On January 18th the Navy celebrated the 100th anniversary of the birth of Naval Aviation. On the Commander, Naval Air Forces, official web site, among all the pictures of sleek and powerful jets, there is a photo of a crude machine that is nevertheless immediately recognizable as a helicopter sitting on two bulbous pontoons. This was the Sikorsky HNS-1, it’s pilot was a pioneering Coast Guard aviator named Frank Erickson. He and the HNS-1 made the first helo rescue in history, Jan. 3, 1944. Flying the strange bird through a true “howling gale,” then LCdr., later Captain Erickson, delivered two cases of urgently needed plasma after a series of explosions on the destroyer USS Turner (DD-648) resulted in her capsizing and sinking while anchored off Ambrose Light, taking 138 crewman, about half the crew, with her. The plasma was credited with saving many of the survivors.
Erickson went on to invent many of the devices and techniques we now take for granted.
To all the Coast Guard aviators, thanks for what you do.
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