Hall of Honor

The Coast Guard Aviation Hall of Honor recognizes those who have made outstanding contributions to U.S. Coast Guard Aviation through sustained superior performance, significant achievement in technology or tactics, and unique or extraordinary accomplishments in flight.

HITRON-10 Proof of Concept Team

AUF Pilots:  CDR Mark Torres, LCDR Dennis Dickson, LT, Timothy Tobiasz , CDR Patrick Merrigan , LCDR Stewart Dietrick , LCDR Scottie Womack , LCDR Jason Church , LTJG Vincent Van Ness , LT Thomas Gaffney

AUF Aviation Gunners:  AD1 Raymond Stobinski, Jr., AM2 Gordon Brousseau, AE2 Jd Lawrence, AD2 Charlie Hopkins, Ad3 Richard Forbes

The Helicopter Interdiction Tactical Squadron Ten (Hitron-10) proof of concept team is cited for outstanding contributions to U.S.. Coast Guard aviation through their superior performance, and having a lasting positive impact in the technical and tactical development of Coast Guard aviation’s airborne use of force (AUF) mission.

From September, 1998, through March, 2000, this selected team of fourteen Coast Guard aviators, nine pilots and five flight mechanics, set out to develop and operationally test new equipment, tactics, and operational procedures, to bring about a non-lethal use of force concept against go-fast boats to tactical reality. During this short 18 month period, the team used leased, non-standard MH-90 helicopters, integrating a mix of lethal and non-lethal technology, along with state-of-the-art sensors, night vision devices, and communications equipment, and developed highly aggressive and effective offensive and defensive tactics never before attempted by rotary wing aircraft.

The squadron completed a series of six operational deployments during operation new frontier, to test the new concept in day and night conditions, successfully interdicting six drug smuggling vessels, apprehending 20 smugglers, and seizing over 14,000 pounds of marijuana and cocaine.

The team’s superior performance and outstanding operational achievement in creating, developing, testing, and successfully implementing the AUF from Coast Guard helicopters to stop go-fast vessels trafficking drugs on the high seas, has had one of the most lasting impacts on Coast Guard aviation in its history, and created a unit that would fundamentally change both Coast Guard aviation and our national drug interdiction strategy for decades to come.

Vice Admiral John P. Currier, USCG (RET.)

Vice Admiral John P. Currier, Coast Guard Aviator no. 1877, and Ancient Albatross no. 23, is recognized for extraordinary achievement and enduring contributions to coast guard aviation, as a gifted and courageous pilot, bold innovator, legendary leader, and engaging mentor.

During his first tour of duty as a helicopter pilot, VADM Currier earned the distinguished flying cross, and the harmon trophy for the night offshore rescue of ten men from a burning fishing boat. He later earned air medals along with recognition from national aviation organizations for two other highly challenging rescues.

During the many years he served at coast guard headquarters, VADM Currier’s unwavering stewardship resulted in monumental advancements in coast guard aviation. As an aeronautical engineering program manager, he was directly instrumental in the acquisition of the HH-60J. As assistant commandant for acquisition, he became an ardent advocate of the HC-130J acquisition, taking action to consummate the project while serving as chief of staff. Ascending to vice commandant, he arranged the transfer of fourteen C-27 medium range surveillance aircraft from the U.S. Air force, when the HC-144 procurement was reduced in scope, during a period of increasing operational tempo. He later directed installation of a new mission sensor package , which enhanced C41SR capability and interoperability with a lower total ownership cost. In response to a serious aviation mishap trend, VADM Currier guided a structured operational risk assessment and directed corrective actions which yielded a remarkable improvement in aviation professionalism and safety. Before retirement, VADM Currier made a legacy contribution to uscg aviation by facilitating a project to provide the first coast guard aircraft exhibit in the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum.

Throughout his 38-year career, VADM John Currier served his country with great skill, devotion, and determination. His caring leadership enhanced the pride and professionalism of thousands of coast guard men and women – within the aviation community and beyond.

The Rescue of the Crew of the Scalloper TERRY T

VADM Howard B. Thorsen, USCG (Ret.)

Vadm Howard B. Thorsen, USCG, CG Aviator 776, Coast Guard helicopter pilot no. 442, and Ancient Albatross no. 13, is cited for his outstanding contributions to U.S. Coast Guard Aviation. Vice Admiral Thorsen, exemplifying superior performance, ushered in a new Coast Guard aircraft with revised operational practices for greater success.

In summer, 1974, assigned to the new short-range recovery (SRR) aircraft characteristics board (ACB), Commander Thorsen established new mission-performance standards for SRR helicopters replacing the HH-52A helicopter fleet. Captain Thorsen, assigned from July 1977 to June 1980, as chief, aeronautical engineering division, headed the source selection advisory committee (SSAC), and was designated SRR project officer. Captain Thorsen led teams of U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard specialists through all helicopter acquisition phases. Examination of capabilities and flight tests involved evaluation of candidate aircraft from Textron Bell, Sikorsky Aircraft, and Aerospatiale. Captain Thorsen engaged in contract negotiations and bid reviews, which culminated in a contract for ninety-six, HH-65A aircraft.

The present MH-65E evolved through various modifications from the first HH-65A, which began operations in november 1984. Planned changes to this successful helicopter series project the MH-65’5 useful service life to 2027. Thus, Vice Admiral Thorsen’s expertise as the SSAC head and SRR project officer formed a lasting impact on U.S. Coast Guard aviation for over 40 years.

Vice Admiral Thorsen’s professionalism, leadership, vision, aviation proficiency, and dedication to service are in keeping with the highest standards and traditions of U.S. Coast Guard Aviation and the Coast Guard Aviation Association.

Lieutenant Luke Christopher, USCG Aviator 16

Lieutenant Luke Christopher is recognized for his superlative contributions to early coast guard aviation as a highly experienced instructor and test pilot, at a time when there were few airplanes and even fewer qualified aviators to fly them. He had roughly 4,000 flight hours in military and civil aircraft of every type. Christopher served as a test pilot for the national advisory committee on aeronautics, and as secretary of the contest committee of the national aeronautic association. Commissioned as a lieutenant (temporary) on October 2, 1931, he was directed by the chief, aviation division to inspect, test and ferry many aircraft obtained from a variety of sources during a period of rapid expansion. He served with distinction at air stations cape may and Gloucester, and was assigned as commanding officer of the air patrol detachment at San Diego. Among many exploratory expeditions, he flew the commandant over the great lakes and western division commanders over the pacific northwest, at a time when weather forecasting and navigational aids were primitive. Christopher was killed on December 5, 1936, at Assateague Harbor, Virginia, during the medical evacuation of a tanker seaman with appendicitis. His rd-4 Adhara (v-111) was gaining takeoff speed when a pontoon snagged on a partially submerged fishing net and spun the plane around violently. He received the gold lifesaving medal for “heroic daring in endeavoring to save a man from the perils of the sea”. He was the coast guard’s first direct commissioned aviator.


Rear Admiral Benjamin M. Chiswell

Rear Admiral Chiswell’s vision of the use of airplanes in the Coast Guard led to meetings between aircraft builder Glenn Curtiss and Treasury Department authorities, from which the concept of Coast Guard Aviation was born. In addition, he created the first operational Air Units and is rightfully regarded as the Father of Coast Guard Aviation.


Rear Admiral Norman B. Hall 

Shipmates with Commander Chiswell and Lieutenant Stone, both members of the Coast Guard Aviation Hall of Fame, Rear Admiral Hall was one of the pioneers of Coast Guard Aviation. He was considered the Coast Guard’s first Aviation Engineer and is recognized for his enduring contributions to Coast Guard Aviation.


Commander Elmer Stone

Coast Guard Aviator #1, Commander Stone served as pilot aboard the NC-4 aircraft during the first transatlantic flight of any aircraft in 1919.  He set the world speed record for amphibious planes in 1934, and was a pioneer in the use of aircraft for rescue and patrol missions.


Captain Carl Christian Von Paulsen 

Designated Coast Guard Aviator #6 in 1920.  After Coast Guard Aviation was discontinued due to lack of congressional support, Captain Von Paulsen established a makeshift Air Station using borrowed planes to provide aerial surveillance for liquor smuggling interdiction.  His great success in this program led to reestablishment of Coast Guard Aviation.


Captain William Kossler 

As a member of the interagency board researching rotary wing aircraft, Captain Kossler persuaded military leaders to approve helicopter development by the armed forces.  Captain Kossler was designated Coast Guard Aviator #43 and is rightfully regarded as the driving force that brought the helicopter into military aviation.


Captain Frank Erickson 

Captain Erickson was designated Coast Guard Aviator #32 in 1935, and became Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot #1.  Captain Erickson flew on the first-ever helicopter life-saving mission and is internationally recognized for his pioneering of helicopter rescues, hydraulic hoist systems, and flight stabilization equipment.  Erickson Hall, where the Coast Guard’s aircraft flight simulators are located in the Aviation Training Center, Mobile is named in his honor.


Commander Stewart Graham 

Commander Graham was designated Coast Guard Aviator #114 in 1942 and Coast Guard Helicopter Pilot #2 in 1943.  He was the leading pilot in pioneering helicopter Anti-Submarine Warfare tactics, and trained Navy pilots to conduct these critical missions.  Commander Graham was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, 2 Air Medals, and was commissioned a Knight of the Order of Leopold of Belgium for helicopter rescues.



Chief Machinist’s Mate Berry was one of the world’s first helicopter maintenance specialists. A distinguished expert mechanic on original Coast Guard aircraft including landplanes and seaplanes as well as helicopters, he was lead instructor at the very first United States military helicopter training unit. He contributed significantly to a 1946 world renowned rescue of airliner crash victims in Newfoundland which required the rapid dismantling, air transport and reassembly of vintage USCG helicopters. Of exemplary character, extraordinary technical knowledge, exceptional planning talent, and superior leadership traits, his untiring quest for excellence established the ensuing high standards characterizing Coast Guard aviation maintenance.


Lieutenant Commander August “Gus” Kleisch

Lieutenant Commander Kleisch was designated an Enlisted Aviation Pilot in 1935, and later, Coast Guard Aviator no. 109, after commissioning in 1942.  In 1943, he qualified as Coast Guard helicopter pilot no. 5, at Coast Guard Air Station Brooklyn, NY, at Floyd Bennett field.
In 1945, LCDR Kleisch pioneered the first use of a training helicopter to rescue seven crewmembers of a Canadian PBY aircraft, forced down in a remote area of Labrador, as well as delivering two medical officers to sustain survivors.   For his heroism and innovation, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross by the U.S. Navy, and the Canadian Air Force Cross by Canada’s prime minister.
In September 1946, LCDR Kleisch was awarded the Air Medal, and was commissioned a Knight of the Belgian Order of Leopold, for the helicopter rescue of eight survivors of the Sabena airliner crash in Newfoundland.  Later in his career, he was awarded a second Air Medal for persisting in a helicopter search that resulted in saving the life of a teenage boy suffering from exposure.
Throughout his Coast Guard career, LCDR Kleisch willingly accepted novel and dangerous missions, and demonstrated sound and superb airmanship in a large variety of seaplanes, landplanes, and helicopters, while saving numerous lives.  His courage, innovation, and dedication to duty, reflected great credit upon the U.S. Coast Guard in the international community, as well as among the U.S. Armed Forces.


bottoms_miniatureLieutenant John A. Pritchard, Jr.
Radioman 1/C Benjamin A. Bottoms 

LT Pritchard, Coast Guard Aviator #82, andRadioman 1/C Bottoms made the ultimate sacrifice while attempting to rescue the crew of an Army Air Corps B-17 on a Greenland icecap in 1942.


Captain Donald MacDiarmid 

Graduate of the Coast Guard Academy in 1929 and designated Coast Guard Aviator #59, Captain MacDiarmid became the recognized authority in open sea landings and ditchings in seaplanes, and procedures for maritime aviation search, rescue, and survival.  Captain MacDiarmid also commanded the first overseas Coast Guard Patrol squadron during World War II.

The Aviation Maintenance Specialists of World War II

Commissioned from the enlisted ranks during World War II, this select group established the tradition of professionalism and competence that is the hallmark of today’s maintenance and repair activity. They set the standard for the exceptional level of safety and readiness of the Coast Guard’s current Aviation Operations.


Lieutenant Jack Rittichier

Designated Coast Guard Aviator #997, Lieutenant Rittichier volunteered for an exchange tour with the Air Force and served as a helicopter rescue pilot in Viet Nam. Lieutenant Rittichier was killed while attempting to rescue a downed airman in hostile territory on June 9th, 1968.  Lieutenant Rittichier was awarded the Silver Star, the Distinguished Flying Cross, and the Purple Heart.  A hangar at Coast Guard Air Station Detroit is dedicated in his honor.


LT Richard. V. Butchka
LCDR Joseph L. Crowe
LT Lance A. Eagan
LT Robert E. Long
LTJames M. Loomis
LT Roderick Martin III
LCDR Lonnie L. Mixon
LT James C. Quinn
LT Robert T. Ritchie
LT Jack C. Rittichier
LT Jack K. Stice


    During the Vietnam conflict, these United States Coast Guard Aviators voluntarily served with high honor and distinction with the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Rescue and Recovery forces in Southeast Asia in the dual role of aircraft commanders and instructor pilots. They regularly risked their lives flying into harms way to save airmen in peril of death or capture. Their significant contributions and exceptional performance were highly commended by the Air Force with the award of four Sliver Stars, sixteen Distinguished Flying Crosses, and eighty-six Air Medals in addition to many other recognitions. They carried out their noble mission with heroism and a focus on duty, honor, country and the Coast guard. Their actions brought honor on themselves, the United States of America, the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Coast Guard.


    Commander Frank Lawlor Shelley

    Then-LCDR Shelley exercised extraordinary leadership, management, and technical skills in development of operational flight and training procedures to test, acquire, and deploy the Sikorsky HH-52A helicopter. This aircraft established the primacy of the helicopter as a rescue vehicle, changing the face of Search and Rescue. As a graduate of Navy Test Pilot School, he used keen technical and interpersonal skills to complete the evaluation in only four months. All modifications were accepted by the manufacturer. During evaluation, LCDR Shelley applied turbine engine and translational lift characteristics of the helicopter to develop a pilot-controlled procedure to transition the helicopter from forward flight to a hover without visual reference to the sea surface. This “beep to a hover” maneuver subsequently saved countless lives. He was instrumental in the development of a new Coast Guard standardized training/transition policy leading to establishment of a Basic Operational Training Unit at Savannah and eventually Aviation Training Center Mobile. After acquisition of the first of 99 HH-52A helicopters in 1963, LCDR Shelley co-authored a plan for future operating locations to complete implementation of the Aviation Master Plan. In nearly 50 years thereafter, the only modifications were the decommissioning of one air station and consolidation of two others.

    gib brown-small

    Commander  Gilbert “Gib” Brown

    Graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1956, Coast Guard Aviator #795, CDR Brown was the architect of the Coast Guard flight simulation training program.  Over a four year period, he sought funding, oversaw design, procurement, construction and implementation of the first full motion flight simulators in the country. The flight simulators were fully integrated with pilot training and revolutionized Coast Guard flight training by reducing training costs and significantly improving aviation safety. The Coast guard was the first service that authorized instrument ratings based strictly on simulator flight time.


    Master Chief Aviation Survivalman
    Larry E. Farmer

    Master Chief Petty Officer Farmer developed and implemented USCG Rescue Swimmer training and operational programs. Volunteering for and successfully completing the U.S. Navy Rescue Swimmer School, he then coordinated with the staff of the Coast Guard Commandant and assigned instructors to develop specific operational and safety procedures and equipment necessities reflecting unique Coast Guard mission requirements. His exemplary professional knowledge and capability, superior leadership and character traits, boundless energy and high performance standards were greatly responsible for a successful accelerated service-wide establishment of a highly effective and nationally acclaimed rescue program directly responsible for saving thousands of lives.


    Commander Bruce E. Melnick 

    Designated Coast Guard Aviator #1671 and Coast Guard Astronaut #1, Commander Melnick graduated from the United States Coast Guard Academy in 1972.  Following a tour at sea, then Navy Flight Training, he was designated as Coast Guard Aviator in 1974.  Commander Melnick was selected for the NASA astronaut program in 1987 and designated the first Coast Guardsman to fly in space.  He flew on Discovery in 1990 and Endeavor in 1992.


    Captain Daniel Christopher Burbank

    Graduated from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in 1985, with a BS in electrical engineering.  After a tour afloat, CAPT Burbank received his naval aviator wings in 1988, and was designated CG aviator no. 2672.  He served as the aeronautical engineering officer, search and rescue, and instructor pilot at three CG air stations, where he amassed over 3,500 flight hours, while flying more than 1,800 missions, including over 300 SAR cases, as an HH-3F and HH-60J pilot and aircraft commander.
    In May 1996, then LCDR Burbank was selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration as an astronaut candidate, and later was designated CG astronaut no. 2.  Before flying, he helped design a much needed avionics upgrade for the nation’s space shuttle.  He served as mission specialist on STS-106 in 2000, which delivered more than three tons of equipment to help build the international space station.  In 2006, he again served as mission specialist on STS-115, and executed a seven hour space walk for maintenance on the ISS.
    After leaving NASA in 2006, CAPT Burbank returned to the U.S. Coast Guard academy in 2007 as a professor, where he instructed cadets in several engineering disciplines.  After 24 years of coast guard service, CAPT Burbank retired in 2009 from active duty.
    He then returned to NASA and the space program, participating in several ISS expedition missions, specifically ISS 29 and ISS 30, where he was the commander.  In total, CAPT Burbank spent over 248 days in space.
    His medals include the Defense Superior Service Medal with one star, Legion of Merit, Air Medal, two CG Commendation Medals, NASA Exceptional Service Medal, NASA Space Flight Medal with three stars, and other recognitions.

    2016 Roost Recognition: VIDEO   PHOTO GALLERY


    Les HighCaptain Leslie (Les) High, USCG (ret.)

    Graduated from the us coast guard academy in 1946.

    After two tours aboard coast guard cutters, and a tour as commanding officer of loran station Kwajalein, he attended naval flight school and received his wings of gold in 1950. He was designated CG Aviator no. 549. During his early career, he flew both fixed and rotary wing aircraft, amassing over 5,500 accident free flight hours at four different air stations.

    While assigned at the U.S. Coast guard academy, as the only aviation instructor, he developed a keen interest in improving the training of coast guard aviation personnel.

    As commanding officer of CG Air Station Savannah’s BOTU, he oversaw the development of vastly improved training procedures for helicopter aircrew. His next assignment in 1966 was as project officer/PXO of the new CG Air Station Mobile, AL. This assignment permitted him to expand his efforts to improve the training of all fixed-wing and rotary-wing aviators, and led to the eventual establishment of the CG Aviation Training Center, Mobile,AL, in 1972.
    During his headquarters tour as chief of education, training and procurement, he established policies and procedures which led to the establishment in 1978 of the Aviation Technical Training Center, Elizabeth City, NC.

    Captain High’s dedication to improving the training and standardization of CG pilots and aircrew personnel, was directly responsible for safer and more efficient aviation operations over the last 50 years.

    2016 Roost Recognition: VIDEO    PHOTO GALLERY

    Sept 1987 – June 1990



    FinsThese energetic, collaborative, and problem-solving, aviation Survivalman (ASM) instructors, within a varyingly challenging period of seismic change, created the next generation of their expanding cadre, retained the flightcrew maturity and survival equipment expertise of some fine petty officers, and set a foundation for future training and operational successes in USCG aviation. They shepherded rookies and older ASMs alike, on a path of triumph, through the rigorous training required to become helicopter rescue swimmers (RSS). When the Navy’s RS school was suddenly shut down for six months, they developed and conducted a USCG RS course, whose grads then enabled seven critical units to start deploying RSS. These and many other efforts contributed mightily in making the USCG helicopter rescue swimmer program come to fruition, and to sustain itself into the future.

    2016 Roost Photo Gallery