A Base Air Program to End Saturday

Just before the ceremony marking the end of Naval Base Coronado's C-12 program, operations officer Andy Jouhal stands before one of the Beechcraft planes that will soon leave North Island for good.

No one is quite sure how long the C-12 program has been running out of Naval Base Coronado, except that it’s been quite a long time.

Lt. Cmdr. Nick Byrd, one of nine pilots who fly the remaining three planes, took a shot online and found that the Navy purchased the planes in the late ’70s, so they must have come to Coronado soon afterward.

They will leave Saturday, when the last C-12 flight departs the base. The program is a victim of cost-cutting measures taking place at installations across the country.

The planes, typically Beechcraft King Airs, are in place for short hops to Navy posts around the region and beyond. Pilots also fly important guests of the Navy from Sen. John McCain, a former POW, to celebrities like one-time hiphop star (and Navy enlistee) MC Hammer.

The program will continue to operate in the other military branches and in the Navy, out of Maryland and overseas. The pilots who flew the planes locally will be reassigned.

Capt. Yancy Lindsey, the base’s commanding officer, estimates the Navy will save up to $2 million by eliminating the C-12 program out of Coronado, a decision made in Washington D.C.

As the Navy focuses more tightly on its mission,  Lindsey said recently at a brief ceremony for the pilots, “these are the kinds of things that will have to go by the wayside.” He said the group was like “a mini-squadron.”

One of it members, Byrd, stationed in Coronado for three years, is preparing to transfer to Norfolk once the program ends. Flying in the C-12 program was an opportunity to keep up his flight hours while doing shore duty.

“So now I’ve got to pay for my own flying,” he said, laughing.