Tag Archives: HH-52

Remembering CG1363, 55 years on

Near Strawberry Rock in Trinidad, California is the wreckage of an HH52 Seaguard with a sad story tied to it.

CG 1363, an HH-52 Seaguard helicopter that crashed in a severe storm during a rescue operation Dec. 22, 1964.

On Dec. 22, 1964, the helicopter crew was dispatched to Humboldt Bay, where roads were closed from flood damage, to assist with evacuations. At 2:48 p.m., the helicopter arrived in the Humboldt Bay area where Hansen, a local resident, volunteered to join the crew to help spot flood survivors and to help orient the crew to local landmarks. The helicopter crew, along with Hansen, began evacuating people from rooftops and flood areas, ultimately saving 10 lives.

At 6:03 p.m., weather conditions worsened and the Arcata Airport Flight Service Station (FSS) received a radio call from the helicopter, which was trying to land with three rescued people aboard in low visibility and high winds. Approximately eight minutes before the radio call the airport had lost power, disabling the radio navigation beacon that was necessary to navigate to the airport.

FSS instruments indicated that the helicopter was northwest of the airport. The controller continued to radio the pilot steering directions to help him land.

The pilot reported that he was at 1,000 feet and asked if that altitude would clear all obstructions along his path to the airport. The FSS controller replied that 1,000 feet might be inadequate due to high terrain just east of his bearing. A citizen living 12 miles north of the airport along the coast reported seeing a helicopter about one mile offshore and heading south. FSS attempted to relay the report to the pilot but could not regain communications.  Repeated calls to the helicopter were met with silence.

Three days after losing contact with the crew of CG 1363, a U.S. Navy helicopter from the USS Bennington located the crash and directed ground search parties to the site. The helicopter had crashed on a slope at 1,130 feet of elevation nine miles north of the Arcata Airport near a landmark today known as Strawberry Rock. Located with the wreckage were seven dead; the three crewmen, Hansen, two women and an infant girl.

Wreckage of CG 1363, an HH-52 Seaguard helicopter that crashed during a severe storm while conducting a rescue operation Dec. 22, 1964, as seen this week. (USCG photo)

Each year Sector Humboldt Bay honors the lost crew. USCG LCDR Donald Prince, from New Jersey; Royal Canadian Navy Sub-Lt. Allen Leonard Alltree; and USCG Petty Officer 2nd Class James A. Nininger, Jr., from Virginia, a Coast Guard Air Station San Francisco-based helicopter crew, as well as Bud Hansen, a citizen volunteer are remembered in an annual ceremony.

The Sector maintains a memorial at the installation, including some of the skin from the airframe of CG 1363.

Welcome, 1426

The U.S. Coast Guard has donated a pre-owned Sikorsky HH-52A Seaguard helicopter that is set to be added to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The Museum’s first Coast Guard helicopter, the Seaguard, #1426, is scheduled go on display at the museum on April 14th, 2016, to coincide with Coast Guard aviation’s 100th anniversary.

1426 was recovered from the North Valley Occupational Center’s aviation facility in the Van Nuys area of Los Angeles. She had been there since 1989, being used as a static trainer for helicopter mechanics, meaning everything on her was loose or had been taken apart at least 100 times.

#1426 as put out to pasture. She had seen better days. Note the 1980s "SAR Orange" paint scheme

#1426 as put out to pasture. She had seen better days. Note the 1980s “SAR Orange” paint scheme and “Pinocchio” radar dome

Going for a ride by CH-47

Going for a ride by CH-47

note the 1980s sar orange scheme

Their was a search for parts to make 1426 whole again.

Per USCG: "This was a location in Cochise, Arizona, where nine HH-52s were privately owned. The owner planned to convert the 52s to fight fires, but ran into issue making the conversion impractical. The Coast Guard Aviation Association worked with the owner to acquire parts for the restoration of the 1426"

Per USCG: “This was a location in Cochise, Arizona, where nine HH-52s were privately owned. The owner planned to convert the 52s to fight fires, but ran into issue making the conversion impractical. The Coast Guard Aviation Association worked with the owner to acquire parts for the restoration of the 1426”

The Museum's first Coast Guard helicopter, 1426. Image Number: WEB15436-2016 Credit: Image by John Siemens, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution

The Museum’s first Coast Guard helicopter, 1426, as restored. Note that she was restored to her more commonly used 1970s high-viz pattern colors, with no radar proboscis. Image by John Siemens, National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Image Number: WEB15436-2016

Used for years by Air Station Houston, #1426 in 1979 rescued 22 survivors from the burning tanker Burmah Agate and freighter Mimosa after the two vessels collided near Galveston, Texas.

Basically a scaled down SH-3 Sea King without the ordnance capability, the HH-52 was used extensively by the Coast Guard for SAR and LE duties throughout the 1960s and 70s, being replaced by the HH-65 Dolphin in the 1980s.

There are some two dozen remaining on display, but this is the first one in the Smithsonian.