|Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod|
Unit Patch CGAS Cape Cod
|Branch||United States Coast Guard|
|Role||To patrol the Northeast coast from Canada to New York City|
|Garrison/HQ||Otis Air National Guard Base|
September 11, 2001 attacks
|Commanding Officer||Captain David Throp|
|Ceremonial chief||Keith Rees|
|Helicopter||4 HH-60 Jayhawk|
|Patrol||4 HU-25 Guardian|
Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod is a United States Coast Guard air station located on Otis Air National Guard Base in Sandwich, Massachusetts. It operates from New York City to the Canadian Border. It was founded in 1970 as a replacement to Coast Guard Air Station Salem.
The missions of CGAS Cape Cod include search and rescue (SAR), Maritime Law enforcement, International Ice Patrol, aids to navigation support (such as operating lighthouses), and marine environmental protection (such as responding to oil spills). Currently, CGAS Cape Cod maintains and operates the HU-25 Guardian and HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft, along with HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters.
CGAS Cape Cod Beginnings
In the 1950s, helicopters began to be incorporated into the Coast Guard. One such helicopter, the H-25A Army Mule was built with amphibious capabilities. Float planes were no longer needed because of this development. Therefore places like Coast Guard Air Station Salem were slowly being phased out. In the 1960s, the Coast Guard began searching for a replacement facility for Coast Guard Air Station Salem, that was in service from 1935 to 1970. Salem was just not able to expand, and the Coast Guard needed a space that could grow as needed and accommodate modern aircraft.
In 1968, the Department of Defense agreed to allow the Coast Guard to utilize Otis Air Force Base on Cape Cod for a new Coast Guard Air Station. Air Station Cape Cod was officially established/commissioned on August 29, 1970. The HH-3F Pelicans and HU-16E Albatrosses were transferred from CGAS Salem and CGAD Quonset Point Rhode Island (NAS) to then PCU Cape Cod in the summer of 1970. On Feb. 18, 1979, a Pelican CG-1432 crashed into the sea while engaged in a medical evacuation of an injured seaman from a fishing vessel 180 miles southeast of Cape Cod. The four members: Canadian Forces Capt. G. Richard Burge, Lt. Cmdr. James Stiles, Petty Officer 2nd Class John Tait, and Petty Officer 2nd Class Bruce Kaehler,(2 pilots/2 crew members) who died in the crash were not the only members of CGAS Cape Cod to lose their lives while out on a rescue mission. Captain Mike Rivas piloted another of the lost aircraft.The HH-3F Pelican continued in service until replaced by the HH-60 Jayhawk in the 90s. The last HH-52A Seaguard helicopters were transferred from CGAD Salem to CGAS Cape Cod in late 1970 and were phased out prior to the Jayhawk coming on board. The HU-25 Guardians arrived at CGAS Cape Cod, in 1982, replacing the HU-16E Albatross. The last Albatross, CGNR 7250, was retired on March 10, 1983 and is on display outside the entrance to the air station. CG 7250/NC 7250 was not only the last Coast Guard Albatross, but the last fixed-wing amphibious aircraft in US inventory.
On the morning of February 18, 1979, Kaisei Maru #18 sent a distress call. The call indicated that a 47-year-old crewmember was in distress and needed to be airlifted off the ship, which was operating in the North Atlantic Ocean. The U.S. Coast Guard Sikorsky HH-3F Pelican helicopter CG-1432 from Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod at Sandwich, Massachusetts, was alerted and sent out to the vessel.
The weather that morning was stormy and conditions were not ideal for flight. On the way to Kasei Maru #18, the helicopter was forced to ditch into the sea after losing power. It remained stable for a brief time before the heavy seas flipped it. This most likely caused the death of four crew members: Canadian Armed Forces Captain G. Richard Burge and U.S. Coast Guard personnel Lieutenant Commander James Stiles, Petty Officer Second Class John Tait, and Petty Officer Second Class Bruce Kaehler. The lone survivor, U.S. Goast Guard Petty Officer Second Class Mark Torr remembers the flipping of the helicopter and swimming out, holding onto the nose wheel to stay near the aircraft.
The first vessel to the rescue was Kaisei Maru #18, which rescued Torr and circled the ditched helicopter for 15 hours, looking for survivors and eventually recovering the bodies of the four dead crewmembers.
A memorial was erected in 1980 at the entrance to Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod.
In an article in the Cape Cod Times that ran on February 22, 1979, the air station's commanding officer, Captain Arthur Wagner, said, "They will never be forgotten. They set down a high standard for all of us to follow." A legacy was set in which a reunion would be held every year so that the men would not be forgotten. At the 2009 reunion, Rear Admiral John Currier, who was stationed at Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod in 1979 recalled telling pilot James Stiles to "fly safe." It was the last time that he ever said that to a pilot.
At the 2009 memorial service, Mark Torr dropped a wreath in memory of his fellow airmen from a hovering helicopter into the surf off of Cape Cod, Massachusetts.
The Air Station has participated in rescues of sailors from Canada to New York. The Coast Guard will soon replace the HU-25 with the HC-144 Ocean Sentry. On September 11, 2001 the commander of Air Station Cape Cod saw the second plane strike the north tower of the World Trade Center and, on his own authority, sent two HH-60 Jayhawk helicopters to try and rescue people stranded on the roofs. The south tower collapsed before they arrived but they thought they could still save people on the north tower had air traffic control not ordered them to land on Long Island saying that Air Force F-15s would shoot down any aircraft encountered over Manhattan. “We’re the rescue helicopter!” one of the pilots pointed out. As they landed and got back on the radio to continue arguing their case the second tower collapsed.
- Daniel C. Burbank- Former helicopter pilot, now a NASA astronaut
- USCG Air Station Cape Cod
- "February Daily Chronology of Coast Guard History". United States Coast Guard. 18 February 1979. http://www.uscg.mil/history/Chron/Chronology_Feb.asp. Retrieved 2013-02-02.
- "Lost but not forgotten". First District Public Affairs. 19 February 2009. http://www.uscgnewengland.com/go/doc/778/194938/. Retrieved 2009-02-19. [dead link]
- "Living honor heroic Coast Guard crew". Cape Cod Online. 19 February 2009. http://www.capecodonline.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090219/NEWS/902190321. Retrieved 2009-02-19.
- Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod
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