Oak Harbor base opens doors to the public for Prowler sunset

Naval Air Station Whidbey Island is inviting the public to its second annual open house this Saturday, June 27.

The public event punctuates a weekend dedicated to saying goodbye to the EA-6B Prowler and its 45-year history as the Navy’s first electronic attack aircraft.

“It just made sense to do the two events together,” said Mike Welding, public affairs officer for NAS Whidbey Island. “By opening the base to the public, it gives them an idea of what we do and why we do it. And they can see and understand the significance of the aircraft.”

The public will be able to enter the base through Charles Porter Gate off Ault Field Road from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

An invitation-only tribute will be held Friday for hundreds of current and former Prowler crew members, and will pay homage to aviators and maintainers who perished in defense of their nation.

During Saturday’s open house celebration, the last Navy Prowler will depart the airbase for the final time and join several U.S. Marine Corps EA-6B Prowlers for a final formation flyover, marking the end of the Prowler era in Navy aviation.

The Prowler fly away is scheduled between noon and 1 p.m.

Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Fred Wilmot, the pilot who delivered the first EA-6B to the air station in January 1971, will be among the crew members participating in the final flyover.

The Navy has replaced the Prowler with the new EA-18G Growler.

The air station is the Navy’s home base for its electronic attack community including a forward deployed Growler squadron in Japan. As with the Growler, all Prowler squadrons with exception of four Marine Corps EA-6B squadrons, were based at NAS Whidbey. The Navy supports all Department of Defense airborne electronic attack with the Growler aircraft.

At the open house, the public can learn about past, current and future operations at the Navy’s only air station in the Pacific Northwest and  see static displays of all of its assigned aircraft.

Aircraft displays will include the Growler, Prowler, P-3C Orion, MH-60 Knighthawk helicopter, the new C-40 Clipper and a visiting P-8A Poseidon, which will soon replace the P-3.

There will also be other visual displays, guided bus tours, search and rescue and K-9 working dog demonstrations, a bouncy house for children and a climbing wall.

Aviation memorabilia will also be available for purchase as well as a variety of food and beverages.

The event will begin with an all-ages Flight Line 5K Run which will start at 8 a.m. Saturday. T-shirts will be on sale for $15 on day of the event.

Patrons with base access can register online at www.navylifepnw.com and sign up through myFFR, #610087. Civilians without base access can register on the day of the race starting at 7 a.m.