Originally commissioned in July 1955 and located on Lake Pontchartrain, the Coast Guard Air Station came to its present home in December 1957 at Alvin Callendar Field, Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base New Orleans. Rededicated in September 1996, following extensive renovations, the Air Stations facilities provide maintenance for five HH-65C helicopters; supply and support spaces for 28 officers, 86 enlisted and 2 civilians; and quarters for 2 ready flight crews 24 hours a day. Airframes flown by the Coast Guard in New Orleans have included the HO-3S, HO-4S, HUS-1G, HH52A and the HH-3F “Pelican” helicopter.
In September 1985, Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans became the first unit in the Coast Guard to fly the HH-65A “Dolphin” in operational missions, and again led the fleet being the first among Coast Guard Air Stations to upgrade to the HH-65B. In 2006, the Coast Guard Air Station again upgraded to the more powerful HH-65C. In 2013, the Air Station New Orleans helicopters were upgraded to the MH-65D. Having a top speed of 175 knots, the HH-65D incorporates an upgraded avionics package and replacment of obsolete components. The twin turbine helicopter has an operational radius of 150 nautical miles with 30 minutes on-scene time. Flown by a crew of four including two pilots, one flight mechanic, and a rescue swimmer/EMT the HH-65D has a total gross weight limitation of 9,480 pounds.
Today Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans’ responsibilities include an area from Apalachicola, Florida north to Memphis, Tennessee, west to the Texas-Louisiana border and thousands of offshore oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Within this area, the station’s missions include homeland security (HLS), search and rescue (SAR), law enforcement (LE), marine environmental protection (EP), and aids to navigation (ATON). To meet these demanding missions, the air station flies over 3,200 hours annually.
Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans was the first air station to integrate into a Coast Guard Sector organization with the inception of Coast Guard Sector New Orleans, led by Marine Safety Office New Orleans and including Group New Orleans. With an emphasis on mission effectiveness, the Sector concept is an integral component of the Coast Guard’s future command and control organization.
Coast Guard air station personnel have developed strong relationships with multiple government agencies including the FBI, Secret Service, and state and local law enforcement. Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans has served as the Coast Guard’s flagship unit, introducing new HLS operational capabilities such as joint USCG/FBI SWAT team interoperability, including the first FBI live-fire sniper training from a USCG HH-65B helicopter.
In addition, Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans has led the USCG in the development and implementation of vertical delivery (hoist delivery) of USCG boarding teams to vessels at sea, a capability now used frequently with other units throughout the Coast Guard.
In 2005 following the passage of Hurricane Katrina, Air Station New Orleans briefly became “Air Group” New Orleans, supporting fleet-wide rotor and fixed wing air operations. Coast Guard helicopters flew more than 500 flight hours and hoisted more than 1,800 people to safety during both Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
In 2009, Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans flew 289 SAR operations, saving 59 people, assisting 46 others and preventing the loss of $40 million in property.
On April 21, 2010, Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans aircrews were the first to respond to the explosion of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon 50 miles south of Venice, La. The massive fire left 126 people in need of rescue. Leading the response, New Orleans aircrews worked throughout the night, and together with Coast Guard teams from Mobile, Ala., and civilian response teams, rescued 115 people, including 17 who were critically injured.
In 2015, Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans flew 271 SAR operations, saving 51 people and assisting 78 others while saving $863,175 in property.
A majority of lives saved or assisted during 2016 were a result of historic flooding in Baton Rouge, in which Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans supported search and rescue for an area covering more than 100 square miles during a seven-day period.
In 2017, the station responded to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria; in support of Harvey the unit deployed three aircraft and 51 personnel to Houston and orchestrated rescue operations as well as serving as the logistics and maintenance hub for the area. These efforts saved 863 lives and assisted 366 others, contribution to the more and 11,000 lives savedby the Coast Guard in this natural disaster.
Since its establishment in 1955, Air Station New Orleans has saved more than 13,000 lives and is considered to be the busiest all-helicopter SAR unit in the Coast Guard. Coast Guard Air Station New Orleans has been awarded 12 Meritorious Unit Commendations for its superior performance during rescue operations as well as five Coast Guard Unit Commendations for exceptional operational performance.