FULLERTON, California -- The city's airfield -- the last municipal airport in Orange County -- is slowly morphing.
It is adding helicopters, 61 new hangars and, in the near future, quarters for so-called very light jets.
It's an auspicious transformation: Eighty years ago this month, the airstrip was transformed from an abandoned sewer farm into a landing field leased by the city to the Chamber of Commerce for $1 per year.
"It's awesome," said Bill Griggs Sr., owner of AFI flight-training services at the airport. "Forty years ago, we had kids hanging on the 4-foot fence watching the planes and getting free rides from pilots.
"Now, there are 8-foot fences and security all around. But if we're not moving forward on the edges of the industry, the airport will go out of business," said Griggs, 80.
The Anaheim Police Department is shifting its helicopter operation from an industrial site in central Anaheim to an 18,240-square-foot hangar at Fullerton Municipal Airport that will house three copters (The California Highway Patrol and the Orange County Fire Authority already base their helicopters at the airport).
Another 61 new hangars for privately owned crafts will be leased for up to $800 per month.
And last year the City Council approved construction of 35,000 square feet of hangar space for so-called very light jets that are deemed quieter than most small aircraft.
"For our purposes, Fullerton airport adds an element of safety and a chance to have an open area to take off and depart with no obstructions, no power lines and a control tower," Anaheim police Lt. Julian Harvey said.
The 61 hangars -- which will push the airfield's number of hangars to 153 -- will cost $6.2 million to build. The cost will be paid off in 15 years by rentals to aircraft owners, city officials say.
Hangar construction is under way and will be completed this year.
In its talks with Anaheim police, the City Council negotiated a 40-year lease agreement with two additional 20-year options; the lease begins at $49,000 per year on the 1.5-acre site.
The introduction of very light jets, manufactured by Honda, Eclipse and Cessna, will bring a new dimension to Fullerton Municipal Airport.
"With the expansion of John Wayne Airport, some corporate hangars will be eliminated," said Brian Prock of Premier Business Properties, which has been cleared by the council to build bays for seven jets.
Nearby 20-year-resident Al Hobson said he isn't bothered by the increased number of helicopters and doesn't foresee problems with light jets. He said there isn't much airport noise and it doesn't upset him.
"That airport is well-managed," he said.
Enhanced security has been installed throughout the 86-acre airport site.
"All I have to do is hit one key on the computer, and I can shut down the entire airport," Airport Manager Rod Propst said. "It's a big change from when grandparents could walk their grandchildren onto the field and let them touch a real airplane," he said.
A home for jets:Premier Business Properties of Anaheim has clearance to build 35,000 square feet of hangar space at Fullerton Municipal Airport for very light jets. Hangar construction is under way and will be completed this year.
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