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Air Station Traverse City, Michigan

Air Station Traverse City


Original Location: 
Cherry Capitol Airport

Current Location:
Same

Date of Commission:
1946

Fate:
Still in service


Historical Remarks:

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 1946.  Over the  years the station has grown from it's original small compliment to it's present staff size of  26 officers, 2 warrant officers, 2 Public Health Service officers, and 100 enlisted personnel.  In 1980, the air station also increased it's building space when a new maintenance and administrative hangar were completed, providing over 50,000 square feet of work space; including the hangar deck, work shops, and offices. To go along with the changes in size the air station has undergone, the types of aircraft assigned have changed over the years.  The original HU-16 "Albatross" seaplanes and HU-19 Sikorsky helicopters gave way to HH-52  helicopters and HU-25A "Falcons". 

In 1986, the rescue capabilities of the helicopter and the patrol capabilities of the Falcon were combined in the HH-3F"Pelican" helicopter.  At that time, Traverse City became an HH-3F only unit operating 3 helicopters.  With the modernization of the aircraft fleet, 3 HH-60J "Jayhawk" helicopters were brought in to replace the aging Pelicans in September 1991.   Finally,  in the spring of 1995, 5 HH-65A  "Dolphin" helicopters replaced  the 3 Jayhawks which were transferred to Air Station Astoria, OR.  Currently five HH-65A "Dolphin" helicopters are assigned to the Air Station. 

The Coast Guard's best known mission is Search and Rescue. Air Station personnel have time and time again proven themselves dedicated professionals willing to make any sacrifice in the performance of their duties. These sacrifices have resulted in many lives being saved by Air Station Traverse City personnel.

In 1961, air station HU-19 helicopters assisted in the evacuation of the crew of the Francisco Morazan, an operation that lasted 4 days in continuous gale conditions.  The air station also rescued 25 survivors of the collision between the Cederford and the Topdalsfjord in 1965, and 19 survivors from the fire aboard the Canadian freighter Cartiercliffe Hall in 1979.

In July 1987, a sudden storm produced winds nearing 100 mph resulting in 32 SAR cases. Following another violent storm in September 1988, nine distress calls were received within 2 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, Michigan in thick, fog covered forest. All six persons aboard the plane survived the ordeal.

Proving their versatility, air station personnel have participated in a variety of other operations, as well. In 1986, a premature baby boy was delivered aboard an HU-25A during an air evacuation (AIREVAC) from Alpena to Traverse City, Michigan. Later in 1986, another Falcon aircraft reported to Cape Canaveral to assist in the recovery search for space shuttle Challenger.

Three HH-3F's 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.

Despite large numbers of traditional cases, the air station has found opportunities to provide public support in other areas. In 1988, the air station initiated continuing support to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) by assisting in transporting trout fingerlings to wilderness lakes, saving the DNR weeks of additional efforts. Air station helicopters also supported atmospheric pollution and acid rain research for the National Park Service in Isle Royale National Park.

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 July 1987, a sudden storm produced winds nearing 100 mph resulting in 32 SAR cases. Following another violent storm in September 1988, nine distress calls were received within 2 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, Michigan in thick, fog covered forest. All six persons aboard the plane survived the ordeal. Three HH-3F's 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 3 "Jayhawks" which were transferred to Air Station Astoria, OR. In November of 2002, the HH-65 "A-models" were upgraded to "B-models" with the introduction of the Control Display Unit and other avionics components.

Since 1995, Air Station Traverse City has controlled and manned Air Facilities throughout southern Lake Michigan. On April 1, 1995, Air Station Chicago transitioned to Air Facility Glenview and fell under operational control of Air Station Traverse City. However, its colors were retired soon after on November 15, 1996, and the facility ceased operations. On April 1, 1997, Air Facility Muskegon was established and was manned with one HH-65A from Traverse City. But on May 25, 2000, Air Facility Waukegan was established, and Air Station Traverse City slowly transferred operations there. On September 30, 2001, Air Station Traverse City completely transferred Air Facility Muskegon to Air Station Detroit and took control of Air Facility Waukegan. This is still the operational situation today, with both Air Facilities operating from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Air Station Traverse City currently has five MH-65 "Dolphin" Short Range Recovery Helicopters. The current "D-model" upgraded flight navigation system common to Department of Defense helicopters. The first production MH-65D was completed on January 20, 2011 and is fitted with a Honeywell HG7502 radar altimeter, two Honeywell H-764G EGI's (embedded GPS/inertial navigation systems) and two control display units CDU-7000D from Rockwell Collins.

Click here to access a pdf file of the Air Station's Unit and Meritorious Unit Commendations from 1990 through 2007.

Click here to visit Air Station Traverse City's official history page.


Historic Photo Gallery

Unless otherwise indicated all photos are official U.S. Coast Guard photographs.  Any original caption information is included in the text beneath each photo, along with a date, if known.  Click on the thumbnail to access a 300 dpi image.

Air Station Traverse City 

Original photo caption: "All five Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City HH-65 Dolphin helicopters sit ready in the hanger [sic] in Northern Michigan"; photo dated 21 January 2004; photo number 040121-C-8172H-008 (FR); photo by PAC Jeff Hall, USCG.


Air Station Traverse City 

Original photo caption: "The sign outside the gate at Coast Guard Air Station Traverse City, Michigan."; photo dated 17 September 2001; photo number 010917-C-2377C-502 (FR); photo by PA1 Harry C. Craft, III, USCG.


Traverse City fuel truck 

Original photo caption: "A Coast Guard fuel truck meets an HH-65A "Dolphin" on the tarmac at Air Station Traverse City, Michigan for refueling."; photo dated 17 September 2001; photo number 010917-C-2377C-516 (FR); photo by PA1 Harry C. Craft, III, USCG


Historical Sources:

Air Station Files, U. S. Coast Guard Historian's Office

Arthur Pearcy.  A History of U. S. Coast Guard Aviation.  Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1989.


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Last Modified 1/20/2015