the stern already awash. Despite numerous attempts, the pilot and hoist operator were unable to get the rescue basket to the two people on the boat. The pilot, after considerable persuasion, convinced the father and boy that their only chance at rescue was to enter the water where they could then get into the rescue basket. With the son strapped to his chest, the father jumped over the side into the turbulent water. However, the man’s survival suit leaked, and Phoenix Rising


A Hundred Years of Coast Guard Aviation

An MH-65D Dolphin helicopter from Coast Guard Air Station Los Angeles has recently returned from Coast Guard Aviation Logistics Center in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where it received a “retro” paint scheme to celebrate 25 years of the service using the Dolphin. This aircraft will continue service as the Coast Guard’s only Dolphin with the white paint scheme. The Dolphin, a short-range recovery helicopter, has been enhanced through a series of incremental upgrades. The prototype MH-65E completed its first flight on Oct. 28, 2015.

WAR ON DRUGS Coast Guard aviation’s rule in drug interdiction dates to the 1970s. The Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 formalized the service’s role in interdicting drug smugglers who were using aircraft. For a brief period, the Coast Guard operated eight Grumman E-2C Hawkeyes and a single Lockheed EC-130V Hercules mounting saucer-shaped radar antennas. The service identified 798 smuggler


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aircraft in the first two years of these operations. In common with a decision to arm helicopters that came a decade later, the service’s crewmembers never intended to use lethal force. The E-2As and EC-130Vs steered the bad guys into the arms of law enforcement. The guns that were mounted later on helicopters were meant to disable the engines of smugglers’ “go-fast boats” – not to shoot people. The “war on drugs” was, and is, controversial and at least some Coast Guard members say they derive more satisfaction from rescue duty. Sept. 12, 1989, marked the final flight of a Coast Guard Seaguard, a helicopter that served for a quarter of a century. Retired Coast Guard Lt. Ralph Benhart was an enlisted maintainer working on HH-52A electronic systems at Corpus Christi, Texas. “It was an easy aircraft to maintain but because it was single-engine, if you had a problem you knew where you were going,” Benhart remembered in an interview. “As you’d expect with an amphibian, the sheet metal guys had problems with rust

Protecting the nation is today part of the job, more than ever, but a new century did not mean an end to Coast Guard aviation’s seminal humanitarian role.


immediately filled with water. After several attempts to get into the basket, it became apparent that they could not. The pilot turned to ASM1 Jeffery Tunks, the rescue swimmer, and directed him to prepare for deployment. In a few short moments, Petty Officer Tunks was in the turbulent water and swimming to assist the two individuals. Fighting heavy seas and winds, Petty Officer Tunks struggled to get the two survivors into the rescue basket. Once secured, they were hoisted to the hovering H-3. With the aircraft being buffeted by extremely gusty winds during the subsequent effort to recover the rescue swimmer, Petty Officer Tunks was dragged through an enormous sea swell, causing him to lose his mask and snorkel and sustain a minor back injury. He was ultimately recovered, and with the two survivors safely aboard, the H-3 returned to Sitka. For his courage and presence of mind in deploying into conditions as yet not previously encountered during previous rescue swimmer operations, ASM1 Jeffery Tunks became the first rescue swimmer to earn the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Coast Guard MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters fly in formation over the Wright Brothers National Memorial, March 10, 2016. Air Station Elizabeth City aircrews were at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, to celebrate the centennial anniversary of Coast Guard aviation with formation flights including a Jayhawk in a classic paint scheme.

on the bottom. But it was a fine helicopter, and it could carry a heck of a lot of weight.” Another aircraft was also ending its career. The HU-16E Albatross racked up an incredible 200,000-plus sorties in a quarter-century, but finally became the last fixed-wing Coast Guard aircraft capable of operating at sea. The last was retired at Cape Cod AirSta, Massachusetts, in March 1983. And a third retirement was chalked up when the last HH-3F Pelican was retired from the Coast Guard on May 6, 1994. It was the last Coast Guard aircraft able to land on and take off from water.


A NEW CENTURY Other aircraft came and went. The service’s sole Grumman VC-11A Gulfstream II spent most of its life transporting “bigwigs” but was used during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 to bring a team of oil pollution experts to Saudi Arabia. The HU-25 Guardian, a version of the Falcon executive jet, had a long and distinguished history, and two of them used aerial sensors to assist the team in cleaning up oil spills intentionally unleashed by Saddam Hussein during the Persian Gulf war in 1991. The 9/11 attacks on the United States put new emphasis on the Coast Guard’s status as a military service branch and as a security

force. Having moved from the Department of the Treasury to the Department of Transportation in 1967, the service made a new move in 2003 to the Department of Homeland Security. Protecting the nation is today part of the job, more than ever, but a new century did not mean an end to Coast Guard aviation’s seminal humanitarian role. A Coast Guard document describes the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, into which aircraft from stations at New Orleans, Houston, and Mobile descended on Aug. 28, 2005, “only to find the utter horror of great expanses under water up to rooftops or completely flattened by winds with burning gas mains and buildings and thousands of survivors clinging to rooftops adding to the unimaginable scene. In tropical storm conditions, helicopters began hoisting survivors, reacting intuitively to the difficult task of triaging the neediest from among the throngs of victims, and delivering those recovered to the nearest dry land or overpass.” Flying around the clock for seven days, Coast Guard helicopters operating over New Orleans alone saved 6,470 lives (4,731 by hoist) during 723 sorties and 1,507 flight hours. Coast Guard helicopter aircrews saved or evacuated a total of 12,535 people during Katrina rescue operations. “There is little doubt – the Coast Guard’s response was nothing short of monumental,” says current Commandant of the Phoenix Rising


A Hundred Years of Coast Guard Aviation

Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft. But the disaster also pointed to the limitations faced by a small service. During Katrina, we saw the limits of a Coast Guard surge in personnel and assets,” said Zukunft. “By necessity, when we deployed equipment and people to the Gulf Coast, we left skeleton crews behind in several areas, which increased risk and the potential for failure in other mission areas. At the peak of the response, we had 3,400 – over 10 percent of the Coast Guard’s personnel complement – deployed to the region in one day.” Zukunft noted in particular that, “an astounding 45 percent of the Coast Guard’s air assets were in the region at the height of the response.” Today’s Coast Guard air fleet is modest compared to other air arms, but colossal in contrast to the earliest days of Coast Guard aviation. It remains modest when measured in aircraft types – just half a dozen kinds of planes and helicopters. The Coast Guard currently operates 23 first-generation HC-130H Hercules models and nine HC-130J Super Hercules aircraft (a direct result of a post-9/11 budget increase), and plans to acquire 22


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HC-130Js. Three HC-130H Hercules will be decommissioned in fiscal year 2016. In a perfect world, Coast Guard members would like to be equipped entirely with the more economical, more efficient Super Hercules model, but that appears to be out of reach in today’s funding climate. The C-130s are the backbone of the service’s long-range air fleet, ideal for lengthy patrols, on-scene command and control, surveillance, and cargo and personnel transport. For medium-range maritime patrol duty, the service operates 18 HC-144A Ocean Sentry twin-turboprop aircraft, military versions of the Airbus/CASA CN 235-300M cargo hauler, the last delivered in September 2014. They perform maritime patrol, law enforcement, SAR, and disaster response duty from four air stations. The service planned for more HC-144As but, instead, has received 14 surplus C-27J twin-turboprop transports. The C-27Js came from the Air Force at no cost. This transfer allowed the Coast Guard to avoid acquisition costs of more than


An Air Station Kodiak C-130 Hercules aircrew takes off from Kodiak, Alaska, airport to deliver helicopter parts to a forward operating location in Deadhorse, Alaska, July 1, 2015. The essential aircraft parts will ensure that forward-deployed MH-60 Jayhawk crews remain operational so they are able to respond to mariners in distress in the Arctic.


A Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) crew returns to the CGC Tahoma during operations in the Caribbean March 23, 2015. Together, HITRON and Tahoma crewmembers interdicted approximately 1,100 pounds of cocaine and three suspected smugglers while on patrol.

a half-billion dollars – a windfall in an era when budgets are tight. The C-27J is called the Spartan elsewhere, but the Coast Guard hasn’t adopted the name. The FY 2016 budget will include spares, initial training, mission system development, and ground support equipment to optimize these aircraft for rescue duty, whereupon they’ll be designated HC-27J. In its rotary-wing fleet today, the Coast Guard operates 42 MH-60T Jayhawks at eight air stations. These derivatives of the Navy’s well-known Seahawk were acquired as HH-60J models and were subsequently upgraded, armed, and given the MH-60T appellation. The Coast Guard has finished upgrading its aging Dolphin helicopters to MH-65D standard. On Oct. 28, 2015, the service completed its first flight of the prototype MH-65E. It has a Common Avionics Architecture System (CAAS) similar to one installed on the upgraded MH-60Ts. The MH-65E upgrade will also replace the legacy analog automatic flight control with a digital system, and install a digital weather radar system.

The service’s newest MH-65 initiative is the Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron, or HITRON, currently based in Jacksonville, Florida. Responding to the nation’s effort to stop the flow of drugs from South America in heavily laden speedboats, known as go-fasts, a proof-of-concept HITRON deployment was authorized in summer 1998. Its objective was to disable outboard motors of go-fasts with a .50-caliber precision rifle, with suspect vessels running at up to 50 knots over the open ocean. The goal was daunting, but the initial deployment met with stunning success as HITRON crews disabled five vessels and seized more than $100 million in contraband in a few short weeks. In the subsequent 18 years, armed helicopters from HITRON have successfully interdicted 382 go-fasts, seized 362 tons of cocaine and 21 tons of marijuana, and apprehended 1,227 narco-terrorists. Also in today’s Coast Guard inventory are two C-37A Gulfstream V executive jets used to transport the secretary for Homeland Security, commandant, and other senior officials. / Phoenix Rising


Ancient Albatross Awards

Ancient Albatross Awards THE U.S. COAST GUARD ANCIENT ALBATROSS MONIKER was derived from two things: the Rime of the Ancient Mariner poem by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge and the HU-16E Albatross search and rescue aircraft. The bird? Wide-winged and long-lived, albatrosses are rarely seen on land, preferring to stay out on the ocean. So it’s fitting that the service bestows the honor of Ancient Albatross to its most senior active-duty aviators. The Ancient Albatross Award, established in 1966, honors the Coast Guard officer aviator on active duty who has held the designation for the longest period of time. In 1988, the tradition of the Enlisted Ancient Albatross Award was established for the enlisted aviator on active duty with the earliest graduation date from Class “A” school with a Coast Guard aviation rating. During a Change of Watch Ceremony, the traditional Ancient Albatross flight gear, including a helmet, scarf, and goggles, are passed from one designee to the next. A trophy – a winged bird with one wing touching the water – is also presented to the incoming Ancient Albatrosses; they each receive a miniature version to keep. On the trophy, the inscription reads: This award is presented to the Coast Guard aviator on active duty holding the earliest designation in recognition of a clear defiance of the private realm of the Albatross and all its sea-bird kin while in pursuit of time-honored Coast Guard duties. The winged-bird trophy is displayed at the Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola, Florida, and the names of its recipients continue to be engraved on it.

Today, Vice Adm. Charles W. Ray holds the distinction and assumed the title of Ancient Albatross in April 2015. Ray is commander of both the Coast Guard Pacific Area and Defense Force West. He earned his wings in 1983 and has more than 5,000 hours of helicopter flight time. During his Change of Watch Ceremony, Ray said, “I’m honored and humbled to be named the Ancient Albatross for our service. I’m grateful for this opportunity to represent Coast Guard aviation and the many Coast Guardsmen who take to the skies every day to ensure our nation’s safety, security and prosperity; it’s also humbling to be in the company of so many great Coast Guard aviators. I knew a helicopter could take you far, but I never imagined it would take me this far.” Master Chief Petty Officer Clay Hill received the designation in August 2015. “I am honored to assume the title of the Coast Guard Enlisted Ancient Albatross,” said Hill at his Change of Watch Ceremony. “This position represents the culmination of my aviation career and I am proud to represent the Coast Guard’s enlisted air crewmembers. I am excited to meet with the Coast Guard’s distinguished current and former aviators and air crewmen to share our aviation legacy.” As an aviation survival technician rating force master chief at Coast Guard Headquarters, Hill has served as a rescue swimmer aboard the HH-3F Pelican, HH-60 Jayhawk, and HH-65 Dolphin helicopters, and as a flight mechanic aboard the Dolphin. In April 2016, Coast Guard aviation will celebrate its 100th anniversary. So it’s appropriate that the Ancient Albatrosses represent the service’s aviators – in this century and the next – who are recognized for their many contributions to the Coast Guard’s distinguished aviation fleet. They have been and will remain Semper Paratus. /

Left: Master Chief Petty Officer Clay Hill, the new Coast Guard Enlisted Ancient Albatross, stands with Master Chief Petty Officer Michael Ferreira, the outgoing Enlisted Ancient Albatross, after a Change of Watch Ceremony at Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, Oahu, Aug. 20, 2015. Right: Vice Adm. Charles W. Ray is the incoming Ancient Albatross, the 25th designee since the award was established in 1966.


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A U.S. Coast Guard HH-3F Pelican helicopter hovers near the stern of the Dutch cruise ship Prinsendam in the Gulf of Alaska after fire broke out in the engine room. All 520 passengers and crewmembers were rescued.

GREAT SAVES A few of the U.S. Coast Guard’s greatest air rescues



APRIL 1, 1916, MARKS THE U.S. COAST GUARD’S AVIATION birthday, the date when 2nd Lt. Charles E. Sugden and 3rd Lt. Elmer F. Stone reported for aviation training. In July 1934, Frank A. Erickson became a Coast Guard aviator, and some time later he was designated the service’s first helicopter pilot. In 1944, he conducted the first lifesaving mission – in snow squalls and strong winds – with a helicopter. Over the years, the service has honed its airborne techniques of search and rescue (SAR), which is one of its 11 statutory missions, assisting people in danger on the high seas and inland waterways. While there are many notable, heroic rescues, here are a few of the most daring lifesaving operations in Coast Guard history, in no particular order.

1980: DUTCH CRUISE SHIP PRINSENDAM The Dutch cruise ship Prinsendam, steaming through the Gulf of Alaska near Ketchikan, caught fire in its engine room at midnight

on Oct. 4. The ship’s captain ordered 520 people – 320 passengers and 200 crewmembers – to deploy the lifeboats and abandon ship, more than 150 miles from the nearest coast. The Coast Guard got underway with what would become one of the largest rescue operations in U.S. history. Coast Guard and Canadian helicopters and the CGCs Boutwell, Mellon, and Woodrush as well as rescue aircraft launched from air stations Sitka and Kodiak, and with assistance from the U.S. Air Force, Royal Canadian navy, and an Automated Mutual Assistance Vessel Rescue System-tasked tanker, the service began the coordinated operation of aiding the passengers. Their efforts lasted 24 hours in 12- to 15-foot seas and winds of 28 to 35 mph, despite the fact that the Prinsendam was positioned 130 miles from the closest airstrip. Rescue helicopters would transport to shore passengers who were hypothermic and the aircraft would refuel and return to the scene to pick up another load of survivors. As a result of coordination and teamwork among the rescue parties, all 520 aboard were rescued and no one sustained serious injury. Phoenix Rising


Great Saves

2008: FISHING VESSEL ALASKA RANGER At 2:52 a.m. on March 23, and 120 miles west of the Aleutian Island port of Dutch Harbor, Alaska, the captain of the 189-foot fishing trawler Alaska Ranger sent a distress call that was picked up at U.S. Coast Guard Station Kodiak. The ship’s aft compartments had begun filling with water. There were 47 crewmembers aboard. As the fishermen began putting on their survival gear, the 378foot CGC Munro, which was on patrol in the Bering Sea, was strategically positioned to help distressed mariners. It, too, had received the mayday, turned toward the position of the call, and steamed to assist. The crew of the Munro had jumped into action, turning the mess deck into a treatment center for survivors and preparing the flight deck to launch Munro’s HH-65 Dolphin helicopter. Crewmembers also prepared to receive fishermen from an HH-60 Jayhawk stationed on Saint Paul Island, a tiny island in the middle of the Bering Sea. Meanwhile, aboard Alaska Ranger, the captain had given the order to abandon ship. Crewmembers tried to launch the ice-crusted life rafts, but as the trawler moved astern, the rafts lurched toward the bow, instead of remaining on the ship’s sides, and drifted away. The men jumped. Some made it into life rafts; most bobbed on the sea. Then the Alaska Ranger sank. The Jayhawk aircrew arrived on scene to find a line – stretching for about a mile – of survival suit strobe lights blinking in the darkness.


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Amid snow squalls and rotor wash, rescue swimmer Petty Officer 2nd Class O’Brien Hollow was lowered into the freezing water by flight mechanic Petty Officer 2nd Class Robert R. DeBolt to begin hoisting the survivors. For nearly an hour, the aircrew worked to rescue 12 men. Alaska Ranger’s sister vessel, the Alaska Warrior, which had been a short distance away, had transited to help. The Jayhawk crew had planned to offload the survivors onto the ship’s deck, but there was too much rigging and it was too dangerous to attempt a drop-off. Running low on fuel, and at capacity with fishermen in sea-filled survival suits, they could fly back to Dutch Harbor, offload the fishermen, refuel, and return or the aircrew could fly to the Munro. The aircrew made the call to fly to the cutter, where the survivors could be dropped off, treated and cared for, and the Jayhawk could be refueled midair to continue the rescue operation. By now, the smaller Dolphin arrived on scene. The aircrew began pulling survivors into the aircraft, but only four men, in addition to themselves, could fit into the cabin. Rescue swimmer Petty Officer 3rd Class Abram Heller chose to remain in the water – in 20-foot waves and 30 mph winds – so the fifth survivor could be hoisted aboard by Petty Officer 2nd Class Alfred Musgrave, the flight mechanic. The Dolphin, at this point, was running critically low on fuel and reported the situation. As it sped toward the Munro, the Jayhawk hovering above the cutter’s flight deck had refueled just over halfway; Lts. Brian McLaughlin and Steve Bonn, the Jayhawk’s pilots, calculated they had enough fuel to return and search for more survivors. The Alaska Warrior, meanwhile, had picked up 22 survivors.


A survivor from the Alaska Ranger rescue operation is offloaded onto the CGC Munro.

The Jayhawk’s crew retrieved another four fishermen, as well as Heller, and continued their search until the aircraft, again, ran low on fuel. Bonn and McLaughlin returned to the Munro, offloaded, refueled, and began the flight back to Saint Paul Island. Forty-two lives were saved in those early morning hours. Four would die of hypothermia, and one fisherman remained lost. The crews of the Jayhawk, Dolphin, and Munro said the rescue of the Alaska Ranger was the largest operation they had ever been involved with. For the mission, five aircraft, seven crews, and a cutter, along with the assistance of Alaska Warrior’s fishermen, carried out one of the largest air rescue operations in the service’s history.


2012: HMS BOUNTY HMS Bounty sailed on Oct. 25 from New London, Connecticut, for St. Petersburg, Florida. On Oct. 29, Hurricane Sandy was heading toward land. In an area known as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic” for its notoriously treacherous seas, the 108-foot-long three-masted tall ship attempted to transit into the forecasted path of the hurricane, approximately 90 miles southeast of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. In 18-foot seas and 40 mph winds, Bounty had lost power, was taking on water, and its pumps were failing, forcing the crew of 16 to abandon ship. As the mariners drifted in two life rafts, the Coast Guard’s Air Station Elizabeth City, North Carolina, dispatched an HC-130 Hercules aircraft. Once on scene, it flew above the survivors to keep watch. As it did so, the first MH-60 Jayhawk rescue helicopter was launched from the air station. Weather conditions had deteriorated, with winds increasing to nearly 70 mph. Flying at about 300 feet above the sea to remain beneath the clouds, the first Jayhawk arrived at Bounty’s position. The crew had to overcome the challenge of safely deploying the rescue swimmer and hoist basket. In one attempt to manage the basket in the wind and high seas, the aircrew placed weight bags into it; however, as soon as it hit water, it sank. After multiple attempts to safely deploy and lower the swimmer and manage the basket, their teamwork paid off; rescue swimmer Petty Officer 2nd Class Randy Haba was finally lowered to begin pulling the sailors from one of the life rafts. A second Jayhawk arrived to assist with rescuing sailors from the second life raft, as 30-foot waves washed over it. The pilot hovered above the raft, which was approximately 1 mile from the first. Petty Officer 3rd Class Dan Todd, the rescue swimmer, swam to the huddled, cold survivors, and said, “Hi, I’m Dan. I heard you guys need a ride.” His hope was that the greeting would calm the sailors and let them know the Coast Guard was in charge of the situation, he explained later in an interview. Of the 16 sailors, 14 returned to the air station. Coast Guard crewmembers from subsequent aircraft as well as personnel from the CGCs Elm and Gallatin searched for the two missing sailors. One crewmember was recovered 7 nautical miles from the Bounty’s original position when it reported it was sinking. The search for the 16th sailor, Bounty’s captain, lasted for more than 90 hours and covered 12,000 overlapping nautical miles before it was called off. He was not found.

2005: HURRICANE KATRINA When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, the Coast Guard had already mobilized assets to begin SAR operations, as

The HMS Bounty is seen partially submerged in the Atlantic Ocean on Oct. 29, 2012. Of the 16-person crew, the Coast Guard rescued 14, recovered a woman, and the captain was not found.

well as conduct marine pollution response and the management of maritime commerce missions. After Katrina struck, 40 percent of the service’s helicopters were supporting SAR operations. Air stations from Kodiak, Alaska, to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, to Barbers Point, Kapolei, Hawaii, provided relief crewmembers. Aircrews saved 12,535 people. There were so many individual acts of skill and courage that it is difficult to put together a narrative. Instead, here’s a sampling of comments from some of the aircrew members as well as personnel who supported them during interviews conducted by the Coast Guard Oral History Program. Aviation Survival Technician 3rd Class Joshua Mitcheltree “It was very busy. The main thing we were hearing was there was not enough room in the helicopters to pick up the entire section that they were hoisting to. We kept hearing, ‘Are there any more available 60s [HH-60 Jayhawks]? Are there any more available helos,’ and they were just running out of room inside the helicopters to transport. … They were, at the time, asking for any helos that could take any additional tasking so we jumped on that and we were called to pick up two elderly folks that were on a roof that needed to get off. It was really hard to find them with the position we were given. There’s a big radius of area from the position that we were given. So when we were hovering in there we couldn’t find one roof with just two people on it. You know every rooftop had 10 to 15 people on it. So we found a good hoisting area and just commenced hoisting from that position.” Phoenix Rising


Great Saves

Aviation Survival Technician 3rd Class Sara Faulkner “This is the one [rescue] I always get choked up on. That first balcony that we went to we specifically picked it because we saw women and children there. So it took me a while to get lowered down and in position and as soon as I kind of straddled the balcony – I’d grab onto it and then I’d sit on it – they put a baby in [my] arms. And our rescue devices are too small for babies so I had to hold him in my bare arms [tearful], and just the look on the mother’s face. …”

which I would relate that to like driving, it was almost like driving on the freeway. You got nowhere and usually you know it’s a big sky. You’ve got a few helicopters and airplanes here and there that you’re trying to avoid but there it was like ‘Okay, let’s see, I’m going to turn right so let me make sure that nobody is sitting on my right side. I’ll turn on my blinker again to get over,’ and a lot of the helicopters used the roadways and stuff to navigate. And of course we were all at different altitudes that were specified by the Katrina efforts.”

Aviation Maintenance Technician 2 Matthew Dwayne Talton “… I mean for instance one of the more memorable ones [rescues] that I experienced was I put the swimmer down inside of a house where there was a hole blown out of the side of this attic. So the swimmer goes in and he calls back up and says that there are approximately six or seven people in this attic. So I put the basket down. He pulls it into the hole and he gets the person loaded and I would get a little tension on the cable and I would con [or steer] the aircraft, “Easy back,” and that would basically kind of drag the basket up and then that’s when I would take the load in and bring them up, and so it was different. It was way different.”

Electrician’s Mate 2 Rodney Gordon “… when we got that fuel farm going – I think that was the third day we got that going – I only worked on it for like five or six hours and that was at nighttime. So of course there is no light so you’re working out of a flashlight pretty much stuck in your mouth just working. And so we got that joker fired off and going. And I’ll tell you what; there were a lot of smiles around because I mean that’s all the helos. You can’t fly without fuel and they pretty much put that all on me.”

HH-60 Jayhawk Helicopter Pilot Lt. Rick R. Hipes “… we found an elderly person in his attic. We were unable to get him to the rooftop in the beginning so we sent a rescue swimmer down. He axed through the roof, cut the person out and then pulled him through the roof where we took him also to New Orleans International. …” “And the biggest thing was definitely navigating the airspace there because there were so many helicopters. I think at any given time there were over 300 helicopters in the sky at a time,


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Chief of Operations, 8th Coast Guard District, Capt. Joe Castillo “… I hope our people really understand just how significant it is what they’ve done because this is not a once-in-a-career event. This is not even a once-in-a-lifetime event. This is a once-in-the-services’lifetime event. There may be half a dozen similar things by the time whatever happens to the Coast Guard in 200 years from now that changes us … I think we’ll be around forever. Whenever they close the books on the Coast Guard there may be half a dozen things tops in that entire four or five or six hundred year period that would go down as major events and this [Katrina rescue operation] is going to be one of them.” /


A resident is rescued from a home surrounded by floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina, Aug. 30, 2005.


The Coast Guard operates 202 fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft – airplanes and helicopters – to support its work as a law enforcement arm, a military service branch, and a seafaring service. Nearly all Coast Guard aircraft have some role in homeland security operations, and some are now armed. The Coast Guard operates its aviation fleet on the principle that it cannot afford a fleet of aircraft intended solely for specialized missions, and has concentrated on aircraft that can carry out a wide range of diversified missions.

HC-144A Ocean Sentry

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A medium-range maritime patrol version of the EADS CASA CN 235-300M cargo aircraft, the HC-144A is performing missions previously carried out by the HU-25 fleet as well as surveillance, rescue, and transport roles performed by the HC-130Hs. The HC-144A – equipped with a new command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (C4ISR) suite, radar and electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensor mission systems pallet – is designed to serve as an on-scene command platform for search and rescue (SAR) and homeland security operations and perform transport missions. The Coast Guard has accepted delivery of 17 Mission System Pallets (MSP), a roll-on, roll-off suite of electronic equipment that enables Ocean Sentry aircrews to compile data from the aircraft’s multiple integrated sensors and transmit and receive classified and unclassified information with other aircraft, surface vessels, and shore facilities. With multiple voice and data communications capabilities as well as satellite communications, the MSP contributes to the common tactical and operating pictures. The HC-144A provides extended on-scene loitering capabilities while also being capable of performing maritime patrol, law enforcement, SAR, disaster response, and cargo and personnel transport missions. The Ocean Sentry also is capable of maintaining secure communications with the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and allied forces.


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The Coast Guard completed planned work under this project with the delivery of its 18th HC-144A in September 2014. Ocean Sentries are currently operating from Coast Guard Air Stations Mobile, Alabama; Cape Cod, Massachusetts; Miami, Florida; and Corpus Christi, Texas. Procurement has ended in light of the acquisition of 14 C-27J Spartans. • Power plant: Two 1,750 shp (1,305 kW) General Electric CT7-9C3 turboprop engines • Maximum cruising speed: 236 knots • Range: up to 2,100 nautical miles (depending on configuration) • Range with payload: (6,000 pounds) 1,000 nautical miles (cargo configured) • Maximum endurance: 11.0 hours • Maximum takeoff weight: 36,380 pounds • Dimensions: length, 70 feet, 2 inches; wingspan, 84 feet, 8 inches HC-144 Air Stations: • CGAS/CG Aviation Training Center Mobile, Alabama • CGAS Miami, Florida • CGAS Cape Cod, Massachusetts • CGAS Corpus Christi, Texas


HC-144A Ocean Sentry, Medium Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA)

C-37A Gulfstream V

C-37A Air Station: • CGAS Washington, D.C. (Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport)

HC-130H Hercules and HC-130J Super Hercules Long Range Surveillance (LRS) Aircraft

HC-27J Medium Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft The Coast Guard is integrating 14 ex-U.S. Air Force C-27J Spartan aircraft into its medium-range surveillance aircraft fleet, to work alongside the HC-144A Ocean Sentry. The C-27Js are already outfitted with weather radar and military communications equipment capable of supporting transport and other Coast Guard missions. All 14 aircraft are planned to be modified with a standard Coast Guard fixed-wing Mission Systems Pallet, an integrated surface search radar, EO/IR sensors, and night vision goggle capability. The service’s Asset Project Office in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, took delivery in January 2016 of its fifth C-27J, following a regeneration process. A sixth C-27J has started the regeneration process. • Length: 74 feet, 6 inches • Wingspan: 94 feet, 2 inches • Height: 31 feet, 8 inches • Weight: 70,000 pounds • Speed: 290 knots • Range: Up to 2,675 nautical miles • Endurance: 12 hours • Ceiling: 30,000 feet

C-37A Gulfstream V Command and Control Aircraft


The service operates two Gulfstream V aircraft as its principal command and control transports for senior Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security officials. On long flights, the C-37A can carry 12 passengers and a crew of four with a range of 5,500 nautical miles, all with considerable fuel efficiency. The C-37A enjoys commonality of parts and supplies with more than a dozen C-37As operated by the other military branches. • Power plant: two 14,750-pound thrust BMW-RollsRoyce BR710-48 turbofan engines • Maximum cruising speed: mach 0.885/459 knots • Certified ceiling: 54,000 feet • Range: 5,500 nautical miles • Gross weight: 90,900 pounds • Dimensions: wingspan, 93 feet, 6 inches; length, 96 feet, 5 inches; height, 25 feet, 10 inches

The Coast Guard currently operates a long-range turboprop aircraft fleet consisting of 22 HC-130H Hercules and nine HC-130J Super Hercules. However, the HC-130H Hercules aircraft are reaching the end of their useful service lives. The Coast Guard conducted a limited sustainment and enhancement project to modernize systems on its HC-130Hs and is continuing with the acquisition of the more capable and cost-effective HC-130J. Seven HC-130Hs will be transferred to the U.S. Forest Service following modification by the U.S. Air Force. The remaining HC-130Hs will be systematically retired as the HC-130Js are accepted into service. The HC-130 provides a versatile platform capable of serving as an on-scene command-and-control platform with extended loitering capabilities as well as performing various missions, including maritime patrol, law enforcement, SAR, disaster response, and cargo and personnel transport. As a surveillance platform, it provides the critical means to detect, classify, and identify targets. For each of these missions, the information is shared with operational forces capable of interdicting drugs or migrants, protecting living marine resources, and enforcing economic, safety, and security zones. The HC-130 uses a powerful multimode surface-search radar and a nose-mounted EO/IR device combined with an Airborne Tactical Workstation and military satellite communications (SATCOM) capability to improve mission effectiveness. In 2001, the Coast Guard received funding for the acquisition of six HC-130Js. In recent years, the service has received additional funding for six more aircraft, three of which were ordered through the U.S. Air Force in September 2012. The service is scheduled to receive its 12th HC-130J in 2019, and a 13th was included in the fiscal 2016 DHS budget. Plans are to equip the HC-130J fleet with the Minotaur Mission System Suite. • Power plant: (HC-130H) four 4,910-hp Allison T56-A15 turboprop engines; (HC-130J) four 5,600-horsepower Rolls-Royce AE2100D turboprop engines driving sixbladed propellers • Performance: (HC-130H) cruising speed, 280 knots/ maximum 320 knots; service ceiling, 33,000 feet; range, up to 4,300 nautical miles; (HC-130J) cruising speed, 280 knots/ max 362 knots; service ceiling, 39,000 feet; range, up to 5,200 nautical miles • Weight: maximum gross weight at takeoff, 155,000 pounds; normal maximum 175,000 pounds (EWPEmergency War Planning) • Dimensions: wingspan, 132 feet, 6 inches; length, 99 feet, 6 inches; height, 38 feet, 6 inches; wing area, 1,734 square feet HC-130 Air Stations: • CGAS Sacramento, California • CGAS Clearwater, Florida • CGAS Elizabeth City, North Carolina • CGAS Kodiak, Alaska • CGAS Barbers Point, Hawaii Phoenix Rising


Great SAR Saves

HC-130H Hercules, HC-130J Super Hercules

An all-weather, medium range recovery helicopter similar to the Navy MH-60R and MH-60S Sea Hawk, with roots going back to the Army’s basic H-60 Black Hawk transport, the Coast Guard MH-60 is a medium range recovery helicopter that is capable of a variety of missions. The service began to operate the aircraft in 1990 as a replacement to the now-retired HH-3F Pelican. The Coast Guard has 42 MH-60Ts. Jayhawks are crewed by two pilots, a flight mechanic, and a rescue swimmer, and can carry up to six seated survivors. It is capable of limited shipboard operations as well as land-based operations out to 300 nautical miles, with a 45-minute on-scene time. The MH-60T employs full night-vision-device capability. Primary tactical navigation is accomplished through blended GPS and inertial navigation system receivers. In addition to a rescue hoist – rated for 600 pounds – the Jayhawk is equipped with a heavy-lift external sling with a capacity of 6,000 pounds. The MH-60 carries sensors and equipment for SAR missions, law enforcement, and homeland security missions. Upgrades completed in 2008 providing armed response capability precipitated an airframe designation change from HH-60J to MH-60J. The MH-60T is an upgrade


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of the MH-60J with “glass” cockpit, new electro-optical and infrared sensors, new radar, and upgrades to the engines. All MH-60Ts are equipped with Airborne Use of Force (AUF) capabilities. These upgraded MH-60Ts are expected to serve until 2027. The final MH-60T conversion was delivered in February 2014. • Power plant: two 1,560-shp General Electric T700-GE401C turboshaft engines • Dimensions: rotor diameter: 53 feet, 8 inches; length, 64 feet, 10 inches; height, 17 feet; main rotor disc area, 2,261 square feet • Performance: maximum speed, 180 knots; service ceiling, 18,000 feet; range, 700 nautical miles • Weights: empty, 14,500 pounds; gross weight, 21,884 pounds • MH-60 Armament: .50-caliber precision fire weapon, M240 7.62 mm machine gun MH-60T Units: • CGAS/CG Aviation Training Center Mobile, Alabama • CGAS Kodiak, Alaska


MH-60T Jayhawk Medium Range Recovery Helicopter

MH-60T Jayhawk

• CGAS Sitka, Alaska • CGAS San Diego, California • CGAS Clearwater, Florida • CGAS Cape Cod, Massachusetts • CGAS Elizabeth City, North Carolina • CGAS Astoria, Oregon


MH-65C/D/E Dolphin Short Range Recovery Helicopter The H-65 Dolphin is the Coast Guard’s oldest and most numerous current helicopter, dating to the 1980s when it was selected for the short-range rescue mission, and one of the service’s first helicopters without the capability to perform water landings. The H-65 is a short range recovery aircraft. This twin-engine, single-rotor helicopter is certified for all weather and nighttime operations, but it is prohibited from flying under known icing conditions. The strengths of this aircraft include its speed, flexibility, and integrated electronics package. The H-65 is the Coast Guard’s standard shipboard-deployable aircraft and operates from all flight deck-equipped cutters. Navigation inputs are processed through a central mission computer unit, which can

generate search patterns from pilot-provided input. This minimizes the attention needed to navigate the aircraft and maximizes search effectiveness. Endurance of the H-65 is limited, with a maximum endurance profile at 75 knots of 3.5 hours. The aircraft can sprint at speeds up to 165 knots for short periods and sustain speeds of more than 140 knots. An AUF capability was added to all H-65s, resulting in their redesignation as MH-65C. The MH-65C also obtained SATCOM capability, an integrated EO/IR system, and a night vision goggles (NVG) heads-up display (HUD) to help pilots maintain situational awareness during nighttime operations. The MH-65Cs used by Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron (HITRON) Jacksonville, Florida, for counter-drug operations carry an M240 machine gun and an M107 .50-caliber precision fire weapon for disabling engines of noncompliant go-fast vessels. The MH-65D is the result of the latest incremental modernization project, Segment 4 of a six-segment modernization plan, which commenced in August 2010 and will extend the aircraft’s service life through 2027. It addresses immediate critical mission degraders as well as replacing additional obsolete subsystems, including the aircraft’s navigation system and gyros, with digital GPS and inertial Phoenix Rising


Great SAR Saves

MH-65D Dolphin

Data applies to MH-65C/D. • Power plant: HH-65C – two 853-shp Turbomeca Arriel 2C2-CG turboshaft engines • Performance: maximum speed, 175 knots; cruising speed, 120 knots; operational ceiling, approximately 10,000 feet; range, 375 nautical miles • Weights: Empty weight, 6,200 pounds; maximum gross weight, 9,480 pounds • Dimensions: Main rotor diameter, 39 feet, 2 inches; main rotor disc area, 1,204 square feet; length, 44 feet, 5 inches; height, 13 feet, 5 inches


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• MH-65C Armament: .50-caliber precision fire weapon, M240B 7.62 mm machine gun H-65 Air Stations: • CGAS Traverse City, Michigan • CGAS Barbers Point, Hawaii • CGAS Borinquen, Puerto Rico • CGAS Atlantic City, New Jersey • CGAS Corpus Christi, Texas • CGAS Detroit, Michigan • CGAS Houston, Texas • CGAS Humboldt Bay, California • CGAS Los Angeles, California • CGAS Miami, Florida • CGAS/CG Aviation Training Center Mobile, Alabama • CGAS New Orleans, Louisiana • CGAS North Bend, Oregon • CGAS San Francisco, California • CGAS Port Angeles, Washington • CGAS Savannah, Georgia • CGAS Kodiak, Alaska • HITRON Jacksonville, Florida


navigation. It adds a new digital Automatic Flight Control System (AFCS), integrated flight deck with sensor display screens, and a robust, effective C4ISR suite. As of December 2015, all of the service’s 99 H-65s had been modified to Segment 4, or MH-65D standard. Segment 5 will add a secure shipboard handling, securing, and traversing system. Segment 6, which brings the fleet to MH-65E standard and which the service is scheduled to introduce into the fleet in FY 17, will replace the analog automatic flight control with digital systems, and install digital weather radar and digital glass cockpit instruments, among other modernization upgrades.


A U.S. Coast Guard Sikorsky HH-52A Seaguard helicopter rescues a man who rode out Hurricane Betsy in a house near a swamp west of Delacroix, Louisiana, September 1965. The Seaguard holds the record for the most lives saved – some 15,000 – of any helicopter.



Sikorsky and Lockheed Martin are committed to developing the next evolution search and rescue technologies to broaden capabilities so that the United States Coast Guard can continue its mission of saving those in peril. Learn more at


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Phoenix Rising: HH-52A Seaguard 1426  
Phoenix Rising: HH-52A Seaguard 1426