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HUS-1G / HH-34 Seahorse / HH-34 Choctaw

The Coast Guard acquired six HUS-1Gs from Sikorsky in 1959 as a replacement for the HO4S-1G. The HUS-1G had greater range, in part due to a droppable fuel tank, and payload capacity than the older HO4S as well as the latest electronics, automatic stabilization equipment, and a 600-pound capacity hoist. This was the first helicopter acquired by the Coast Guard that had complete instrument capability, making flying at night and in poor weather possible for the first time.

A medium range utility helicopter, its primary mission in the Coast Guard is search and rescue work. It is also suited for transporting personnel and cargo, reconnaissance, and general utility. It has a single four-bladed main motor with a single four-bladed anti-torque rotor. The main rotor blades and the tail rotor pylon are collapsible to facilitate storage. The main cabin is located directly beneath the main rotor with pilots' compartment above and forward of cabin. A Wright engine located in the nose is accessible by clamshell doors. Interior accommodations include side-by-side seating for pilot and co-pilot and 10 seats for passengers in the cabin. Design features include a 600-lb. rescue hoist, automatic stabilization system, towing apparatus, provisions for instruments and night flying, a droppable fuel tank an port side for range extension, and dual control systems. Cargo may be carried in the cabin or by means of an external sling under the fuselage. The HUS-1G is also equipped with modern electronics devices."

Under a DoD directive dated 6 July 1962, the services' standardized all helicopter designations and the HUS-1G became the HH-34F. Coast Guard Air Detachment New Orleans received three of the new helicopters and garnered considerable press coverage over their SAR exploits. The Detachment consisted of six officers and 15 enlisted men. The United Press nicknamed them the "Guardian Angels." During 1959, the Detachment flew 510 helicopter SAR missions with the HH-19G and HUS-1G, covering a total of 53,943 miles.

The service history of the Coast Guard's HUS-12Gs was marred by tragedy. Two HUS-1Gs were lost in Tampa Bay within an hour of attempting to go to the assistance of an Air Force B-47 Stratojet that had ditched in the Gulf of Mexico. A third was lost on 29 November 1962 when HH-34F CG-1336, based at AIRSTA St. Petersburg, crashed in the Gulf of Mexico while hovering near a fishing vessel in distress -- the helicopter's rotor blades may have struck the fishing vessel's rigging. All but one of the crew survived.

The Coast Guard elected not to purchase any further HH-34s after Sikorsky's new turbine-powered HH-52s became available. For the next two decades, the service's future helicopter fleet was made up of strictly HH-52 Seaguards.

The 301st Air Rescue Squadron received credit for the first Air Force Reserve air rescue in January 1957. During that mission, the squadron saved three Airmen off the coast of Cuba after two Air Force B-47 Stratojets collided. After North Korea seized the USS Pueblo in January 1968, the Reserve's 305th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron was mobilized to backfill Air Force rescue requirements around the world as the Vietnam War intensified. In April 1969, the 305th ARRS became involved in a search-and-rescue effort for 31 crew members of a U.S. Navy EC-121 that was shot down by the North Koreans. From January 1968 to June 1969, the unit recorded 6,247 flying hours during its mobilization.

In 1971, the Air Force Reserve began exchanging some of its fixed-wing aircraft for helicopters. This move helped save more lives because the helicopters were able to hover and land in confined spaces. In the years before the implementation of the Total Force Policy, the Air Force Reserve went to great lengths to obtain aircraft. The first Reserve helicopters were refurbished Navy H-34s reclaimed from the boneyard at Davis Monthan AFB, Ariz. The HH-34J Choctaw, with a range of 247 miles, used a single Wright R-1820 radial engine similar to those found on B-17 Flying Fortresses during World War II.

Even with obsolete aircraft, the Air Force Reserve rescue crews made national news in 1972. The 301st ARRS came to the aid of Flight 401, an Eastern Airlines L-1011 that crashed on approach to Miami International Airport in the Florida Everglades. Helicopters from the 301st ARRS launched from Homestead AFB, Fla. The squadron inserted an emergency medical team at the crash site to treat survivors immediately.

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Page last modified: 07-07-2011 02:33:14 ZULU