Elizabeth City, North Carolina
Welcome to the U. S. Coast Guard Air Station Elizabeth City Home Page. Our goal is to make available information about the Air Station, its people, missions, accomplishments, and history.
Sixty miles north of Cape Hatteras, just north of Albemarle Sound and along the east coast's northernmost ice-free river, the old Holowell Plantation near Elizabeth City was selected by the Coast Guard in 1938 for its potential strategic value as a seaplane base in wartime. The Air Station was commissioned on 15 August 1940 with 4 officers, 52 enlisted men, and 10 aircraft: 3 Hall PH-2 seaplanes, 4 Fairchild J2K landplanes, and 3 Grumman J2F amphibians.
During World War II, the Air Station was under U. S. Navy control, conducting Search and Rescue (SAR), anti-submarine, and training missions. Since then, the Air Station's missions and assigned aircraft have shifted and grown with changing national priorities and technologies. In 1966, the Air Station expanded after absorbing the Air Stations in Bermuda and Argentia, Newfoundland.
Today, the Air Station is manned by 45 officers and 200 enlisted personnel, operating three Sikorsky HH-60J "Jayhawk" helicopters and four Lockheed HC-130H "Hercules" aircraft. The helicopters' area of responsibility includes the coastal and inland waters from northern Maryland to South Carolina and hundreds of miles offshore into the Atlantic Ocean. The Hercules' range and endurance allows it to answer the call as far away as Newfoundland, Florida's Straits, and the Azores. Among our many missions are Search and Rescue, or SAR (an average of 300 missions annually), Law Enforcement (fisheries and drug), International Ice Patrol (tracking and reporting iceberg movements in the North Atlantic), Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations, Marine Environmental Protection, and logistical support of other Coast Guard missions. We are frequently called on to ferry personnel and equipment to disaster sites, including Hurricane Andrew and the Midwest floods of 1993. National Defense is also a mission the Air Station has responded to throughout its history and most recently during Operation Desert Storm.
Typical SAR missions include mid-ocean searches, medical evacuations from commercial and recreational vessels, and helicopter hoisting of mariners from sinking vessels. The Coast Guard's superb equipment and training allow us to fly in virtually any weather, including hurricanes, when all other air rescue service--military or civilian--are grounded.
One of the most dramatic rescues the Elizabeth City Jayhawks have logged during their four years of service came during Hurricane Grace. Unable to escape the hurricane, the historic schooner Anne Kristine began flooding uncontrollably 275 miles off Cape Henry, Virginia. Two Coast Guard H-60's launched into the thick of the storm, battling severe turbulence and winds that made cockpit gauges unreadable. Arriving on scene to find the schooner foundering in fifty-foot seas, the aircraft used its rescue hoist and basket to recover all nine survivors from the vessel just before it sank out of sight.
More recently, helicopter crews from the Air Station saved the crews from two sailing vessels during Hurricane Gordon in November of 1994. The first helicopter crew, battling twenty-foot seas and fifty-knot winds, rescued a family of four, including a four-month-old baby, from the 64-foot sailboat Marine Flower II which was foundering 410 miles east of Norfolk, Virginia. Just after midnight on the same day, another crew used the same helicopter to rescue three sailors from the 49-foot ketch Pilgrim, which was breaking apart 100 miles east of Norfolk. Although closer to shore, this rescue was more demanding in many ways than the one earlier in the day; it was completed in the dark of night, and the seas had increased to forty-feet as Hurricane Gordon drew nearer to the coast and increased in strength.
In addition to the Air Station, Elizabeth City's Coast Guard Air Base complex includes the Aircraft Repair and Supply Center (AR&SC), Aviation Technical Training Center (ATTC), and the Support Center. Total workforce for all four commands is 1200 (500 military and 700) civilian), making the Coast Guard the largest employer in several counties of northeastern North Carolina.
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Created: June 6, 1995
Updated: June 6, 1995