By Harlis Brend
Van Nuys Airport (VNY) held a grand opening ceremony on May 31, celebrating the new operating facilities for the city of Los Angeles. The new facilities will house operations for the Los Angeles Fire Department, the Los Angeles Police Department and the General Services Department. James Foley, LAFD battalion chief, served as the master of ceremonies.
In November 2000, Los Angeles voters approved a public safety facilities bond, Proposition F. This new facility was part of the $378.6 million bond allocation. In 2004, construction began on the facilities located on a 15-acre parcel of land; construction finished in 2007, costing nearly $38 million, but well within the project budget.
The 57,000-square-foot Air Operations facility is a working fire station, housing two airport fire rescue apparatus, Crash 114 and Foam 114. Air Operations have a 40,000-square-foot hangar, and the remaining 17,000 square feet are allocated to Fire Station 114, including administrative and support facilities. The GSD facility has 60,000 square feet, including 28,000 of hangar space.
Speaking at the ceremony were members of the Los Angeles City Council. In his remarks, Tony Cardenas, Los Angeles City Council member, 6th District, which includes part of the San Fernando Valley, noted that the new facility is designed to be environmentally friendly.
“This is a green facility. They have taken into account how to save energy, how to save resources and make it a very efficient building. They have gone further than anyone expected,” said Cardenas. Cardenas presented certificates to LADP Air Support, LAFD Station 114 and GSD Helicopter Maintenance.
Wendy Greuel represents the 2nd District, which also includes portions of the San Fernando Valley. She said the new facility is not only for use by the LAFD, LAPD and GSD, but it’s for the benefit of our community and neighborhoods.
“This was made possible by the bond issue (Proposition F), and we thank you,” said Greuel. “This is a great day for Los Angeles, a great day for the fire department and a great day for us, as elected officials, to support you all.”
“This is what we live for in our city, to provide the people of Los Angeles with the greatest service,” stated Thomas La Bonge, council member from the 4th District.
He also thanked LAPD Air Support for its citywide coverage, the GSD for the work that they do all over the city, the Los Angeles Department of Airports for what they do for citizens and visitors, and the LAFD for the great job they do.
“When we talk about state-of-the-art, it means many different things to different people,” said Richard Rouploi, LAPD deputy chief. “This is the best that money can buy—this is truly state of the art. This is a partnership with LAFD, Los Angeles World Airports, the Department of General Services, the Information Technology Agency and other departments. The common goal is public safety.”
Rouploi concluded, “We are here to serve you. I thank you, the voters of Los Angeles, for passing this proposition; without your support, this wouldn’t have happened.”
“We often talk about being the world’s busiest general aviation airport, but we are also the best general aviation airport,” stated Selena Birk, Van Nuys Airport manager for LAWA. “Safety at the airport is number one, and this facility is keyed to both the safety of the facility as well as the safety of the rest of the city.”
Battalion Chief Foley introduced LAPD Officer Richard Aguilar. On Jan. 26, 2005, while on patrol at Van Nuys Airport, Aguilar was involved in a serious vehicle accident that nearly cost him his life; the fire fighters of Station 114 saved him. In appreciation, Aguilar, an accomplished artist, presented a painting entitled “Let Freedom Ring.” The painting will hang in a place of honor in the lobby of Fire Station 114.
Foley concluded the dedication ceremony with special thanks to the members of Fire Station 114, including the pilots, air medics and crash team.
“It’s really an honor to be working with such a dedicated and hard-working group of professionals,” stated Foley.
He said he’s awed and amazed at the things that they do and the personal risks they take each day in their service to the community. He also thanked Fire Station 90 on Woodley Avenue for its continuing support.
Following Foley’s statements, the LAFD senior chaplain, Chief Greg Gibson, gave the benediction.
The original LAFD helicopters were located at Fire Station 90 on the northeast end of the airport at Woodley Ave. In 1970, Air Operations moved to the General Services Department helicopter maintenance facility on the west side of the airport. In 2000, Air Operations moved to a temporary trailer facility located in the ramp area adjacent to the new facility.
The Air Operations section of LAFD provides helicopter support for the department’s emergency and non-emergency activities with a fleet of six helicopters. Currently in use are Bell 412 twin-engine jet turbine helicopters with a 350-gallon water tank. In July 2008, the next generation of helicopters will arrive at Air Operations—the Agusta Westland. The AW 139 helicopter, capable of carrying 420 gallons of water, is said to be safer, faster and more efficient.