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Sacramento County Sheriff's Air Squadron
History

Historical Record

Over the years, much infornation about the Sacramento Sheriff's Air Squadron has become lost or misplaced. Perhaps individual members or visitors to this page have personal knowledge of fragments of this data. If you do, please contact the Commander of the Air Squadron and contribute your knowledge of our history.

The Early Years
 
Sheriffs Air Squadrons generally arose in Northern California in the late 1930'-- just before the advent of World War II. The San Francisco Squadron was formed in 1941, just months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The Sacramento group was chartered at about the same time. The founding commander of the Sacramento Squadron was Eugene Hughes. The first organizational meeting was held in the intern quarters at the Sacramento County Hospital by an intern-Doctor George Chappell. The Charter members were Bill Cowan, Bill Walker, Dr. Willard McCurry, airport director Don Smith, as well as Hughes and Chappell. The Sacramento Sheriff who sanctioned the Squadron and was thus also a charter member was Don Cox.

Within a short time, units sprang up throughout the state of California. However, no sooner had these squadrons fonned than World War I1 exploded. When the war struck, private flying was prohibited on the west coast. To operate a civilian aircraft you had to go as far inland as Reno. Essentially therefore, all private flying activities in California came to an abrupt halt. Many of the members of the squadrons become pilots in the Army Air Corp and eventually flew in the war-torn shies of Europe and the Pacific. Those among the current ranks of active members of the squadron who flew in the War are quite modest about their remarkable military achievements.. On a few rare occasions, these gallant gentlemen have modestly shared their experiences with the rest of the n membership and the stories that they have told are indeed the stuff that legends are made of.

The Post-War Era

When the war ended, the squadron quickly reformed and enjoyed great activity in the immediate post-war period. By 1946, the Sacramento unit was well under way again. Doctor Chappell, a charter member, became the first commander of the post-way organization. Air Corp aircraft such as the BT-13, the Boeing Stearman, the D-18 Beech, and a host of other aircraft that had been used for military purposes became available for civilian purchase. In addition the aircraft manufacturers flourished with Cessna, Piper, and Beech leading the way. At the same time many military pilots reentered civilian life. A large number of these aviators desired to remain involved with aviation and many made their aeronautical skills available to the Sheriff's Squadrons. It was not uncommon in those days to see a formation of BT-13's or AT Us, with their big, throbbing, Wasp radial engines, flying into airports about the state displaying the various squadron insignias. During the late forties and the fifties, uniforms where the rigueur for members and were worn on most flights. The squadrons even had specially cast license plate frames for their autos with the Aero Squadrons logo. Fly-in BBQ's, picnics, clambakes, etc. were very popular during this period and frequently also involved wives and lady friends. There where also meets formatted to display aviation skills such as spot-landing contest, flour-bomb competition and toilet paper cutting contest. A great deal of the early local flying activity took place at Phoenix Field in Fair Oaks, now no longer exist. One of the pioneer members, the late Dr. Erle Blunden, a local general surgeon, was instrumental in fostering private aviation in the Sacramento area during the post-war years. He was one of the original founders and developers of Phoenix Field.


There was a great deal of comradeship between various units in the state and this often resulted in joint activities. Many aviation notables were members. Among them were pilots from the motion picture and entertainment industries and such as Edgar Bergen, Bob Cummings; movie stunt pilot, Paul Mantz; writer, Don Dwiggins; and director Henry King. Famous aviators were also on the roster such as Hank Coffin, and Carl Squier. And of course there were individuals in all the units who were steeped in combat experiences from the war. During the Korean Conflict in the last forties and early fifties some of the members again went to war.

Squadron Activities

The squadrons have been very active with Sheriffs' departments performing many law enforcement activities ranging from prisoner transfers to search and rescue missions. The files of the Sacramento Squadron reveals that among the activities were goodwill trips to Mexico, may fly-in festivities, and visits by other units. The members were very involved with the community and once a year conducted a special "Good Will Air Tour" in which local dignitaries and business men were given flights in squadron planes to foster community relations.

In 1955, the Squadron joined other units to participate in a civil defense disaster drill The mission for the air squadrons was to fly blood and emergency medical aid into San Francisco. The landing site was the Marina Greens, a small lawn adjacent to the -San Francisco yacht harbor. A present member of the squadron (RO'D) was a participant in that mission, flying at that time with the San Francisco squadron. It was an amazing scene to see dozens of air squadron aircraft -parked on the small patch of grass and even more spectacular to watch them attempt takeoff.

During the 1970's, the squadron flew river patrol for the Sheriff. The Sacramento unit has consistently made its aircraft available whenever necessary in assisting the sheriff in making trips to areas in the western states. On several occasions, noted criminals have been transported by the squadron at the Sheriffs request, The Sacramento Squadron has enjoyed a very fine relationship with the Sheriffs department and strong mutual cooperation has always existed. Many of the members of the squadron have completed training as California Peace Officers and are designated as reserve deputies. Such officers maintain their proficiency with firearms on the Sheriffs firearm range and also are current in first aid treatment and cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Meetings

In the early years of the Squadron, the meetings were held at the Sutter Club in Downtown Sacramento. However for the past two decades, the squadron has met on the grounds of Sacramento Executive Airport where it has its own building, held under long- term lease arrangements with the County of Sacramento.

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