Air Station San Francisco, California

June 14, 2022

Air Station San Francisco, California


Original Location: 
Adjacent to San Francisco International Airport 

Current Location:

Date of Commission:
15 February 1941

Still in service

Historical Remarks:

The Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco, located on property adjacent to San Francisco International Airport -- then known as Mills Field -- was commissioned on 7 October 1940.  At the time two seaplanes were assigned to the new air station and they utilized the airport’s runways.  The facilities consisted of a main hangar and a barracks.  The station was formally dedicated on 15 February 1941.  The first official patrol flight was over San Francisco Bay.   LT George H. Bowerman was the first commanding officer of the Air Station.  In April of 1942, the station was assigned to the operational command of Commander, Western Sea Frontier, U.S. Navy.  The planes attached to Air Station were then considered and treated as a Squadron Command, under the Commander of the Air Task Group of the Frontier for all operations. 

During the war the air station operated a PBY-5 Catalina and two RD-4 Dolphins which were used to fly coastal patrol missions.  Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco was also tasked with aiding in the construction of the highly classified and secret Long Range Navigation (LORAN) stations in the North Pacific in 1943.  Proving an invaluable asset in this important mission, the San Francisco based PBY-5 Catalina was instrumental in the completion of the Aleutian LORAN chain by transporting personnel, supplies and building materials.  In addition to PBY-5A Catalinas the PB2Y Coronado flying boat had been flown out of San Francisco in the last years of World War II.  In 1945 Boeing PB-1G Flying Fortresses were assigned and then replaced by P4Y-2G Privateers. 

After World War II, the Air Station resumed normal operations under Coast Guard control after release from the Navy on 30 June 30 1946.  The first helicopter stationed here in San Francisco was the HO3S-1 Dragonfly in 1947.  By this time a supply building and BOQ had been built and a Nose Hangar was built in 1956 and expanded in 1963.

In the early fifties the Grumman HU-16E Albatross replaced the air stations aging WWII fixed wing inventory.  This general purpose amphibian, affectionately known as the "Goat", proved to be a highly adaptable platform for SAR and LE.  Eventually, the Air Station received the HH-52A Sea Guard helicopter in 1963 which was a significant improvement over it's predecessor with its improved flight characteristics and capabilities.  Also stationed at San Francisco since 1963 were the C-130s which when they were moved to the newly constructed Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento in 1978 ended 37 years of Coast Guard fixed wing aviation in San Francisco.  In 1991, Air Station San Francisco received its first HH-60 J-Hawk to replace the H-3 Pelican as the medium range Search and Rescue Helicopter.  Restructuring in Coast Guard Aviation lead to a short stay of the HH-60 in San Francisco and in June of 1996, four HH-65s were moved to San Francisco from San Diego.  In the fall of 2001, the Air Station transitioned to the HH-65B, an upgrade in the avionics package.

Buildings on the station include: one hanger, one nose hanger, one barracks, one administration building (which was the air station's original barracks) with an enclosed infirmary, BOQ, supply building, boathouse, and a few small support structures.

Commanding Officers

1941: LT George H. Bowerman 

Historic Photo Gallery

Unless otherwise indicated all photos are official U.S. Coast Guard photographs. 

No official caption/date/photo number; photographer unknown.

An aerial view of Air Station San Francisco circa 1962.

Historical Sources:

Air Station Files, U. S. Coast Guard Historian's Office

Arthur Pearcy.  A History of U. S. Coast Guard Aviation.  Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1989.