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Fixed Wing

Coast Guard aviation had been permanently changed during WWII and would become an even more important force in the sea service than it had been before the war. Traditional missions, such as coastal surveillance and SAR would always remain. New missions were added. Several different aircraft types were available as war surplus, and the Service took advantage of as many as they could.

The hallmark of Coast Guard aviation into the early 1960’s were 900+-mile, long-range, open-ocean flights by amphibious aircraft to evacuate injured personnel from ships or isolated land stations and deliver them to hospitals. The ideal aircraft for these missions were the amphibians used during the war. The PBY Catalina, the definitive WWII amphibian, was showing its age, but it remained in service until 1954. The huge Coronado proved to be a maintenance nightmare that sucked fuel and only served from 1944 to 1946. The Mariner was a rugged performer from 1943 to 1956. As these mainstays passed from service, two newcomers took their place. Martin delivered 11 P5M Marlins (seven –1s and four –2s) that served from 1956 to 1961. The Marlin, like the Mariner, was a flying boat incapable of landing on land. The retirement of the Marlins marked the end of the era of large flying boats. The other newcomer entered service in 1951 and ushered in the era of the mid-sized amphibian, seen as more versatile than the flying boat. It would be the definitive amphibian of the post-war era, the Grumman UF-1G Albatross, or Goat.

Quite often, it was not necessary for the aircraft to actually land on the water and pick people up. It was sufficient to drop a life raft to them and circle until surface units arrived on scene. The Coast Guard evaluated the Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver as a high-speed platform to deliver rafts and supplies to a short-range rescue scene. Two served from 1945 to 1947.

In 1945, a single PBJ showed up in Coast Guard markings on Kiangwan Field in China. It was never officially in the Coast Guard inventory. Don’t ask, you don’t want to know.

For long-range missions, the Coast Guard took delivery of 18 B-17Gs in 1945, and converted them to PB-1Gs by replacing the chin turret with a radar unit and slinging a lifeboat under the bomb bay. One of these aircraft was unique. The CG-77254 had only 52 flight hours on her when she came to the Coast Guard. She was fitted with a U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey one-and-a-half-million dollar camera and used as an aerial mapping plane. The Norden bombsight was left in this aircraft to allow pinpoint precision in taking the photographs. She could photograph 313 square miles of territory from 20,000 feet with one shutter click. For 12 years she traveled from Puerto Rico to Alaska recording the face of the United States. She flew 6,000 hours and 1.5 million miles. She was the last of her type operated by the American military when retired on 14 October 1959.

During 1945, nine PB4Y-2G Privateers came into the Service. With a range of nearly 3,000 miles, they were particularly suitable to Pacific duty. They were all stationed in San Francisco and Barbers Point. They served until 1959.

The general logistics role was filled by the acquisition of 14 R5D Skymasters in 1945. These were stationed throughout the country and performed a variety of missions until retirement in 1962.

In 1948, seven OY-1 Sentinels were acquired to assist the Alcohol Tax Unit of the IRS locate illegal stills. They were based at E-City and served until 1962.

Another mission of Coast Guard aviation was the escort of aircraft with mechanical difficulties. The sight of the escort was comforting to passengers and crews of those aircraft. CAPT Donald MacDiarmid led the way in developing ditching techniques still used by military and civilian aircraft worldwide.

The Coast Guard used two Martin VC-3As as executive transport aircraft from 1952 to 1969 for the Secretary of Treasury.

In the late 50s, the Coast Guard looked to replace their R5Ds. The initial replacement was the twin-engined C-123 Provider.

In 1959, the Coast guard took delivery of its first GV-1G Hercules. The Hercules became the workhorse of the aviation community. In 1972, the C-123s were totally phased out in favor of the bigger Herks.

In 1963 and 1969, the Coast Guard took delivery of two new executive jets. They were the VC-4A Gulfstream I and VC-11A Gulfstream II. The Gulfstream I served through the end of the century. The II was phased out in 1986. The venerable Goat stayed healthy. The GV-1G Hercules, first delivered in 1959, slowly replaced all other fixed wing variants. By 1972, the Herk was the only logistics aircraft in the service.

By 1975, the Coast Guard was looking for a replacement for the venerable Goat. Every Coast Guard aviator, when asked, gave the same answer, “Build more Goats”. But the decision was made that the Coast Guard needed jets. The future of Coast Guard aviation would be the Dassault HU-25 Guardian. But they would not be ready for service before the Goats started to retire. Between 1976 and 1978, the Coast Guard acquired 17 C-131 Samaritans as interim replacements for the aging Goats. Delivery of the 41 Guardians began in 1977. Their final delivery caused the retirement of both the C-131s and the Goats. The last Goat, CG-7250, was retired from AIRSTA Cape Cod on 10 March 1983. This was the last operational Goat in U.S. military service. Its retirement ended 32 years of service to the Coast Guard and 36 years of service to the country. Fittingly, As it taxied to the hangar for the last time, it was pouring rain. Typical operating weather.

In 1963 and 1969, the Coast Guard took delivery of two new executive jets. They were the VC-4A Gulfstream I and VC-11A Gulfstream II. The Gulfstream I served through the end of the century. The II was phased out in 1986. In 1983, a Gulfstream IV replaced Gulfstream I at Headquarters. Gulfstream I went on to duty in the Seventh District.

In 1987, the Coast Guard started flying two Grumman E-2C Hawkeye with Airborne Early Warning Squadron 1 (CGAW-1). Unfortunately, an aircraft crashed on landing at Rosey Roads in 1990. The other was returned to the Navy.

So, Coast Guard aviation ended the 20th Century with two main fixed wing aircraft, the HC-130 Hercules and the HU-25 Guardian. Gulfstream II and IV were still serving as executive transport aircraft. Gulfstream I was in Miami.

For a complete list of aircraft used by the Coast Guard from 1947 to 2000 go to this Link.