JOHN WAYNE AIRPORT — It was a somber day for the pilots of the police choppers in the AirBorne Law Enforcement program.
For six of the seven ABLE pilots, Thursday signaled the eve of going from patrolling the skies above Newport-Mesa and Santa Ana back to patrolling the streets.
As of Friday, the John Wayne Airport hangar that housed ABLE's three EC120 helicopters will become a storage space for the aircraft dubbed "Eagle," which is jointly owned by Costa Mesa and Newport Beach.
Both cities have dismantled the shared police helicopter program, thus ending a 15-year partnership. Both city councils decided to cut ABLE to save money as part of implementing leaner budgets for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Thursday, the last day of ABLE, turned out to be a relatively idle one. The pilots got no service calls.
Instead, six of the pilots, who are from the Costa Mesa and Newport Beach police departments, met for a last meeting. Words of encouragement were said, and members of the ABLE team were told to leave the program with their heads held high, knowing they served their communities well, said Lt. Tom Fischbacher.