From the Flight Deck

Ramp WalkdownSuccessful conservation of marine and coastal species is accomplished through numerous partnerships between local, state and federal agencies, and non-profit organizations. This is especially true for the Seabird Protection Network. This article is the first of a two-part series about our partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.


“The United States Coast Guard consistently demonstrates unique effectiveness responding to widely varied missions, both planned and emergent. Our response has been built on a foundation of over 223 years of experience, primarily in maritime security, law enforcement, aids to navigation, marine environmental protection and rescue operations, and several key organizational characteristics contribute to our ability to handle successfully a broad range of operational challenges.”
— Vice Admiral John P. Currier, U.S. Coast Guard

What the Vice Admiral did not mention was the Coast Guard’s dedication to the marine environment, both above and below the waterline. What he might also have mentioned was the regular services’ dependence on its all-volunteer component, the Coast Guard Auxiliary. In 1939 Congress established a U.S. Coast Guard Reserve administered by the Commandant of the Coast Guard and composed of unpaid, U.S. citizen volunteers who owned motorboats and yachts. In 1941, Congress created a military reserve and renamed the group the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Since that time, the 35,000 auxiliary volunteers have become a valuable second line resource to the 48,000 Coast Guard service members. In 1944, the Coast Guard, recognizing the benefit of aviation, directed the Auxiliary to form and organize an aviation unit to provide air, sea and land support to maximize operational capabilities, now known as AuxAir. While the Coast Guard Auxiliary is well known especially in the marine environment, few people are aware of the Auxiliary aviation component.

MicoThere are less than 100 auxiliary aircraft facilities throughout the nation and only about 400 auxiliary aviators overall. Here in Coast Guard District 11 North (California, Nevada, and Utah) Squadron 11N has 10 aircraft based at six airports in the Bay Area and Sacramento. Coast Guard Auxiliarists wear the same uniform as their regular service colleagues and Auxiliary aviators wear the familiar green military flight suit adorned with appropriate patches that identify them and the unit to which they belong. When on operations, AuxAir aviators are considered to be Coast Guard pilots and flight crew.

AuxAir pilots come from many backgrounds. Many volunteer pilots are former military personnel, or who wanted, but did not get a chance, to serve; some volunteers are long-time private pilots, and others have gotten involved through a desire to help. The author was recruited by a friend following 9/11 and has since been involved with AuxAir for the past 11 years. Auxiliary aircraft are privately owned, and are flown and maintained by their owners. Owners are reimbursed for fuel and oil and are given a small maintenance allowance. A particular benefit of auxiliary aircraft is the wide range of capabilities each brings to the mission. They range from two to four-seat, single engine to twin-engine types — the latter with six-plus seating capacity. The planes range from very fast, in the 250+-knot speed range, to slower types that are very effective for missions in need of accurate identification and observation at slow speeds.

Since 2011 AuxAir has collaborated with California national marine sanctuaries on wildlife protection…

Stay tuned for more about the partnership in our next newsletter.

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