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U.S. Army Reserve jets set for move to Los Alamitos base

The control tower at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base.
The control tower at the Los Alamitos Joint Forces Training Base.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer )

The U.S. Army Reserve is planning to permanently relocate four passenger jets to Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos by this summer, adding about 200 takeoffs and landings per year.

The fleet of UC-35A Cessna Citation Ultras will move from Fort Hood, Texas with 18 soldiers assigned to 6th Battalion, 52nd Aviation Unit, according to a notice from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The aircraft are used by U.S. Transportation Command to fly military personnel and Department of Defense civilians on official business within the continental U.S.

Most of the UC-35A pilots work for commercial airlines and must commute across the country to perform their Army Reserve duties, according to the Corps. Fort Hood is serviced by a small regional airport that offers a limited number of flights.

“Relocating personnel and UC-35A aircraft near multiple large travel hubs will provide multiple commuter options and more frequent commercial flights, enabling pilots to efficiently commute to perform their USAR duties,” the Corps said in an environmental assessment.

The passenger jets don’t produce the same roar as visiting fighter jets that occasionally land to refuel in Los Alamitos. However, any additional sorties brings concerns about additional air and noise pollution over West Orange County, which already sees heavy air traffic from Long Beach Airport.

The Army Corps’ environmental review found the additional 200 annual flights would contribute to increased emissions, but impacts would be minor and no mitigation measures are required. The future flight operations would increase noise levels at and around the Los Alamitos base but the noise levels would be within existing parameters. California National Guard policy already requires minimum flight altitudes and designated no-fly areas to minimize the effects of aircraft noise.

Residents of Los Alamitos, Cypress, Seal Beach, Rossmoor and West Garden Grove have historically offered mixed reviews of aviation missions, particularly in the evening hours. But Orange County’s substantial number of veteran and military-connected households have long provided strong support for base operations. Joint Forces Training Base Los Alamitos’ history of hosting the Drive-Up 4th of July Fireworks show and Great Pacific Air Show have also helped further cement its community relations.

U.S. service members board a UC-35A Cessna Citation Ultra.

U.S. service members board a UC-35A Cessna Citation Ultra.
(Courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

The South Coast Air Quality Management District was recently notified about plans to relocate the passenger jets and is in the early stages of review, district spokesperson Bradley White wrote in an email. The district declined to comment Wednesday on possible environmental impacts.

A handful of Cessna Citations with the 63rd Readiness Division are already based in Los Alamitos. The Army Reserve also maintains a fleet of propeller-driven Beechcraft C-12 Hurons, which are also used to move service members and defense officials around the continental United States.

“The number of UC-35A pilots is extremely limited,” the Corps said in its environmental assessment. “These pilots must first be proficient C-12 pilots before they can become UC-35A pilots.”

In addition to these fixed-wing aircraft, the Army Reserve and California National Guard also operate UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter fleets from the flight line at Los Alamitos Army Airfield.

The UC-35A passenger jets would be serviced at an existing hanger already used by the Army Reserve so no additional construction would be necessary.

A 30-day comment period on the proposal will close on May 3. Community members interested in offering comments on the plan or learning more details about the environmental review should visit losalamitosea.com or email losalamitoscomments@irsfederal.com.

Daniel Langhorne is a contributor to TimesOC.

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