Aviators – the Coast Guard Auxiliary Needs You!

Monday, June 25, 2012


Photo by Peter Jensen, USCG Auxiliary

Sailors (power and sail) and their younger brethren, Aviators, share many common attributes. Terminology, navigation, reliance on weather and weather forecasting, all makes the boater and the aviator part of the same circle of adventurers.

It is that sense of exploration, of the pilot against the elements, skill against the unknown that drive many to take their vessels and planes into un-charted (or unfamiliar) territory. It is because of this desire, that pilots and boaters have many of the same skills. We both share the skills of celestial navigation and dead reckoning. We also must learn to understand the environment and weather. For our lives depend on both these skills

By Wayne Spivak,  United States Coast Guard Auxiliary

USCG Auxiliary Photo

Since the dawn of civilization, when man first ventured out into the uncharted seas, danger lurked. When man first took to the sky, danger was a constant companion. Centuries (decades) later, these same dangers still lurk on every air flight and boat trip. Aviators and Sailors share the desire to be out or in the great blue, whether it’s the great blue sea or the great blue sky.

The United States Coast Guard has long been involved with aviation. Back in 1915, the Coast Guard used a Curtis flying boat as the test bed of whether aviation was practical for search and rescue. Today it’s obvious that those first tests have developed (after some trials and tribulations) into one of the major components of the Search and Rescue mission of the Coast Guard.

As aviation as both a sport and an industry grew, members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary privately, on their own, began to learn how to fly. These private pilots then volunteered their services to the Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary, just as their brethren volunteered their boats and their boating skills. According the recorded Coast Guard history, Auxiliary pilots first flew during 1943, in the midst of World War II. The first official mention of Auxiliary aviation is when Congress passed Public Law 451, in September 1945, permitting aircraft to be used by the Auxiliary.

Here is the list of missions that Auxiliarists Aviators normally fly:

  • SAR Mission – Search And Rescue call out or the air equivalent to a vessel safety patrol. During a SAR mission, aircraft fly pre-determined search patterns based on complex algorithms. These algorithms are based on last known or assumed position, wind, current, and type of vessel that is missing.
  • Enforcement of Laws and Treaties – Air support of a Coast Guard mission to monitor major fishing areas.
  • MEP Mission – Air support in the area of Marine Environmental Protection. Missions include support of locating and estimating sizes of oil slicks, and other environmental accidents.
  • Ice Operations Mission – Air support in the area of ice patrol operations. Aircraft search for and report blockages by ice of major ports and rivers.
  • Logistics Mission – Transportation of personnel and equipment. Auxiliarists transport individuals for all types of Coast Guard support and humanitarian support.
  • Training Mission – Training missions involving air operations, and coordination with land and surface vessels to hone those skills needed to support the aims and missions of the United States Coast Guard.

Auxiliary Pilots and Crews are, during an emergency call-out, available to lift off from their airfields on short notice on weekdays, and during boating season (weekends), are normally either in the air or at the airfield ready to fly. These men and women, like their boating counter-parts, volunteer their time and energy, and in many an instance their aircraft to assist the Coast Guard.

The Aviation Branch of the United States Coast Guard is not just for pilots! Any Auxiliary member can join the Aviation Branch and any US Citizen can join the Auxiliary (see below). While, the Coast Guard Auxiliary does not train pilots, it does train Observers and Air Crew.

US Coast Guard Auxiliary Aircrew Capabilities:

  • Aircraft Commanders – Pilots with more than 1000 flight hours, an instrument rating, and checked out in SAR procedures. FAA medical certification required.
  • First Pilots – Pilots with more than 500 flight hours, and checked out in SAR procedures. FAA medical certification required.
  • Co-Pilots – Pilots with more than 200 flight hours. May only fly Ice Patrols, MEP patrols and logistics. FAA medical certification required.
  • Observers – Auxiliarists trained in observation, communications, and the aviation program. Either pilots or observers are required as added crew on operational missions. No medical required.
  • AirCrew – An upgrade for Observers who successfully complete additional training. Training elements consists of communication, navigation, weather, and flight planning. FAA or personal physician medical certification required.

Membership in the US Coast Guard Auxiliary:

Membership is open to men and women, 17 years or older, who are US citizens. Members cut across all socio-cultural and age boundaries, as well as military lines. The Auxiliary, which is the civilian, volunteer, uniformed branch of Team Coast Guard, boasts both current active duty and former members of all the uniformed services and their Reserve components, including the Coast Guard. You do not have to have any previous military training or affiliation to join! Facility (radio station, boat or aircraft) ownership is desirable but not mandatory.

For more information about the Coast Guard Auxiliary or Coast Guard Auxiliary Aviation look for us on the web at http://www.cgaux.org.

Tags: , , , ,



  1. John Crout says:

    Good read, Wayne!

  2. Rafael says:

    what station in florida can I go to start to be observers I am ready aux menber. Thank

  3. Brian says:

    News update air observers now have to get an FAA medical physical certificate in order to become an observer. And to those who may not know unlike the VE vessel examiner program which only requires members be BQ STATUS/OS you need to become DO status in order to serve in operations including but not limited to air observer.

  4. Josh says:

    Does the Auxiliary have a training program for members who would like to learn to fly?

    • Rande Wilson says:

      AuxAir does not teach members to fly they teach about the CG protocols for flying in the program. Anyone who wants to be in the AuxAir program and wants to be a pilot must already have their private pilot or commercial rating already.

      There are options for those not licensed to still be part of an air crew in the Auxiliary. Contact your local Auxiliary branch for more information.

      • Richard Duran says:

        If a person has the required commercial rating, but does not own their own aircraft? Can they still be a pilot for the Coast guard Auxiliary??
        Thank you for your time.

  5. Jeff Liljenquist says:

    What kind of aircraft works best for your applications? Does the CG have their own aircraft? Do you need a specific commitment for a certain number of hours/days per moonth?

    Yours truly,


  6. Gary says:

    My name is Gary lesniak I’m interested please call me 516 510-6072 I have 90 hours of flight time and interested in becoming an auxiliary Coast Guard

Leave a Comment

We welcome your comments on postings at all Coast Guard sites/journals. These are sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard to provide a forum to talk about our work providing maritime safety, security and stewardship for the American people to secure the homeland, save lives and property, protect the environment, and promote economic prosperity.

The information provided is for public information only and is not a distress communication channel. People in an emergency and in need of Coast Guard assistance should use VHF-FM Channel 16 (156.8 MHz), dial 911, or call their nearest Coast Guard unit.

All comments submitted are moderated. The Coast Guard retains the discretion to determine which comments it will post and which it will not. We expect all contributors to be respectful. We will not post comments that contain personal attacks of any kind; refer to Coast Guard or other employees by name; contain offensive terms that target specific ethnic or racial groups, or contain vulgar language. We will also not post comments that are spam, are clearly off topic, or that promote services or products.

The U.S. Coast Guard disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from any comments posted on this page. This forum may not be used for the submission of any claim, demand, informal or formal complaint, or any other form of legal and/or administrative notice or process, or for the exhaustion of any legal and/or administrative remedy.

If you have specific questions regarding a U.S. Coast Guard program that involves details you do not wish to share publicly please contact the program point of contact listed at http://www.uscg.mil/global/mail/

The U.S. Coast Guard will not collect or retain Personally Identifiable Information unless you voluntarily provide it to us. To view the U.S. Coast Guards Privacy Policy, please visit: http://www.uscg.mil/global/disclaim.asp

Please note: Anonymous comments have been disabled for this journal. It is preferred that you use your real name when posting a comment. WE WILL POST THE NAME YOU ENTER WHEN YOU SUBMIT YOUR COMMENT. Also, you are welcome to use Open ID or other user technologies that may be available.