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Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco

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Title: Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco  
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Subject: United States Coast Guard Air Stations, Sikorsky S-61R, Sierra Army Depot, Chocolate Mountain Aerial Gunnery Range, Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento
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Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco

Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco
Air Station San Francisco patch
Active 1941-Present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Coast Guard
Type Air Station
Role Provide Search and Rescue coverage from Point Conception to Fort Bragg
Aircraft flown
Helicopter 4 MH-65C Dolphin

Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco is a United States Coast Guard Air Station located 13 miles south of downtown San Francisco, California at the San Francisco International Airport in an unincorporated area of San Mateo County. The air station sits adjacent to the airport which consists of its own ramp, one hangar an administration building and several other support structures.

Operations and missions

A HH-3F Pelican from the station

Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco (CGAS) located at the San Francisco International Airport is one of five air stations in the Eleventh Coast Guard District. Currently, Air Station San Francisco operates four MH65 Dolphin helicopters that provides its primary mission search and rescue. CGAS San Francisco also supports a wide range of other Coast Guard operations such as Maritime Law enforcement, port security, Aids to Navigation support and Marine Environmental Protection to approximately 300 miles of coastline from Point Conception to Fort Bragg 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.


Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco was completed on February 15, 1941, making it one of the longest tenured tenants at SFO. The air station operated a PBY-5 Catalina and two RD-4 Dolphins. On November 1, 1941 the aircraft and personnel were placed under Navy command where they continued to conduct Search and Rescue and Coastal Patrols through the end of World War II. Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco was also tasked with aiding in the construction of the highly classified and secret Long Range Navigation (LORAN) stations in the North Pacific in 1943. Proving an invaluable asset in this important mission, the San Francisco based PBY-5 Catalina was instrumental in the completion of the Aleutian LORAN chain by transporting personnel, supplies and building materials.

After World War II, the Air Station resumed normal operations under Coast Guard control after release from the Navy on June 30, 1946. The first helicopter stationed here in San Francisco was the HO3S-1 Dragonfly in 1947. In the early fifties the Grumman HU-16E Albatross replaced the air stations aging WWII fixed wing inventory. This general purpose amphibian, affectionately known as the "Goat", proved to be a highly adaptable platform for SAR and LE. Eventually, the Air Station received the HH-52A Sea Guard helicopter in 1963 which was a significant improvement over its predecessor with its improved flight characteristics and capabilities.

Also stationed at San Francisco were the C-130s which when they were moved to the newly constructed Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento in 1978, ended 37 years of Coast Guard fixed wing aviation in San Francisco. In 1991, Air Station San Francisco received its first HH-60 J-Hawk to replace the H-3 Pelican as the medium range Search and Rescue Helicopter. Restructuring in Coast Guard Aviation lead to a short stay of the HH-60 in San Francisco and in June 1996, four HH-65s were moved to San Francisco from San Diego. In the fall of 2001, the Air Station transitioned to the HH-65B, an upgrade in the avionics package. In the spring of 2006, the HH65B was upgraded to the HH65C after the installation of Turbomeca Arriel 2C2-CG engines.

While the airframes have evolved, the primary mission of Air Station San Francisco has remained unchanged for six decades, maritime Search and Rescue along 300 miles of coastline from Point Conception to Fort Bragg. In addition to SAR, Air Station San Francisco has expanded its missions to include Homeland Security, Maritime Law Enforcement, Environmental Protection, Aids to Navigation, Logistics, and Cliff Rescue.

It is an interesting historical footnote that the San Mateo County Coast Guard Station would play a part in the Watergate scandal of the 1970s, which ultimately led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon (ostensibly to avoid impeachment). According to the US Government Printing Office Web Site:

"In May 1975, the Watergate Special Prosecution Force (WSPF) decided that it was necessary to question former President Richard M. Nixon in connection with various investigations being conducted by the WSPF. Mr. Nixon was questioned over the period of two days, June 23 and June 24, 1975, and the testimony was taken as part of various investigations being conducted by the January 7, 1974, Grand Jury for the District of Columbia (the third Watergate Grand Jury). Chief Judge George Hart signed an order authorizing that the sworn deposition of Mr. Nixon be taken at the Coast Guard Station in San Mateo, California with two members of the grand jury present."

See also

Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay

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