After a campaign lasting more than two decades led by the Coast Guard Aviation Association (CGAA), the service is now being showcased at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.
At a ceremony on April 14, the Coast Guard community gathered to celebrate the project’s success as the first U.S. Coast Guard aircraft to be displayed at the famous museum.
The Coast Guard Seaguard HH-52A helicopter set the standard for Coast Guard aviation and is responsible for rescuing more than 15,000 people over its 25 years of service.
And with 2016 marking the centennial of Coast Guard aviation, what better way to honor 100 years of service than to have one of the most historic aircraft taking its rightful place alongside the largest collection of aircraft in the world.
The Foundation was honored to support the dedication and Coast Guard aviation by sponsoring the reception.
“It's a real honor to have a Coast Guard asset featured in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum,” CGAA board member and retired Vice Adm. John Currier told the Foundation. “The Coast Guard Foundation's support of the event is appreciated by all aviators past and present; you gave us an opportunity to put on a first-class presentation at the dedication, which we consider the capstone event in the yearlong celebration of 100 years of Coast Guard aviation.”
Retired Rear Adm. James Van Sice, vice-chairman of the Coast Guard Foundation and president of the CGAA, spoke at the ceremony about their long battle to make this day a reality, and the lengthy search they undertook for an aircraft fit for restoration, which culminated in 2014 when they found the Seaguard 1426.
Roger Connor, museum specialist, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; retired Coast Guard Rear Adm. James Van Sice, president of the CGAA; Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Paul Zukunft; and retired Marine Corps Gen. John Dailey, director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class David R. Marin.
The 1426 is the aircraft which responded to a ship collision in the Gulf of Mexico in 1979 rescuing 22 people, with the crew being awarded the Air Medal for their response.
Another extraordinary Seaguard rescue was in 1965 when a fleet of HH-52A helicopters and their crews rescued 1,200 people following Hurricane Betsy.
“15,000 individuals and their families had a chance to celebrate 15,000 more birthdays, holidays, weddings and more,” said Currier, reflecting on the HH-52A’s impact. “That was all possible because of this machine and the Coast Guard aviators who trained on it, maintained and repaired it, and went out when the calls came in.”