Coast Guard Air Station Miami
Air Station Miami is located at the Opa-Locka airport. In June 1932, Coast Guard Air Station Miami was commissioned at Dinner Key on Biscayne Bay and thus became the first "contemporary" aviation unit in the U.S. Coast Guard. Since then it has evolved into the busiest air/sea rescue unit in the world.
The Air Station's missions include: Maritime Law Enforcement, Military Readiness, Environmental Protection, and its primary mission, Search and Rescue (SAR). To carry out these missions the station operates nine HH-65A "Dolphin" helicopters, eight HU-25C "Night Stalker" fan jets, and one VC-4A turbo prop logistics airplane. The aircraft are supported and operated by a complement of approximately 80 officers and 210 enlisted men and women. CGAS Miami personnel are particularly proud of their participation in over 500 SAR cases each year.
The Seventh District Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET 7) is physically located at Air Station Miami. They are the operational section of the Seventh District Office of Law Enforcement. TACLET 7 conducts law enforcement operations at the direction of the district commander throughout the Seventh District area of operations. TACLET 7 also conducts law enforcement training for all stations and patrol boats in the Seventh District.
The station was originally located on waters-edge at Dinner Key in Coconut Grove. In the early years the wing flew a variety of fixed-wing amphibians. These early fliers were tasked with routine coastal patrols, search and rescue; both maritime as well as aviation related, and additionally were involved in the interdiction of smugglers. With the outbreak of World War II, the Coast Guard pilots from Miami flew such missions as coastal patrols, anti-submarine warfare and convoy support. All of these missions were in addition to the station's primary function as a military search and rescue asset.
By the mid 1950's air crews at Dinner Key were flying the amphibious HU-16 Albatross and a new type of rescue aircraft, a Sikorsky helicopter, designated the HH-19. The South Florida area, Miami in particular, experienced a rapid growth in population beginning in the mid-forties. By the end of the 1950's the area was literally teaming with pleasure boaters. This increase in populace and boating is reflected in the statistics of the time. From 1952 to 1959 the station's search and rescue flying hours increased a whopping 214%. By 1960 the station was flying three amphibians and three helicopters. Together they totaled more than 2,000 hours of actual search and rescue flight hours.
Shortly after the communist takeover of Cuba a small but ever increasing number of Cuban nationals began to make their way across the Florida straits. By April of 1962 the numbers had increased so dramatically that Coast Guard emphasis began to focus on South Florida. Crews from Miami began flying routine patrols in search of exiles lashed to inner tubes, rafts or anything else that could float. Literally thousands of lives were saved; the number of lives lost is unknown. During this period the station replaced its aging reciprocal powered helicopters with the new turbine powered HH-52A.
The unit relocated to Opa-Locka in 1965. The 1970's saw an increased awareness for the need to protect the environment. Illegal dumping of oil by commercial shipping began to threaten Florida's coast. Air Station Miami became actively involved in the detection of spills and locating the offenders. In March of 1977 the ancient HU-16 was replaced with an interim medium range search and surveillance aircraft, the HC-131A Convair. Nicknamed the "Samaritian" these work-horses would be the backbone for "Miami Air's" fixed wing operations for the next five years.
In early 1980 the station was involved in a routine of search and rescue, law enforcement and marine environmental patrols. On 23 April 1980, the government of Cuba opened the Port of Mariel to any Cuban national who cared to depart the island. Thus began a massive civilian boat lift. In two months, and in every conceivable boat, over 100,000 refugees crossed the 100 miles of open sea to Florida. Air Station Miami became the focal point for the Coast Guard's air-sea rescue response. Coast Guard aircraft and crews from stations all over the country were repositioned in South Florida. Miami crews flew endless rescue missions while Miami ground support personnel were tasked with not only servicing Miami aircraft but also those brought in for the operation.
1981 saw the start of another boat lift, this time from Haiti. The U. S. Government entered into and agreement with the Haitian authorities to stop the influx. Air Station Miami has been an important cog in the success of the current Haitian Migration Interdiction Operation. Helo crews on a year round basis are patrolling the waters off Haiti, interdicting and returning the illegal aliens before they reach our waters. This operation has undoubtedly saved hundreds of lives. In February 1982, Vice President Bush announced that a joint federal task force would be formed in South Florida to combat the increasing flood of narcotics. This beefed up effort would once again involve the air station in increased law enforcement patrols and deployments. In October of the same year the station replaced it's HC-131's with six HU-25A Falcons. This sophisticated twin turbine jet is presently highly involved in the interdiction effort.
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