WASHINGTON – The U.S. Coast Guard announced today that its HH-65C Dolphin helicopter fleet recently completed 1 million flight hours when a crew from Air Station Barbers Point flew a life-saving medical evacuation mission off the Big Island of Hawaii the night of Sept. 20.
“The millionth flight hour was accomplished during a medevac mission from Coast Guard Air Station Barbers Point, and it shows the longevity and importance of the airframe in the Coast Guard,” said Cmdr. Todd M. Coggeshall, HH-65C platform manager at Coast Guard headquarters. “We have 95 aircraft flying 655 program flight hours annually, per aircraft. That is a credit to the maintainers that have kept it going for more than 20 years.”
The Dolphin is a linchpin of Coast Guard aviation, contributing to the lion’s share of the service’s rotary wing time-in-flight. The Dolphins recently underwent an engine replacement to boost their power, and they annually contribute approximately 45 percent of the Coast Guard’s total flight hours for both rotary and fixed wing aviation.
The medical airlift that originated from Air Station Barbers Point involved HH-65 number 6505 led by mission commander Lt. Dan Long and assisted by co-pilot Lt. Chris Finch; aviation mechanic Petty Officer Wayne Caetano and rescue swimmer Petty Officer Jason Schelin.
With support from a Coast Guard C-130 aircraft that flew as cover, the Coast Guard air crew located the Taiwanese-based long-line fishing vessel Darlong Hsing 21 approximately 176 nautical miles east of Hilo, Hawaii. A crewmember aboard the vessel experienced chest pains and required medical attention. After a challenging rescue hoist from the vessel in four to six-foot seas, the aircrew transported the 50-year-old patient to a waiting emergency medical services team at Hilo International Airport.
“The HH-65C is truly a reliable and capable asset that forms the ‘backbone’ of Coast Guard Aviation,” said Cmdr. Thomas G. Nelson, executive officer at Air Station Barbers Point. “Through experience and persistence the people behind Coast Guard aviation have made this aircraft into something we can all truly be proud of.”
The Coast Guard recently replaced the engines in all 95 of its operational HH-65 helicopters as the first of three phases, providing two Turbomeca Arriel 2C2-CG turbo-shaft engines that deliver approximately 40 percent improved performance and reliability. These upgrades also allowed for safety and easier maintenance for the Dolphin fleet. When the second and third phases of the upgrade are completed, the HH-65s will be designated “Multi-Mission Cutter Helicopters.”
At the Coast Guard’s Aircraft Repair and Supply Center in Elizabeth City, N.C., government and industry diligently work together for the maintenance and overhaul of the HH-65C fleet, including the addition of new engines to 83 aircraft. Twelve Coast Guard HH-65Cs were re-engined at American Eurocopter’s facility in Columbus, Miss.
The engine replacement project is part of the Coast Guard’s 25-year, $24 billion Integrated Deepwater System program that will deliver more than 91 cutters; 195 aircraft; command, control, communication, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment; and integrated logistics support capabilities. Additionally, the Coast Guard is modernizing legacy shore facilities, surface and air platforms as part of the Deepwater Program.
For more information and to download a fact sheet on the HH-65C, visit http://www.uscg.mil/acquisition.