Friday, July 01, 2011

A.B.L.E.'s Wake

Thursday afternoon I was honored to be invited to the decommissioning ceremonies for the AirBorne Law Enforcement Unit (A.B.L.E.) at its headquarters at John Wayne Airport. It was a warm, cloudless day - a perfect day for such an event.

Among the many high
lights of the day was a fly-by conducted by two of the three Eagle helicopters, each of which then landed for their final time. They were then towed to the hangar and parked adjacent to the festivities. There were many tears visible as those two magnificent blue machines touched down for the final time and ended more than forty years of service.

More than one hundred people attended the ceremonies, including family, friends and co-workers from the police and fire organizations that A.B.L.E. has supported for more than four decades. Current and former law enforcement leaders from both Costa Mesa and Newport Beach were in attendance.

Newport Beach resident Peter Adderton, who is still trying to put together a public/private partnership for local airborne law enforcement, brought his personal helicopter to the site and gave rides to any in attendance who wished to fly. I had a chance to meet him and his family. He's a nice guy with great intentions.

The only public official I recognized at this event was former Costa Mesa Councilwoman and current School Board Member, Katrina Foley. There may have been Newport Beach officials in attendance, but I didn't know them.

A nice Mexican lunch was served to all. Many police and fire teams showed up for the meal and to offer their condolences to the members of the A.B.L.E. team, then went back to the business of protecting and serving us. I teased many of the police folks that it was too bad no donuts were available... they smiled and kept eating. Despite all they've been going through, I saw pride and enthusiasm on display as they headed back into the trenches. Without A.B.L.E. in the air this weekend, they're all going to have their hands full. As I type this late Thursday evening the illegal fireworks are already beginning - with two days to go before ANY fireworks may be legally discharged in our city. It's going to be a very long weekend for Costa Mesa public safety folks.

Former Costa Mesa Police Chief Dave Snowden and former Newport Beach Chief Bob McDonnell stepped up and honored the men who have served our communities all these years with distinction. It was the foresight and collaboration of these two men back in the 1990s that was instrumental in creating the A.B.L.E. program as we know it today. Snowden, in particular, was very angry at the current Costa Mesa City Council for their short-sightedness in shutting down this program - the model for all other municipal helicopter programs throughout the country. He was particularly peeved that the council chose not to extend A.B.L.E. for a couple years when funds are available to do so without asking either sponsoring city for a penny. Nobody in that hangar disagreed with him. Politics is a nasty business, especially as it's practiced by guys like Jim Righeimer, Steve Mensinger, Eric Bever and Gary Monahan.

A.B.L.E. Commander Tim Starn - who will be the ONLY employee of A.B.L.E. by the time you read this - did a fine job of introducing the A.B.L.E. team, including many former members in attendance. He put a face and personality on each and almost made it through the program with a dry eye - almost. Beginning July 1st Starn will be in a caretaker role as plans are made to sell off the assets and vacate the premises. A.B.L.E. still has almost a year on the hangar contract at $13,000 per month. The Costa Mesa City Council has instructed him to NOT sell the helicopters for 90 days, just in case some kind of private arrangement can be made that will utilize those valuable assets.


All the other A.B.L.E. members - pilots and mechanics - will begin new lives on July 1st. Most will return to their respective departments to assume more traditional law enforcement roles. Some will not. Here's the roster of A.B.L.E. as it is shoveled into the dust bin of time.

Tim Starn - Commander
Tom Fischbacher - Pilot/Lt. NBPD
Jeff VanEs - Pilot SAPD
Kent Eischen - Pilot NBPD
Ryan Walker - Pilot CMPD
Rob Dimel - Pilot CMPD
Paul McCarthy - Pilot CMPD
Russ Eastman - Dir. of Maint. NBPD
Chris Freeman - Mechanic NBPD
Steve Wooten - Mechanic NBPD


Thanks to all of them, and to those who flew before them, for their efforts to keep our communities safe. They will be missed.

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Blogger Gericault said...

The Eagle has landed...........shame.

7/01/2011 06:34:00 AM  
Anonymous ALMOSTDONE said...

Most of us know that what has happend is the result of one person snaking his way into the position to appoint a sidekick and then power his way to a political future outside of Costa Mesa. As disgusting as that is, it's easy to understand as the reason why no amount of common sense or justification was going to change the outcome.
What really preplexes me is that the politicians in Newport Beach apparently support giving away air support in their city too.
At first they were talking like they wanted to do something, but when Mr Adderton came forward with a plan to work with, it appears that the talk was just cover, while CM did the dirty work.
For the city of Newport to allow a valuable and proven resource like this to be destroyed when they could work with an individual like Peter Adderton is so short sided there is only one word for it... stupid!
So... Newport can spend over a hundred million dollars on their new civic center/city hall but they don't care about the value that ABLE has to offer public safety in that rich and unique coastal city.
Maybe somebody should ask that city council how much they have spent on palm trees and then why they can't afford to match that in funding for the safety of their citizens by keeping a resourse like ABLE.

7/01/2011 07:00:00 AM  
Anonymous RickandJenn said...

Great to hear that the Huntington Beach helicopter will up during Fourth of July and available for calls in Costa Mesa. Glad we will still have helicopter service in our City.

Mixed emotions about seeing ABLE gone. I like the helicopter, but understand that for a City to have its own service is a luxury, only 3cities in OC have. Hopefully the Huntington Beach program will expand and work for our City.

7/01/2011 08:28:00 AM  
Anonymous Sorry Able said...

They name Hurricanes in the south for a reason. You can put a name on the havoc and distruction they cause. A city employee called this council a perfect storm. With riggy and the unelected creating havov. the irish and the beave selling out. Able was brought down by a pefect storm of political and economic mahaem, selfishness and coruption. Godspeed Able

7/01/2011 09:43:00 AM  
Anonymous DISABLED said...

Hey RickandJen.... the HB helicopter deal is a sham.
First off... they don't even have the capability to find a address without using a Thomas Guide. Try that at night moving at over 100mph over a city you're not familure with. They have little experience outside the limits of HB and that is going to be a big factor in being of any use as a first responder outside of their own city.
The sophisticated GPS moving map/address targeting equipment that ABLE used allowed them to be first on scene something like 80% of the time on calls for help. HB doesn't have it and will be finding those calls by looking for the patrol car lights already on scene and then show up after everybody else is there. Big help to the officers on the ground that will be!
Secondly... this is just the councils way of killing ABLE by saying "we still have it covered" to get people like you to think it's all good while they get rid of any change that ABLE can ever come back.
They'll pull the plug on HB in six months without anyone having much to say about it.
The HB deal is the eqivalent of the condemed last meal. In this case they ordered off the dollar menue at McDonalds and you will be getting what you paid for.

7/01/2011 11:15:00 AM  
Blogger kwahlf said...

Here's another short sighted and unintelligent move by our councilmen. They truly don't care about the safety of the Costa Mesa residents and this proves it.

7/01/2011 11:45:00 AM  
Blogger patches said...

DISABLED, thanks for the info. Hopefully, this will open peoples eyes, unfortunately, it's too late to do anything. How much more will the council get by with before we can get them out?

7/01/2011 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Flo Martin said...

The illegal fireworks started in College Park Wednesday night. Within minutes, I heard the ABLE helicopter overhead and the fireworks stopped. I hope the 3 stooges-plus-one on our city council feel the heat of Costa Mesa residents' ire!

7/01/2011 12:36:00 PM  
Anonymous viersu said...

I have noticed many people complain of the noise created by ABLE.

Well, fake Eagle just flew over my home and it reminded me of Beirut.

Fake Eagle seemed lost.

I couldn't help but wonder if it was due to them dropping their Thomas Guide.

7/01/2011 01:57:00 PM  
Anonymous unionquiltersforleece said...

change is difficult but we must learn to deal with it. the councilmen live here and do not want to put their family or yours in danger. sure are alot of pilots there for flying five hours a day doncha think? anyway, thanks able. Try to take comfort in the fact that most cities do not have helicopters and somehow get by. As for Addington: he needs to put up or shut up. Put something down on paper and present it. talk is cheap but people are already thinking the city screwed up by not giving him a bunch of money. where is wastewatchers on this?

7/01/2011 03:28:00 PM  
Anonymous uneed2growabrain said...

Hey 'quilter'.. you don't have a clue how stupid you are do you?
First.. It's Adderton you moron. If you're going to try to sound like you know anything at least get his name right.
He's a billionair from Newport that offered to purchase the program and it's assets and asked the cities to supply pilots (because they're the only ones who can do the job you idiot) while he expanded it into a regional model. He did not ask for money, he was willing to "put up" a bunch of his own but the council leader didn't want to hear it because he has another agenda which includes destroying the existing police dept who stood against him in his move to take over this city.
As for "most cities" getting by, what do you know about it. Many cities are crime ridden sewers that alot of the people here wouldn't want to drive through let alone live in. Costa Mesa is now on it's way to becomming one of those and even as dumb as you are you're not going to like it when you have to think about whether you should leave your house at night.

7/01/2011 04:55:00 PM  
Anonymous KiowaDriver said...

Quilters: Yeah, a lot of cities get by with no air support, but does that mean it's a great idea? A lot of people get by with no health insurance...should we all follow that model?

If Righeimer's belief is that it is a "luxury" as he stated, why did he still feel it important enough to keep some form of service (albeit pathetic service compared to what you had)and contract it out? That seems a little hypocritic, no?

Those other cities have to get by, because the price of entry is the big expense, not the operation. If you got into the service 40 plus years ago, and used that time to prudently build your program and run it in a fiscally responsible manner, the price of operation is fairly reasonable. AND those that don't have the service can rent it from those that do. Certainly, you are aware that the program you used to have, went to calls outside of its own cities and billed those other cities for their use of your asset, no? Because they did.

A lot of pilots for flying 5 hours a day? Used to be two nine hour shifts (18 out of 24 hrs), with 10 of those hours being flown. Keep in mind that a pilot can not fly more than 10 hours in a 24 hour period (Title 14 CFR 135.267 (c)(2)(i))without a mandatory 24 hour rest period. So, the crews are not only limited by budgetary reasons, but by legal reasons as well.

When those crews are down between flights, they are on-call to respond out as needed between scheduled flights. Frankly, it's way too involved to explain here, and you clearly don't care, don't want to hear it, and would convict ANYTHING these guys do as wrong out of blind allegiance. It's frankly pathetic.

You are right, change is hard, and it's even harder when it is being done under a cloud of lies, and mischaracterizations.

7/01/2011 11:40:00 PM  
Anonymous Stymied said...

How did those cities get by? Even some of the safest cities, who don't have helicopters? They called for help from an airship, usually on a daily basis. Was it Huntington Beach who responded? No. It was the ABLE helicopter who was there for them.

7/02/2011 01:06:00 AM  
Anonymous Robin said...

ALLMOSTDONE and all most everyone else, here’s what I know about Newport Beach and ABLE. Two weeks prior to the Costa Mesa vote I asked Mr. Mensinger and Mr. Righeimer if they would please carefully consider extending ABLE. Jim told me "you have to understand, the thing with Newport is a done deal." I don't know where Jim got that impression, but it was mistaken. I am of the Ronald Reagan school of thought: "Trust, but verify." So prior to the public hearing I spoke with the Newport Beach ABLE Commander and asked if what I heard was true. He answered "No". Newport had talked with HB and the County, but had not signed anything or made any decision. "We are waiting to see what you do tonight." During the public hearing I told Jim and the rest what I had learned. I thought the Newport information and the fact that ABLE was fully funded for the next two years and did not need a cent of new City money might encourage them to keep this needful program in the air. Well, we know what they did that night. One surprise, the vote was 3-2, not 4-1. Leece and Mensinger voted no.

I was in Newport Beach tonight when the very noisy Huntington Beach bird flew over before dusk. After dark, when the illegal bottle rockets started flying, they were nowhere near. This is possibly the most shortsighted action by this reckless and irresponsible council, but it's really hard to pick just one.

7/03/2011 12:54:00 AM  
Anonymous ALMOSTDONE said...

Robin... It was my understanding that when Peter Adderton was trying to make a preposal that would include purchasing ABLEs assets, he asked for the time needed to get that together and to keep ABLE flying so that Santa Ana could stay in the program. The thing was though, Costa Mesa needed to supply two pilots to make that work, as Newport didn't have the number of pilots needed to keep it up alone. Newport said they were in but Riggy drug it out until Santa Ana had to sign with County to keep continuing air support over there and then he said no to paying for the two pilots to buy the time that Mr Adderton needed to put together the private/public model that would have worked.
What all this means is Riggy simply sabotaged the effort as a part of his agenta to kill ABLE and destroy the PD who stood against him. Hard to imagine that a single guy can do something like this and get away with it.
BTW... Messy just voted the other way to make it look like they aren't in lock step. They knew they had the NO votes to kill the program and a desenting vote from him makes it look like there isn't a plotted agenda at work.

7/03/2011 12:39:00 PM  
Anonymous Robin said...

Possibly, ALMOSTDONE. Or Steve was negotiating a deal with Wendy when he asked her if he didn't support the motion would she promise not to vote for an extension 90 days down the road. I don't know what he was thinking, but it was interesting. Two weeks prior, he said he didn't know how he would vote, but Jim was saying it was a done deal. I remember his campaign promise that he would never make up his mind until the public hearing. Sigh. I'll keep talking and although it seems like we're talking to a brick wall, I hope everybody else keeps it up too. This may be my Pollyanna side, but you never know when someone might just listen and change their mind.

This decision still stinks and it's still sad, and however you slice it, we are not as safe as we were. Nor is our city as classy. This was one area where we were top dog, not everybody else’s bitch. It may be a crazy wish, but I hope there is a way to bring them back.

A.B.L.E., Thanks a million.

7/03/2011 07:00:00 PM  

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