Coast Guard closes seasonal Cold Bay, Alaska forward operating location

An Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter sits inside a hangar located at the Cold Bay forward operating location.

Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak aircrews closed its seasonal forward operating location in Cold Bay, Alaska, March 15, in response to the ending of the winter fishery season.

Ten helicopter aircrews saved 18 lives while it was opened Oct. 2017 to March 2018. The aircrews conducted 15 search and rescue flights, 14 of which were medevacs, totaling more than 50 hours accrued in flight hours. More than 40 flight hours were conducted for aids to navigation repairs and maintenance in the Bering Sea, Bristol Bay and Aleutian Chain.

The Cold Bay FOL consisted of one MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter with a rotating aircrew from Air Station Kodiak.

The ability to have the aircrews deployed to FOL Cold Bay during the winter season is highly effective for search and rescue efficiency and aids to navigation repairs during the harsh winter conditions in Alaska.

Coast Guard aircrews are also responsible for conducting law enforcement missions in efforts to maintain fishing regulations and safety of life at sea compliance. During this season, aircrews conducted 22 law enforcement missions, which encompassed 45 total flight hours.

Cold Bay is one of three FOLs throughout Alaska that are used in varying seasons to reduce response time to mariners in distress.

Although the Cold Bay FOL is closing for the winter fishing season, Air Station Kodiak will still have helicopter and HC-130 aircrews ready to deploy at any time. A MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and crew will also remain deployed on a cutter patrolling the Bering Sea.

“One of the Coast Guard’s core missions is maritime search and rescue,” said Cmdr. Adam Merrill, Air Station Kodiak operations officer. “Especially in Alaska, we exist to provide that service to the commercial fishing fleet. Positioning our aviation assets around the state in response to the seasonal presence of the fishing fleet allows us to respond quickly and safely when mariners find themselves in distress. Our forward operating locations provide proximity to the fleet, and drastically reduce our response times.”

In preparation for an increase in summer maritime activity, Jayhawk helicopters and aircrews are scheduled to deploy to FOLs in Cordova and Kotzebue.