Air Station Traverse City, Michigan

June 14, 2022

Air Station Traverse City, Michigan


Original Location: 
Cherry Capitol Airport

Current Location:

Date of Commission:
15 Nov 1945

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 on 15 November 1945.  Over the years the station has grown from its original small compliment to its 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 its building space when a new maintenance and administrative hangar were completed, providing over 50,000 square feet of work space; including the hangar deck, workshops, 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 April of 1995, Air Station Traverse City gained operational responsibility for what was CG Air Station Chicago. Renamed CG Air Facility Glenview, this station is located in Glenview, Illinois and consists of a multipurpose hangar and office facility and a public works building. Air Facility Glenview stages one of Air Station Traverse City's HH-65A helicopters with two full crews during the busy search and rescue season from April through mid-November.

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

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.

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.