Chapter 4: CGAS Brooklyn – 50th Birthday Party

On 13 and 14 May 1988, under slightly overcast skies, the air station celebrated with a party and an open house.

Saturday, May 13, was the official anniversary ceremony followed with a reception on the station ball field. This day was reserved for Dignitaries, invited guests and The Air Station Personnel.

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At 1330, musical selections were performed by The U. S. Coast Guard Band. At 1400, the arrival of the official party was observed with honors rendered. The official party consisted of Rear Admiral Robert L. Johanson, USCG, First District Commander, Captain Joseph R. Hoosty, USCG, Commanding Officer CGAS Brooklyn, The Honorable Edward L. Koch, Mayor, City of New York, Mr. Sergei Sikorsky, son of Igor Sikorsky and formerly stationed at CGAS Brooklyn, who along with CDR. Frank Erickson developed the hydraulic hoist to be used on helicopters and Mr. Martin Shemmer, former Navy League President.

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At 1405 The National Anthem was played by the band followed by an exhibition by The U. S. Coast Guard Precision Drill Team from Washington D. C. The invocation was delivered by Lt. Janell Nichols, CHC, USNR. Following the invocation, Capt. Hoosty commenced with his welcoming remarks and introduced the official guests. Mayor Koch, introduced by Capt. Hoosty, thanked the Coast Guard and The Air Station for 50 years of loyal service to the City of New York and it’s surrounding areas. With this, the Mayor presented Capt. Hoosty with a proclamation proclaiming May 13, 1988 as ” Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn Fiftieth Anniversary Day in the City of New York”. RADM Johanson made his remarks followed by Mr. Sikorsky and Mr. Shemmer. Benediction was delivered by Lt. Nichols and a reception followed under the awnings set up on the station ball field.

May 14, 1988, was an open house to the public. Thousands of people attended. The hangar had an array of displays set up inside. Coast Guard historical paintings were shipped in from Washington, D.C. and the Air Station had a display of photographs covering its 50 years. The Floyd Bennett Society had a booth with literature about the field. The local RC club brought in many radio controlled aircraft from helicopters to jets for display. Also on display was a multitude of search and rescue equipment including the original hoist developed at the station. At the conclusion of festivities, this hoist was donated to the Pensacola Aviation Museum to be inducted into the Coast Guard Wing of the museum.

Outside, the station grounds were covered with many different helicopters. Represented were The U. S. Navy, Army, Marine Corps, New York City Police Department, U.S. Park Police and a civilian version of the H- 65.

With Air Station Brooklyn being the ” birthplace of the helicopter, rescue hoist and sling”, it was only fitting that the Coast Guard have a special helicopter on display. For this, HH-52A CGNR 1428 was flown in from Air Station Detroit. This may not seem so special, but it’s a little known fact that the 1428 has the honor of having performed the most recorded rescues of any aircraft to this day.

With the lack of runways and the close proximity to the JFK TCA, one would not have expected any aerial displays. To the pleasure of all in attendance, several displays did occur. An air station H-65 demonstrated the versatility of the aircraft as well as a hoisting demonstration from a Station Rockaway 41 foot Utility Boat and Four A-10’s flew over the station in formation. The crowds of visitors gathered at the seawall to observe the NYPD demonstrate the deployment of their scuba team from a helicopter.

One comical moment to the afternoon came when it was announced the NYFD would demonstrate their fireboat. The demonstration was to be the shooting of colored water high into the sky similar to the honor given to ocean liners entering New York Harbor on maiden voyages. With the crowds gathered at the seawall and the fireboat in position 100 yards or so off the seawall, the show began. Unfortunately, the easterly wind of 15 to 20 knots quickly pushed the crowds back as the misty water was blown ashore. On a drier note, on the Coast Guard runway, the RC club entertained the crowd with aerial demonstrations of radio controlled helicopters, planes and jets.

Finally, in the distance, the purr of radial engines could be heard approaching. A sound that was all too familiar over Floyd Bennett Field decades ago, four old SNJ Navy Trainers, now employed as sky typers, flew over trailing their plumes of colored smoke.

As the day moved on, the crowds dwindled and the open house came to a close. By afternoon on Monday, May 15, all visiting aircraft had departed and it was back to the task at hand …

Day one of the next 50 years of United States Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn, N.Y.