COAST GUARD AUXILIARY AVIATOR BADGE

When the Coast Guard Auxiliary was established in 1941, it’s unlikely that Congress or even the Coast Guard itself envisaged the Auxiliary using aviation assets to carry out its mission of assisting the Coast Guard in its various duties, functions, missions, and operations. But Auxiliarists had informally begun using their aircraft in furtherance of the organization’s stated purposes by 1943, and in 1945 Congress passed legislation designating any aircraft assigned to authorized Coast Guard duty as vessels of the Coast Guard and any pilots flying them as Coast Guard pilots.

The first step to earning the Auxiliary Aviator badge is to become a member of AUXAIR, the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Aviation program. (While ownership of a “facility”—i.e., an aircraft, boat, or radio station—is not a requirement for joining the Auxiliary, those seeking to join AUXAIR as pilots are responsible for training and acquiring FAA pilot certification.) Other requisite steps include passing an Personnel Security Investigation, completing courses on the Incident Command System, passing the appropriate Aviation Qualification Examination, and taking Emergency Egress and Water Survival Training courses.

While all Auxiliary Aviators wear the same insignia, there are three qualification levels for pilots. Co-pilots must acquire a minimum of 200 hours as Pilot in Charge (PIC), pass at least a third-class medical examination, take part in tow missions as a trainee, log a dozen hours as PIC every six months, and attend AUXAIR annual seminars. First Pilots must meet all of those requirements, but have accumulated at least 500 flight hours as PIC and be checked out in Search-and-Rescue procedures. The highest qualification, Aircraft Commander, requires the pilot to have logged 1000 hours as PIC and be instrument rated by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Coast Guard Auxiliary Aviators dramatically expand the area that can be covered during Search-and-Rescue operations, one of their primary and most frequent mission types. Others types of missions Auxiliary Aviators might be assigned include Marine Environmental Protection (locating hazardous material leaks, including oil), Law and Treaty Enforcement, Ice Operations (identify and report on blockages caused by ice on rivers and lakes), Logistics (assist in the transportation of equipment and/or personnel).
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