Claire Wineland isn’t your typical Coastie. She’s only 13-years-old and she was only a Coastie for a day. Claire, who suffers from cystic fibrosis, spent last week fulfilling her dream to visit Alaska and spent the last day of it viewing Sitka and the surrounding area from the cabin of a Coast Guard rescue helicopter.
Post written by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Coast Guard Air Station Sitka personnel welcomed Claire Wineland, a 13-year-old resident of Calabasas, Calif., aboard a training flight to Mt. Edgecumbe volcano and around the City of Sitka on an MH-60T Jayhawk rescue helicopter Friday.
“It was amazing,” said Wineland. “It is hard to explain in a couple of words but it was invigorating.”
Wineland, who is terminally ill, reportedly dreamt of visiting Alaska but was not permitted by her doctor due to her health condition. Wineland’s condition reportedly improved and she has spent the last nine days in Alaska with her family. While at the Alaska Day Celebration in Sitka she witnessed a search-and-rescue demonstration by Coast Guard helicopters. Her family made the request to visit the air station and be allowed to fly.
“It was great fun,” said Lt. Cmdr. Mike Frawley, an MH-60T Jayhawk pilot with Air Station Sitka. “She’s a wonderful little girl and we were so glad she sought us out. It’s days like this that make it easy.”
Coast Guard rescue swimmers presented Wineland with a flight suit with leather name tag. After the flight she was presented a certificate designating her basic aircrew qualified.
Wineland chose to wear the flight suit during her return to California aboard a commercial flight.