Photos: Coast Guard Air Station Cape Cod

The Northeast’s only air station shares in the USCG’s century of flying.


With the new year comes the start of the second century that U.S Coast Guard aviators have guarded American shores. Along with stations across the county, USCG Air Station Cape Cod — the Northeast’s only air station— celebrated the recent centennial.

The station’s personnel guard the Atlantic from Washington County, Maine, on the Canadian border to the New Jersey border along the Hudson River. From planes and helicopters, crews from the station enforce the law, ensure national security, and protect oceanic resources. They also patrol for icebergs, provide logistical support to other branches of the military, and aid in the upkeep of buoys, daybeacons, and light structures. However, the aircraft from Air Station Cape Cod and the women and men who crew and support them are best known as part of the world’s foremost maritime search-and-rescue agency.

The Coast Guard launched its aviation service in 1916 with a loaned Curtiss flying boat, a type of amphibious biplane, at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Fla. In 1923, the Guard established Massachusetts’ first air station at the Naval Air Base in Squantum (Quincy). After relocating twice before 1970, the air station moved to Sandwich on Cape Cod.

Coast Guard aircraft flew out from two distinct Massachusetts stations after Squantum and prior to Air Station Cape Cod: In 1925, the first standalone USCG Air Station was built on 3.5-acre Ten Pound Island in Gloucester Harbor; a Vought UO-4, another type of biplane and one of the first Congressionally funded aircraft the USCG ever used, patrolled from that station. In 1935, the growing USCG moved the station to 45-acre Winter Island in Salem Harbor. By the end of the 1960s, that island also proved too small. In 1970, Grumman HU-16 Albatrosses and Sikorsky HH-3F Pelicans, amphibious planes and helicopters, respectively, were transferred from Air Base Salem to a portion of the 21,000-acre Massachusetts Military Reservation (now known as Joint Base Cape Cod). From then on, USCG aviation began to evolve away from amphibious aircraft. Air Base Cape Cod continues to protect and serve an immense expanse of American water. And it shows no signs of relocating elsewhere from its midpoint on the Northeast coast.

The Times visited Air Station Cape Cod earlier this year. In recognition of the USCG centennial, the paper has assembled images from that visit.