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Police aviation hangar hailed as example of regional cooperation

January 27, 2013 | Virginia News

News Image BY RANDY HALLMAN | Richmond Times-Dispatch

Henrico County Police Chief Douglas A. Middleton looked around at the new Metro Aviation Hangar. “This,” he said, “is the diamond of regional cooperation.”

Middleton’s observation was echoed by government and police officials from Henrico, Chesterfield County and Richmond who gathered Saturday in Sandston to dedicate the hangar used by the three localities.

The hangar — 3 stories tall and about 4,500 square feet, including 1,100 square feet of office space — houses the four small planes shared by the localities’ police departments.

Assembled from materials that had been used in a nearby Virginia Air National Guard hangar before that guard operation was relocated, the new hangar represents savings for the three localities.

The previous hangar had been leased from a commercial landlord for $84,000 per year, Middleton explained. The new hangar, on property under the control of the Capital Region Airport Commission, costs the three localities $60,000 per year, with the cost split equally.

The four planes are used steadily, said Lt. Steven J. Sparagna, the Henrico pilot who directs operations at the hangar. He said each plane typically is in the air six days a week.

The planes are used for police and fire surveillance, assistance for officers involved in highway and foot pursuit, traffic and crowd control at special events, extradition of prisoners from other states to Virginia, and in other law enforcement work.

Chesterfield Police Chief Thierry Dupuis said the operation is “a premier example” of regional cooperation.

Richmond Deputy Chief John J. Buturla agreed. “There are no geographic boundaries to what we do,” he said.

Byron C. Marshall, the city’s chief administrator, said it is not unusual for the three localities to share an operation. “You’ll have a Richmond pilot flying,” he said, “a Henrico observer on board, and they’re helping Chesterfield police on the ground.”

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