ATC Mobile celebrates 50 years - FOX10 News | WALA

ATC Mobile celebrates 50 years

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MOBILE, AL (WALA) -

2016 marks the 50th anniversary of the Coast Guard Aviation Training Center in Mobile and the 100th anniversary of Coast Guard Aviation.

ATC Mobile is a multi-mission unit, serving as the Coast Guard's aviation training and capabilities development center, and an operational air station.

Since 1966, the center has been saving lives along the Gulf Coast and training pilots.

"Certainly a lot has changed,” said Captain Thomas MacDonald. “Not only the equipment in the aircraft have changed since 1966 and what we fly now and the capabilities of the Coast Guard, but also training - how we've developed our training and expanded our training."

Coast guard pilots from around the country come to Mobile to learn how to fly different aircraft models including the MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter, the MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, and the HC-144 Ocean Sentry fixed-wing aircraft.

The pilots learn to handle dangerous situations in the air, while staying close to the ground in one of the center’s flying simulators. Only ATC Mobile has flying simulators for the Coast Guard.

In 2015, ATC completed initial training for 92 new pilots, conducted proficiency courses for 595 pilots, and accomplished 34 unit assessment visits across the Coast Guard aviation fleet.

"The whole idea of their training here is to get them ready to go back to their unit where they’ll be standing search and rescue watch,” said Mike Flint who is an Engineering Officer and Instructing Pilot.

In 2015, ATC Mobile went on 180 search and rescue missions, saving 10 lives. They execute missions along the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida.

“Obviously in the Gulf Coast we have industries that spend basically all their time out in the water and when people get in trouble on the water, whether it’s a recreational boat, or commercial fishing, or an oil rig that catches fire, they need somebody out there that can pick them up,” Flint said.

"It's a 365 day a year mission. Right now as we speak there's a coast guard aircraft somewhere in the world saving someone's life," MacDonald said.

According to Flint, the largest portion of people on base are aircraft maintainers who put in hours of work to make sure aircraft is ready for missions and flight training. He says it takes about 20 hours of maintenance for every hour in flight.

The process of becoming a Coast Guard pilot can take years, but the pilots are learning lifesaving skills right here in the Port City.

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