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Air Station Sitka History

Vision: "Always Ready, Always Professional, Always Improving"

Mission: Providing Superior Public Service Through Operational Excellence.

The first Coast Guard Air Station in Southeast Alaska was established on Annette Island, located 20 miles south of Ketchikan, in March 1944. The Air Detachment consisted of two pilots, five enlisted crewmembers, and one aircraft, a Grumman Flying Boat. In the succeeding 33 years, aircrews from Annette Island performed Search and Rescue (SAR), law enforcement, and logistics missions throughout Southeast Alaska utilizing JRF, PBY5AG, HU16E, HH52A, and HH3F aircraft.

Early Float Plane On 3 July 1964, a HU16E crashed on Gravina Island, near Annette, killing all aboard. The family of the copilot, LT Robert A. Perchard, created a perpetual award honoring an individual aircrew that displays superior technical, aviation, professional and leadership abilities. This award is still presented semi-annualy at every air station in the Coast Guard honoring the finest women and men in aviation.

In 1977, the Coast Guard relocated the Air Station from Annette Island to Sitka. In March of 1977, the barracks and hangar on this location were completed, and the move of personnel and equipment began. Fifty-six family housing units on Annette were dismantled and barged to Sitka. They are still in use today. On the eve of Alaska Day, October 17, 1977, United States Coast Guard Air Station, Sitka, was officially commissioned.

Late 80's - USCG Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican #1472 Air Station Sitka’s area of responsibility encompasses approximately 180,000 square miles of water and land stretching across Southeast Alaska from Dixon Entrance to Icy Bay, and from the Alaskan/Canadian border to the central Gulf of Alaska. This includes 12,000 tidal miles of coastline characterized by rugged coasts, mountainous terrain, severe weather, numerous remote villages, and long distances between fuel caches and landing sites. Air Station Sitka’s operating area is one of the most demanding flight environments that USCG aircraft operate in.

Today, Air Station Sitka utilizes three MH-60T Jayhawk helicopters and has a compliment of over 130 officers, enlisted, and civilian personnel. Each MH-60T, crewed by two pilots, a flight mechanic, and a rescue swimmer, has a 125-knot cruise speed, and 700-mile range. In a “ready” or “alert” status 24 hours a day for national defense, search and rescue, marine environmental or law enforcement response, the crew and helicopters are also used for maintaining marine aids-to-navigation, enforcement of laws and treaties, and various other missions in cooperation with federal, state, and local government agencies.

HH60J The Air Station averages 130 Search and Rescue (SAR) cases a year, many completed in storm force winds, snow, low visibility, and darkness. About half of the unit's SAR cases involve conducting air ambulance missions from small villages, logging camps, boats and cruise ships. A typical year also sees some 180 sorties in support of federal and state law enforcement initiatives. Air Station crews fly surveillance patrols to protect our pristine ecosystems as well as transporting environmental response teams and equipment in the event of a maritime pollution incident. A Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team and Buoy Tender are also located in Sitka. The Air Station assists these units in the routine maintenance, outage response, and position verification of over 75 navigation aids. These aids include lighthouses, buoys, and day markers, which ensure safe navigation for commercial and recreational vessels. Air Station helicopters transport some 500,000 to 800,000 pounds of cargo each year. The Air Station acquired an Aviation Training Boat in April 1994 to provide a platform in support of Air Station Sitka’s flight crews hoisting training requirements.

Since 1977, Air Station Sitka’s aircrews have saved over 1800 lives, assisted thousands of others and saved several hundred million dollars in vessel property from the perils of the sea. In 1980, one of the most successful rescues ever occurred when the Dutch cruise ship Princendam caught fire 195 miles west of Sitka. Air Station crews were part of a joint international rescue team with units from the Coast Guard, Air Force, Canadian forces and commercial resources. In all, 13 aircraft, three Coast Guard cutters, and three commercial ships rescued the 522 passengers and crew within a 24-hour period without loss of life or serious injury. Sitka crews have also won national acclaim for daring lifesaving missions during horrendous winter storms in the Gulf of Alaska. Aircrews have repeatedly battled 70-foot waves, severe turbulence, and darkness to save fishermen from the perils of the sea.

The professionalism, ingenuity, and unwavering devotion to duty displayed by the men and women of Air Station Sitka continue to reflect great credit upon themselves, their unit, the United Stated Coast Guard, and the United States of America.

 

Last Modified 8/22/2014