Air Station Auxiliary Aviators Prove Invaluable

Friday, May 11, 2012

Networking, Observer Nelson Acevedo and FP Juvenal Aponte discuss operational procedures during a session break at the annual Auxiliary Aviation Safety Workshop. Photo by Duane Minton.

The annual United States Coast Guard Auxiliary Aviation Safety Workshop for Coast Guard Air Station Borinquen (BQN) was held March 2-4, 2012 with more than 40 aviators attending from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.

Article by Auxiliarist Robert A. Fabich, Christiansted, St. Croix

The Auxiliary Aviation Coordinator (AAC) for Air Station BQN, Charles “Chuck” Fischer, opened the workshop highlighting accomplishments, offering praise and honoring the fallen. “This year’s assembly holds a special significance for the value of service we as Auxiliary members provide in conjunction with assisting operations at Air Station BQN” he said, also reflecting upon the recent USCG training accident in Mobile, Alabama. LTJG Thomas Cameron, a Coast Guard pilot based at Air Station BQN, and three other crew members were killed when their MH-65 helicopter, also called the Dolphin, crashed during a night training exercise February 28, 2012.

Following his instructional session, Douglas Armstrong (right front) addresses questions asked by attendees during a workshop module at the Auxiliary Aviation Safety Workshop Saturday March 2, 2012. Photo by Duane Minton.

Following the awards, Auxiliary members participated in a variety of educational sessions for meeting their annual Auxiliary Air requirements. These sessions included Air Station BQN operational updates and procedures, Aero-Medical Facts for Aviation, including the significance of biannual physical examinations, fitness programs, nutritious diets and moderation in alcohol consumption.

Annual re-certification, operational level testing, and Incident Command 210 training were also provided for members’ compliance in order to maintain Auxiliary Air status.

The USCG and the Auxilliary has long been involved with aviation. As far back as 1915, the Coast Guard used a Curtis flying boat as the test model of whether aviation was practical for search and rescue. Today, it’s obvious that after those first steps, the Aviation Program has developed into one of the major components of the Search and Rescue (SAR) mission of the Coast Guard.

Air Crew members performed the swim quantification tests under the supervision of Air Station BQN rescue swimmers. Here several Auxiliary pilots and crew swim the 75 yards in flight suits and then crawl into an emergency raft. Photo by Douglas Armstrong.

The USCG Auxiliary has been a model for their contributions to boating safety with very active surface programs. Aviators wanted to create an equivalent program for the skies and like their boating colleagues, offered their own planes to be facilities. These fliers provided their aviation expertise and with the USCG developed rigorous safety guidelines to be an integral part of the training and operations. According to Coast Guard history, Auxiliary pilots first flew during 1943, in the midst of World War II. The first official mention of Auxiliary aviation occurred when Congress passed Public Law 451, in September 1945, permitting aircraft to be used by the Auxiliary.

Auxiliary Aviation is not just for pilots! Auxiliary members after passing initial security screening, can participate in the program. While the USCG Auxiliary does not issue pilot licenses, it does train Pilots, Observers and Air Crew in the art of being part of the crew in an Auxiliary aircraft under USCG orders. Aviation crew must also undergo enhanced security checks in order to become qualified for Direct Operations (DO).

Working together, the USCG and Auxiliary Air team is an excellent example of true fellowship and partnership at work.

For more information about the US Coast Guard Auxiliary air program, visit






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