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Coast Guard delivers upgraded MH-65E helicopters to Sector Humboldt Bay



CGNR 6608 is one of the three MH-65E Dolphin helicopters stationed at Sector Humboldt Bay, California. The Dolphins will assist in search and rescue missions in the extreme weather conditions that the northern California coast faces. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard H-65 Conversion and Sustainment Program delivered CGNR 6603 to Sector Humboldt Bay, California, May 19. With this delivery, 43 of 98 Dolphin short range recovery helicopters have been converted to the “E” configuration, and seven facilities including Humboldt Bay have transitioned to the upgraded aircraft.

The Coast Guard has had a continuous presence at Humboldt Bay since 1856, beginning as the Humboldt Bay Life-Saving Station, with the Coast Guard adopting it as a year-round aviation search and rescue facility in 1977. The Dolphin’s primary mission at Humboldt Bay is search and rescue, which can be harrowing due to the dangerous conditions along the northern California coast. Secondary missions for the Dolphin include aids to navigation, maritime law enforcement and marine environmental protection.

Humboldt Bay is located on California’s remote North Coast, a region frequently threatened by cold Pacific currents, powerful Alaskan winter storms, towering offshore rocks, fog and dangerous harbor entrance bars.

MH-65E display

The upgraded multifunctional displays on the MH-65E’s digital flight deck provide greater situational awareness to pilots, especially in challenging environments such as the Sierras.

The avionics upgrade to the Echo or “E” configuration includes reliability and capability improvements for the automatic flight control system; enhanced digital weather/surface search radar; integration of a robust command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance suite; and modernization of the digital flight deck. Due to the remoteness of the air station and the unit’s vast area of responsibility, aircrews are ever vigilant with monitoring their fuel burn as well as the distance to nearby airfields to land or refuel, said Cmdr. Karyn Forsyth, H-65 program manager who previously was stationed at Humboldt. With the enhanced digital weather/surface radar and digital flight deck, pilots now have greater situational awareness with the upgraded multifunctional displays and have more accurate fuel calculations to remain on-scene and then return to base, she said.

In addition to the upgraded search and rescue capabilities, the advanced navigation capabilities will allow pilots to safely maneuver through highly congested, complex air traffic that can be encountered in situations such as disaster response. With the advanced navigational capabilities, pilots now have the ability to fly routes and procedures that previously could not be utilized in the legacy MH-65D – a critical safety enhancement, especially in this unit’s area of responsibility, Forsyth added.

In conjunction with the upgrades, the Coast Guard is completing service life extension program activities on the Dolphin fleet to replace five major structure components: the nine-degree frame, canopy, center console floor assembly, floorboards and side panels. These mission-critical improvements are designed to extend the service life of the helicopter by 10,000 flight hours.

The Coast Guard is in the process of transitioning all its MH-65 facilities to the upgraded configuration; in addition to Sector/Air Station Humboldt Bay, Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron; Air Station Miami; Air Station Houston; Air Station Port Angeles, Washington: Sector North Bend, Oregon; and Air Station Barbers Point, Hawaii, have transitioned from the MH-65D to the MH-65E. Air Station San Francisco is the next in line to receive the upgraded aircraft. The Coast Guard plans to convert all 98 aircraft to the MH-65E configuration by the end of fiscal year 2024.

For more information: MH-65 Program page