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Orange County

3 Law Agencies Exploring Flight Hub

March 28, 2003|David Reyes | Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles and Orange county sheriff's departments and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration are considering a plan to create a mutual hub for their aircraft at the Joint Forces Training Base in Los Alamitos.

Long Beach and John Wayne airports, where the sheriff's departments now base aircraft, have outlived their usefulness, and a transfer to the Los Alamitos base would provide greater capacity and security, officials for the law enforcement agencies said.

What makes the idea especially appealing is that the military base is regarded as a major component in the Southland's homeland security plan, said Assemblyman Tom Harman (R-Huntington Beach), who supports the idea.

Harman attended a meeting on the proposal at the base Wednesday with representatives of the sheriff's departments and DEA, and officials from Seal Beach and Los Alamitos.

Law enforcement officials said space and flight operations are limited at John Wayne and Long Beach airports.

DEA agents recently were delayed for several hours before they were allowed to fly from Long Beach.

"This idea is conceptual at this time, and there is still much to be done -- many approvals ahead of us," said Capt. Jim DiGiovanna, head of air operations for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.

DiGiovanna said the Sheriff's Department has 15 helicopters and three airplanes and uses Long Beach and satellite airfields in Lancaster and Santa Clarita.

The Orange County Sheriff's Department has two helicopters.

Los Alamitos is one of the most active military airfields in the U.S.

It has supported various mobilizations and deployments, including the Persian Gulf War, Panama and most recently Bosnia.

The base airfield also was used as an assembly area to respond to the Los Angeles riots, the Northridge earthquake, the 1991 Persian Gulf War, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and for the 1984 Summer Olympics and a variety of emergency preparedness exercises.

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