Air Station Port Angeles, Washington

June 14, 2022

Air Station/Sector Field Office Port Angeles, Washington

Original Location: 
Port Angeles 

Current Location:

Date of Commission:
August, 1935

Still in operation

Historical Remarks:

Air Station Port Angeles (now referred to as Air Station-Sector Field Office Port Angeles) was built in 1934 and commissioned in August, 1935.  It was the first Coast Guard Air Station on the Pacific Coast.  Established to aid in law enforcement and anti-smuggling operations, the station almost immediately became involved in what is today its primary mission: protection of life and property at sea.

At the outbreak of World War II, the Air Station became an important outpost for the defense of the Northwest and a gunnery school was established to train aerial gunners and local defense.  By the summer of 1942 most of the airplanes stationed here were kept busy investigating reports of enemy submarines in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and offshore waters.  Other planes were used for convoy escort duty and for towing practice targets for the gunnery school.  By 1943 the Air Station had responsibility for all Coast Guard antisubmarine and rescue activities down to the California border.  By this time there were detachments of aircraft and boats at Neah Bay, Washington, Quillayute, Washington, Astoria, Oregon, and North Bend, Oregon.

The Air Station was also the home of the only Coast Guard Land Rescue Team, which proved instrumental in saving the lives of many naval pilots who crashed in this region while engaged in the massive training effort for the war.  Click here for an article on one rescue of a Navy crew in 1945.  Additional duties of the Station included the operation of a Harbor Pilot Station, a Navy Routing Office, which was responsible for the coordination of shipping movements in the Northwest, and the operation of a Port Security office in Port Angeles.

CGAS Port Angeles has had several responsibilities and has had many different seaplanes and helicopters assigned during the last 48 years.  The fixed wing inventory has included such notables as the Douglas RD-l Dolphin, Hall Aluminum PH2, Grumman JF-2 Duck, Grumman JRF-2 Goose, Grumman UH-16E Albatross, Boeing PB-1G Fortress, and the Douglas R4D-5 Skytrain.

The post Truman era through the 70s saw decades of development for CGAS Port Angeles as helicopters became the mainstay of the station’s aircraft.  In succession the helicopters employed have been the Sikorsky HNS-1, Bell H-13, Sikorsky HO-4S, and serving into the 1980s was the venerable Sikorsky HH-52A.  The station was turned into an all- helicopter outfit in 1976 with the departure of the last Grumman Albatross.

The HH-52A was replaced beginning in 1985 with the Coast Guard’s newer short-range rescue helicopter, the Aerospatiale HH-65A "Dolphin". The Dolphin had the distinction of being the 13th aircraft type to serve aboard CGAS Port Angeles.

As of 1982, current duties at CGAS Port Angeles involved Search and Rescue, law enforcement, aids to navigation, marine environmental protection, and enforcement of laws and treaties.  Resources to accomplish these missions included 3 Sikorsky HH-52A helicopters and a 41 foot utility boat.  CGAS Port Angeles is co-located with CG Group Port Angeles.  Additional Group resources include two outlying SAR Stations, two 82 foot patrol cutters, and maintenance and support shops.  In FY82 these units saved 102 lives and performed 836 search and rescue missions. The Air Station share was 368 missions and 67 lives.

In August 1982 CGAS Port Angeles was assigned to Coast Guard Task Group 55.3 formed to provide security for the USS Ohio, en route her homeport of Bangor, Washington. Safe transit of the first Trident submarine was threatened by numerous anti-nuclear protest organizations attempting a blockade. With great professionalism and restraint the mission was accomplished with no injury to civilian or Coast Guard personnel.


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.