Air Station Detroit, Michigan

June 14, 2022

Air Station Detroit, Michigan

Original Location: 
Selfridge Air National Guard Base 

Current Location:

Date of Commission:
June, 1966 

Still in service.

Historical Remarks:

Air Station Detroit was located at Selfridge Air National Guard Base in Mount Clemens, Michigan, nestled in a quiet suburb 20 miles north of Detroit.  Commissioned in June of 1966, air station personnel first occupied an excess Air Force hangar until construction on the current facility could be completed in July of 1967.  Two years later, the hangar was dedicated in memory of LT Jack C. Rittichier, the only Coast Guard aviator to be killed in the Vietnam conflict.  LT Rittichier, an air station plankowner, was an exchange pilot with the Air Force 37th ARRS when, while attempting to rescue a fellow aviator, he was shot down and killed in action on 9 June 1968.

An integral part of the Coast Guard’s National Search and Rescue (SAR) effort, the air station came under the operational control of the Ninth Coast Guard District in Cleveland, Ohio.  During the 1970s, the air station was manned by 14 officers and 32 enlisted crewmen who flew 3 HH-52A turbine powered amphibious helicopters, and maintained a 24 hour SAR alert readiness posture.  The unit’s prime area of responsibility was the maritime environment of the Eastern Great Lakes Region.  This area has over one thousand miles of shoreline and encompasses: Lakes Ontario, Erie, St. Clair, and Lake Huron south of the 44th parallel. 

In addition to SAR operations, Air Station Detroit supported the 32 Coast Guard units, and 5 major vessels in the Eastern Great Lakes Region.  This support consisted of ice reconnaissance flights for the winter navigation season, law enforcement and safety patrols, environmental protection flights, and logistical support for all Coast Guard units in the area.  The air station also cooperated closely with the U.S. and Canadian government agencies on the federal, state or provincial, and local levels.

The air station held a Meritorious Unit Commendation for service from 1 July 1977 through 31 March 1978 while engaged in operations involving major search and rescue cases, law enforcement, aids to navigation, assistance to various federal agencies, ice reconnaissance, shipboard deployments, and marine environmental protection.  More recently, however, the Air Station has distinguished itself through major contributions of aircraft and flight crewmembers in support of the Cuban Refugee Operations and Haitian Interdiction Program.

As of 2005, the command had an active-duty complement of 24 officers, 80 enlisted personnel and four civilians employing five Aerospatiale HH-65A Dolphin helicopters to maintain a 24-hour Search and Rescue (SAR) and Law Enforcement (LE) aircraft on alert for an area extending along 1,100 miles of shoreline from Saginaw Bay Michigan to the St. Lawrence Seaway.   The air station conducted over 230 SAR missions annually that saved an average of more than thirty lives and provide assistance to over two hundred others.

In addition to SAR and LE missions, Air Station Detroit conducted flights in support of domestic icebreaking operations, Marine Environmental Protection or MEP, and mission support for over two hundred local, state, and federal agencies.  The most visible of these missions include response to flooding on the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers; Operation Coal Shovel, the joint United States/Canadian ice breaking effort; and sustained support of pollution response and prevention efforts in two Coast Guard Districts. The unit's multi-mission capability played a crucial role in public safety, navigability of waterways, pollution prevention, and compliance with Federal laws, and exemplifies the Coast Guard's motto: "Semper Paratus" (Always Ready).  Flying approximately 3200 hours annually, our aircrews have enabled the unit to amass an unprecedented record of over 60,000 accident-free flight hours.

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.