The Coast Guard embraced airplane technology after World War I, opening its first aviation station in 1920 near Morehead City. They flew single-engine Curtis HS-21 flying boats lent by the Navy. Though the planes quickly proved their value in locating ships, funding was eliminated in 1922. The airplane fleet was re-established, and in 1938 Pasquotank voters approved issuing bonds to purchase land south of the city for a large Coast Guard Base. Partially funded through a Works Progress Administration grant, the base was completed in 1939. During World War II, air patrols by the Coast Guard (once again under Navy authority) combined with airship (blimp) patrols from the Weeksville Naval Air Station south of Elizabeth City virtually eliminated previously heavy losses of coastal shipping to German submarines in “Torpedo Junction” off the Outer Banks.
After the war, the old land-based lifesaving stations were gradually decommissioned, the last ones in the 1950s. A large number of the old buildings still stand, some having been converted into dwellings, businesses, restaurants, and offices. A marine Coast Guard presence is still maintained at Hatteras and Oregon inlets and on Ocracoke Island. The base at Elizabeth City has grown into a major facility and is the main air station and rescue base for the mid-Atlantic region between New Jersey and Georgia.