Today, at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, aviation history was made – Coast Guard aviation history.
With the Phoenix Induction Ceremony of the HH-52A Seaguard helicopter, tail number 1426, the service will have a representative aircraft in the Smithsonian Institution, along with aircraft from the other military branches.
It was a decade-long project, coined Project Phoenix, to find an airframe: 1426 became the “Phoenix Rising.”
Since 2016 marks the Coast Guard’s centennial of aviation, the event is apropos.
“The big driver for this happening is Coast Guard aviation’s 100th anniversary …,” said Cmdr. Michael Frawley, systems management chief for the office of aeronautical engineering at Coast Guard Headquarters in a Coast Guard news release by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nate Littlejohn. “This was the time to make this happen.”
“The arrival of the 1426 and its subsequent display in the museum presents not only an opportunity to demonstrate the importance of Coast Guard aviation to American life, but to illustrate the role of the helicopter and what it can do for humanity in general,” said Roger Connor, museum specialist and curator of the vertical flight collection, in the release.
HH-52A Seaguard 1426 has a storied past of saving people’s lives, but one particular search and rescue mission stands out as one of the greatest in Coast Guard history: Its crew rescued 22 survivors from the burning tanker Burmah Agate and freighter Mimosa after the two vessels collided near Galveston, Texas, on Nov. 1, 1979.
The induction was made possible by the Coast Guard Aviation Association after a lengthy search for a structurally sound Seaguard helicopter suitable for museum-quality restoration. It was a decade-long project, coined Project Phoenix, to find an airframe: 1426 became the “Phoenix Rising.”
The ceremony took place at 10:30 a.m. at the Udvar-Hazy Center on the main floor at the north end of the museum. The museum was open to the public and additional spectators were welcome to attend the ceremony.
HH-52s were the first amphibious helicopters and the airframe holds the record for the most lives saved – some 15,000 – of any helicopter.
Click the image below to view the dedication ceremony publication.