Located on Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans is under the operational control of the Eighth Coast Guard District, also headquartered in New Orleans. The unit, commanded by Commander David Cooper, is composed of 122 personnel and five MH-65D “Dolphin” helicopters, capable of providing two ready flight crews 24 hours a day. It is the busiest all-helicopter search and rescue unit in the Coast Guard.
The Air Station was commissioned in July 1955 and was then located at the old Naval Air Station on Lake Ponchartrain. In December 1957, the Coast Guard Air Station moved with the Navy to Alvin Callender Field (NBG) in Belle Chasse, Louisiana, and shared a hangar with the Navy and Marine Air Reserve. The present hangar facilities were originally built in 1958 with an addition added in 1968. The admin/medical/operations building was eventually added in 1986.
Many milestones have been achieved at the station: On April 1, 1969, CG Air Station New Orleans was the first operational unit to fly the Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican, which had the most sophisticated electronics package installed in a helicopter at that time. On March 24, 1980, rescue efforts resulted in the 1500th life saved by Air Station New Orleans personnel. In September 1985, the unit became the first in the Coast Guard to fly the HH-65A “Dolphin”, and again led the fleet in being the first among all air stations to upgrade to the HH-65B.
In 2006, the Air Station transitioned to the more powerful HH-65C. Having a top speed of 175 knots and an increased gross weight of 9,480 pounds. The addition of the new Turbomecca Arriel 2C2-CG turboshaft engines increased reliability and single engine hovering capability by up to 60 percent, greatly enhancing safety. The engines rated at 1058 S.H.P. each, resulted in a net gain of 610 S.H.P. for the pair.
Most recently, summer of 2013, Air Station New Orleans helicopters have been upgraded to MH-65D. Having a top speed of 175 knots, the MH-65D incorporates an upgraded avionicspackage and state-of-the-art aviation technology to enable "hands-off" flight in all weather conditions. The re-engined twin turbine helicopter has an operational radius of 150 nautical miles, with 30 minutes on-scene time. Flown by a crew of four, including two pilots, one flight mechanic and a rescue swimmer/EMT, the MH-65D has a total gross weigh limitation of 9,590 pounds.
Most people know, on August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the southern coastlines of the United States including Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. At 2:51 p.m. that day, all five of the air station’s helicopters were on scene in the storm-torn areas of New Orleans conducting the first of what would become the largest life-saving effort in Coast Guard history and over 1,480 life saving rescues for the unit. Eighty-five different aircraft from Coast Guard air stations around the country formed, “Air Group New Orleans”. Relying on exceptional leadership, standardization, training, and with the assistance of Aviation Training Center (ATC) Mobile, Alabama, these aircraft flew 4,423 hours on 1,856 sorties and saved over 7,100 lives with no serious mishaps or casualties.
As if the crews had not experienced enough SAR for a lifetime, Hurricane Rita slammed into the Texas and Louisiana coastlines less than a month later on September 24, 2005. Although weary from the ongoing response to Hurricane Katrina, aircraft were launched from New Orleans as soon as the hurricane struck. Using all available air station aircraft and four HH-60J “Jayhawks” from Air Station Clearwater, 71 people were saved under the leadership and guidance of Air Station New Orleans crews; again with no serious mishaps or casualties.
In the spring of 2006, CAPT Bruce Jones, commanding officer of Air Station New Orleans, and CAPT Frank Paskewich, commander of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, presided over an awards ceremony at the Air Station in Belle Chasse. More than 115 personnel received medals and awards for heroism, including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal, for their hurricane response efforts during Hurricane Katrina operations.
During its over 50-year history, the Air Station has saved more than 5,600 lives, has been awarded twelve Meritorious Unit Commendations, five Coast Guard Unit Commendations, the distinguished Higgins and Langley Swiftwater Memorial Award and chosen by the Commandant of the Coast Guard to receive (for the Coast Guard), the Presidential Unit Citation.
The air station has five MH-65D "Dolphin" Short-Range Recovery Helicopters.
Air Station New Orleans (ASNOLA), with its five helicopters, is the busiest all helicopter SAR station in the Coast Guard. As such, ASNOLA has an area of responsibility (AOR) extending east from Apalachicola, Florida, to the Texas-Louisiana border in the west, north to Memphis, Tennessee, and south up to 200 nautical miles offshore covering thousands of offshore oil platforms. Located on Naval Air Station/Joint Reserve Base New Orleans, ASNOLA maintains two ready crews able to launch within 30 minutes of a call, 365-days a year, 24-hours a day, and in nearly any weather conditions.
Naval Air Station (NAS) Joint Reserve Base (JRB) New Orleans, is one of the more unusual military air facilities in the United States. It is the first in the country that was planned, built and now functions as a Joint Air Reserve Training Center.
The primary mission of NAS JRB New Orleans is the training of Naval Reservists and the operational, logistical, and fiscal support for tenant commands and transient aircraft on a 24-hour basis. The base also serves as a platform for assistance with Homeland Security Air Defense through the Louisiana Air National Guard as well as search and rescue efforts for much of the gulf coast by the USCG Air Station.
NAS JRB also provides aviation intermediate maintenance, supply, comptrollership and personnel support facilities for Navy and Naval Reserve personnel and has for more than 60 years.
The base celebrated it's 50th anniversary for its current location in April 2008, and even though it has an impressive history, the last five years have been some of the the most memorable. After Hurricane Katrina devastated the central Gulf Coast area on August 29, 2005, NAS JRB became the center of the Department of Defense rescue and recovery efforts. During the first ten days following the storm, more than 10,000 military personnel and relief workers were airlifted in NAS JRB along with in excess of 18 million pounds of relief supplies. NAS JRB, with the only operating runways in New Orleans, became the primary search and rescue airfield for flights that saved over 33,000 lives in the New Orleans area.
During the early years of the new millennium, NAS JRB has been recognized regionally and nationally as one of the nation's outstanding military facilities. With its exceptional facilities, capabilities and training resources, NAS JRB New Orleans, Louisiana, will continue to be the vanguard of the military's commitment to excellence far into the twenty-first century.
Visit the NAS JRB on the web for more information.