Air Station Traverse City History
Originally established as a one-plane detachment to provide search and rescue service to the Great Lakes, Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City was commissioned in 1945.
Ove the years, the air station has grown from its original small complement to its present staff of 17 officers and 110 enlisted personnel. In 180, the air station increased its building space when a new maintenance and administrative hangar was completed, providing over 50,000 square feet of work space.
Along with changes in size, the air station has experienced changes in the types of aircraft assigned over the years. The Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina gave way to the Grumman HU-16 Albatross seaplane, and, eventually, the Dassault HU-25 Falcon jet. Likewise, the Sikorsky HO4S/3G (or H-19 Chickasaw) helicopter gave way to the Sikorsky HH-52 Seaguard helicopter.
In November of 1960, air station H-19 helicopters assisted in the evacuation of the crew of the Francisco Morazan, an operation that lasted four days in continuous gale conditions. Crews also rescued 25 survivors of the collision between the Cedarville and the Topdalsford in 1965, and 19 survivors from the fire aboard the Canadian freighter Cartiercliffe Hall in 1979.
Proving their versatility, air station personnel have participated in a variety of other operations. In 1986, a premature boy was delivered aboard an HU-25A during an air evacuation from Almena, MI to Traverse City. Another Falcon aircraft reported to Cape Canaveral to assist in the recovery search for space shuttle Challenger.
Later in 1986, the rescue capabilities of the Seaguard helicopter and the patrol capabilities of the Falcon jet were combined when the air station received the Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican helicopter. At that time, Traverse City became a helicopter-only unit operating three HH-3F helicopters.
In July 1987, a sudden storm produced winds nearing 100 mph resulting in 32 search and rescue cases. Following another violent storm in September 1988, nine distress calls were received within two minutes. Rescue efforts resulted in saving two persons clinging to a capsized sailboat in Lake Michigan. In November of the same year, an HH-3f flying at night successfully located a downed aircraft near Marquette, MI in thick, fog-covered forest. All six persons aboard the plane survived the ordeal. Three HH-3Fs were deployed on two separate occasions to respond to flooding reports in the fall of 1986, providing media and logistical support. Support was also provided following a major oil spill in the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania in 1988.
With the modernization of the aircraft fleet, three HH-60J Jayhawk helicopters were brought in to replace the aging Pelicans in September 1991.
The Great Flood of 1993 required the air station to play a critical and valuable role with flood relief efforts. The station provided one HH-60J Jayhawk helicopter and crew to the flood area for a continuous 60-day period.
In the spring of 1995, five HH-65A Dolphin helicopters replaced the three Jayhawks, which were transferred to Air Station Astoria, OR.
Upgraded Jayhawks returned to Traverse City in the summer of 2017, when three MH-60T Jayhawks replaced the four Dolphins. The Jayhawks provide a longer range and a larger cabin for executing complex search and rescue cases over a massive, often remote, eight-state area. In addition, the Jayhawk also boasts anti-ice/de-ice capability to better assist the citizens of the Great Lakes during harsh norther winters.
Much has changed in Coast Guard aviation, and in the world, since Air Station Traverse City's founding in 1945. But one thing will never change - our commitment to serve our nation and our communities as Guardians of the Great Lakes.
Previous Air Station Patches