Pensacola recognizes 100 years of Coast Guard aviation
Source: Pensacola News Journal
The Cradle of Naval Aviation paid tribute to 100 years of Coast Guard aviation Thursday.
Coast Guard aviators discussed the centennial milestone during a panel discussion at the National Naval Aviation Museum.
The event was part of the 30th annual Naval Aviation Symposium, which continues at the museum through Friday.
An actor portraying Elmer Stone, the Coast Guard’s first aviator, put in a special appearance during Thursday’s panel. Dressed in a 1916-era costume uniform, he joked with the crowd. He said woke up in that time period but decided it was important to time travel and help celebrate Coast Guard aviation’s 100th birthday.
Speaker Sergei Sikorsky spoke about the development of the helicopter rescue hoist in the 1940s. Sikorsky, who joined the Coast Guard in 1942, is the son of aviation pioneer Igor Sikorsky. His father built flying boats and Clippers, and the Sikorsky helicopter.
Sergei Sikorsky said Coast Guard Cmdr. Frank Erickson headed the ground-breaking work that led to the development of the hoist. The trial-and-error work came together when a representative of a hydraulic pump company visited the Floyd Bennett Field Coast Guard Air Station in New York where engineers were developing the hoist, he said.
Engineers worked overnight to incorporate the pump into the design, he said.
“The results were fantastic. The max load went from 170 pounds to 400 pounds, the hoist speed went from 15 feet per minute to 150 feet per minute,” he said.
The engineers impressed military leaders during a 1944 demonstration and the rest is history, he said.
The Coast Guard now does between 5,000 and 6,000 rescue hoist operations a year.
Through the years, Sikorsky said people have credited him with developing the hoist.
“I did not develop the hoist, I was the hoistee,” he said. “I participated in the demonstrations and it was a honor and privilege to work as part of a team under the guidance of Cmdr. Erickson.”
Sikorsky said he is glad one of the men’s ideas did not become a reality. The men worked on a crude rescue stretcher.
He likened being lifted while inside the stretcher to being inside a “flying coffin.”
Also Tuesday, John Moseley, an aviator who graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1954, told the group about Coast Guard aviation’s early roots during the Prohibition era.
Moseley said the Coast Guard began searching for rum-running boats and soon realized that aircraft were needed to trace the boats back to their mother ship’s. The operations were successful and became an integral part of Prohibition enforcement, he said.
Naval Aviation Symposium events continue through Friday. Events include the addition of three aviators to the “Pioneers of Naval Aviation Hall of Honor,” a museum premiere of the film “Millionaires’ Unit” about aviation pioneers, and a panel discussion about the future of Naval aviation.