Kodiak Coast Guard gets new and improved aircraft

A new HC130-J will replace the HC-130H at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak. The fixed-wing aircraft will help drop survival gear and other duties. (Photo by Kayla Desroches/KMXT)es

Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak just received the first of five newer, more technologically advanced aircraft.

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The HC-130J replaces the HC-130H that the Coast Guard base Kodiak has been operating since the 1980s.

Each model J costs $85 million, and the fixed-wing aircraft assists in dropping survival equipment and enforcing maritime law, among its other duties.

A crowd of air station members – some with their families – have gathered to watch a welcoming ceremony.

The new model J taxis down to Hangar 1 through streams of water from two fire engines on either side of the runway.

Air Station Commanding Officer Capt. Brian Daley said pilots will transition between flying the older model and the J.

“The pilots can fly one, can’t fly the other. It’s totally different when you walk inside. And Alaska’s a very unforgiving environment,” Daley said. “Teaching the guys to fly up here is a challenge, and so for this next year, we’re focusing on getting our pilot and aircrew proficient in the aircraft.”

The new model J looks pretty similar to its predecessor, the model H. But it’s apparently a lot quieter.

Lt. Cmdr. Hunter Atherton is stationed in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and he’s one of the pilots to fly the J into Kodiak.

“Some people really like the roar of the H model and this one doesn’t quite have that, but it is a lot more efficient overall.. they’re both good,” Atherton said. “I’ll definitely miss flying Hs now that I’m flying Js.”

Atherton said the model J may look the same as the model H from the outside, but it comes with a few improvements: a more powerful engine, more automation and a better navigation system.

Atherton said the plane’s extra features could help cut through challenges pilots face landing in Alaska.

“Having access to a plane that’s gonna have GPS based approaches in the near future, which the J model will have hopefully in the next couple of years. That’s huge,” Atherton said. “That’ll be huge for Kodiak to be able to have access to airplanes with that capability.”

Atherton said Kodiak is the only other station where the J is being used. According to the Coast Guard, Kodiak’s four other aircraft should arrive by fall 2019 and the program aims to have 22 nationwide.