How did the US Coast Guard get so involved with Helicopters?

Saturday, March 25, 2017

U.S. Coast Guard Aviation History
Sikorsky HNS-1 “Hoverfly”
Historical Information:
CDR William J. Kossler, who was the chief of the Aviation Engineering Division at
Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, witnessed Igor Sikorsky’s test flight of
his XR-4 prototype on 20 April 1942. The XR-4 first flew on 14 January of that
same year. Impressed with the craft, he invited CDR W. A. Burton, the commanding officer of Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn, to witness a test flight. CDR Burton later wrote in his report on what he witnessed:
The Navy designated the R-4 aircraft as the HNS-1. Ultimately, at least 21 of the
many acquired by the Navy were used by the Coast Guard. The HNSs, along
with the HOSs, were used in a number of early search and rescue operations,
including Erickson’s famous flight mentioned earlier and another in Labrador
where an HNS was completely broken down and transported by a fixed-wing
aircraft to the area in April, 1945, to rescue the crew of a downed Royal
Canadian Air Force PBY deep in the wilderness. The lead pilot for this SAR
operation was LT August Kleisch, USCG. Another rescue took place in Gander,
Newfoundland in September, 1946, where an HNS and an HOS were broken
down and transported to the area to rescue the passengers and crew of a
Sabena airliner that had gone down deep in the forest. The first pilot to arrive
and begin rescue flights was again LT Kleisch and he was soon joined by CDR
Erickson, LT Stewart Graham, USCG, and LT Walter Bolton, USCG. These
major rescue efforts proved the usefulness of the new helicopters in saving lives
in remote locations and helped to secure a place for these rotary-winged aircraft
in the Coast Guard’s inventory.
The ultimate fate of each of the HNSs in Coast Guard service is unknown (except
as noted below) but surviving helicopters were probably returned to the U.S.
Navy along with the HOS-1s between May 1947 and May 1949.
Original Caption: None   Date: ?
USCG Photo #: None  Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard
Six Coast Guard HNSs at Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New Jersey. Probably 1944.
Original Caption: “New York, N.Y.: Commander F.
A. Erickson, USCG, an expert helicopter pilot and one of the pioneers in the adaptation of this craft for practical purposes is shown here congratulating the rescuing pilot, Ensign W. C. Bolton, USCG, for a job ‘well done.'”
Date: 7 April 1944 (date photo was cleared for publication).
USCG Photo #:
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard
Original Caption: “Comdr. Frank A. Erickson, US
CG & Dr. Igor Sikorsky, Sikorsky Helicopter
HNS-1 C.G. #39040.”
Date: 14 August 1944
USCG Photo #: 232-8
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard
Original Caption: “Helicopter landing on the USS Mal De Mer: Floyd Bennett Field, Brooklyn, New York, 1945 — This platform could pitch and roll to simulate that of a vessel at sea. Used to check out pilots for shipboard operations.”
Date: 1945
USCG Photo #: None
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard
Original Caption: None   Date: ?; probably summer, 1944.
USCG Photo #: None     Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard
Experimental flight operations aboard the USS Cobb, probably during the summer of 1944.
Original Caption: “U.S. Coast Guardsmen take a break during the first Arctic helicopter rescue in the history of aviation. Lieut. August Kleisch (center), Coast Guard pilot of the Sikorsky helicopter ‘The Labrador Special,’ chats with Lieut. Lawrence G. Pollard, Assistant Operations Officer of the Air Transport Command at Goose Bay. Pollard, flying supplies into the ATC radio-weather station which served as the base for helicopter operations, flew Sgt. G. J. Bunnell, the first man rescued, back to Goose Bay. On the right, facing the camera, is AMM1c Gus Jablonski of Brooklyn, Crew Chief on the Labrador Special. Jablonski worked very hard through the entire operation. Kleisch made all the rescue flights personally.”
Date: 2 May 1945
USCG Photo #: None
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard
Original Caption: None
Date: ?; Probably September, 1946.
USCG Photo #: None
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard
Gander, Newfoundland rescue in September, 1946.
Original Caption: “HNS-1 C. G. No. 39040 hoist pick-up. CGAS Floyd Bennett, BKLYN., N.Y.”
Date: 1944
USCG Photo #: None
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard
Original Caption: “Evaluation spray nozzels on Coast Guard HNS-1 helicopter. Pilot: LT(jg) W. “Red” Bolton, U.S.C.G. Note: spray at stern of helo.”
Date: 30 October 1944
USCG Photo #: 288-2
Photographer: U.S. Coast Guard
Barrett Thomas Beard.
Wonderful Flying Machines: A History of U.S. Coast Guard Helicopters.
Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1996.
Frank Erickson. “Fishers of Men: The Development of Seagoing Helicopters.”
Unpublished manuscript, Coast Guard Historian’s Office.
HNS (Sikorsky) Historical File, USCG Historian’s Office collection.
Gordon Swanborough & Peter M. Bowers.
United States Navy Aircraft Since 1911. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1990-third edition, p. 525.
Arthur Pearcy, U.S. Coast Guard Aircraft Since 1916. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1991, pp. 276-282.

This blog is a reprint of




  1. Louie says:

    Sikorsky wanted nothing to do with the USCG but when in government contracting, back then they were the boss and you had to play the game. He lived on the same street as my grandparent and the kids used to help him with his experiments and then of course the communists killed all of the children in the Tsar’s family….ooofff that is politics chest vrai

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