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Naval Outlying Field (NOLF) Imperial Beach

NAS North Island operates two other airfields in the Southern California region. One is Naval Auxiliary Landing Facility (NALF) San Clemente Island, located 70 miles northwest of San Diego in the California Channel Islands. The other is Outlying Field (OLF) Imperial Beach, located 10 miles south of the base on the U.S.-Mexican border. Naval Air Station North Island and Outlying Field Imperial Beach are both a part of Naval Base Coronado. The Operations Department with over 250 personnel handles over 11,800 flight operations every month at North Island and 23,400 at Outlying Field Imperial Beach.

This small (5,000 foot runway) facility hosts most of the Navy Pacific Fleet helicopter training, especially PAR and traffic pattern training.

Originally established (in 1917), as a U.S. Army aviation facility, the Navy began using the field in the 1920's. The Navy acquired the field during World War II for fixed-wing and aircraft carrier operations. Following the war, the field was deactivated until the Korean and Vietnam conflicts, when it became a full Naval air station, serving all west coast helicopter squadrons and units, until 1975 when it was converted to a Navy Outlying Landing Field and a component of NAS North Island. Ream Field is the only training center for Navy helicopter aviation on the west coast. It has one active runway (5000 feet long) and five helicopter landing pads.

Harbor Defense Command Unit 110 drills may be conducted at Camp Pendleton, NAB Coronado, NAS North Island, NOLF Imperial Beach, Long Beach and other locations. The primary drill location is Naval Outlying Field (NOLF) Imperial Beach, Building 189.

OLF Imperial Beach is located nine miles south of the City of San Diego, between Imperial Beach and the Mexican Border. OLF Imperial Beach consists of approximately 1,100 acres and is the only exclusive-use Naval helicopter airfield on the West Coast. It serves as a practice field for Pacific Fleet helicopters and is utilized by 11 squadrons of combat and patrol helicopters. The principle function of OLF Imperial Beach is to provide landing practice training for Pacific Fleet aviation personnel. Navy helicopters based at North Island, Naval Air Station (NAS) routinely fly to OLF Imperial Beach to conduct training and practice operations.

Imperial Beach OLF provides a practice field for helicopter operation and a site for personnel support facilities. The Navy trains over 40 percent of the helicopter pilots in the entire Navy at OLF Imperial Beach. Instrument Flight Training at OLF Imperial Beach are mandatory to qualify these pilots for Naval Aviation duty.

The 7-mile stretch from Coronado State Beach to Imperial Beach along the Silver Strand. Despite the presence of Navy Seal training, this beach is open to the public the entire length of the Silver Strand. Uncrowded to the point of being deserted.

For more than 80 years, Imperial Beach and the United States Navy have enjoyed a shared rapport as neighbors. That's because for several generations service men and women have lived Imperial Beach and worked on neighboring military bases. Military families still grow up in Imperial Beach today

In October 1971 HC-4 at NAS Lakehurst accepted its first SH-2D Lamps helicopter, making it the first fleet operating unit to use the new Lamps configured Seasprite. One week later at NAS Imperial Beach, HC-5 became the first west coast based helicopter squadron to receive the new Seasprite. In July 1973 HSL-33, the Navy's first squadron dedicated solely to providing Light Airborne Multi-Purpose Systems detachments for LAMPS-configured ships of the Pacific Fleet, was established at NAS Imperial Beach, California.

The Tijuana River crosses the Mexican border, meanders north through the valley and flows west into an estuarine tidal salt marsh. Nearly half of OLF, 550 of 1190 total acres, is managed by the US. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. Five endangered bird species are known to use the estuary: Brown Pelican, Peregrine Falcon, Lightfooted Clapper Rail, California Least Tern, and Least Bell's Vireo.

The last few years have seen an unprecedented threat to the viability of the facility. A highly motivated and apparently well financed group in San Diego has begun to advocate that Brown Field, an existing airport that lies 7.5 nautical miles east of OLF Imperial Beach, be configured for IFR approaches (specifically by installing an ILS on its 8,000 foot Runway 08 Left), and established as the region's air cargo hub.

The primary concern for the Navy is the effect that the proposed airport would have on access to both OLF Imperial Beach and NAS North Island. Both Navy airfields require offshore terminal airspace to operate. NAS North Island departures and arrivals must be routed south of the airfield to avoid Lindbergh Field traffic. This is the airspace that would be required for the ILS approach at Brown Field. Each ILS approach to Brown Field would have the potential to preempt training at OLF Imperial Beach, while a moderate traffic load (20 operations/hour) at Brown Field could essentially preclude DoN flight operations to or from NAS North Island.

Several technical issues appear to limit this proposal, beyond the effect it would have on OLF Imperial Beach and NAS North Island. Prevailing winds at San Diego are from the west; however, high terrain does not permit approaches from the east to Brown Field, or a straight-ahead missed approach to the east [s similar issue affects the proposal to convert the former MCAS El Toro into a civil field]. Were an ILS authorized to Brown Field runway 08R, its missed approach procedure would have to include a hard left turn to the north, a maneuver which would set up a conflict with traffic inbound from the east to Lindbergh Field. A third issue is Brown Field's proximity to the US/Mexican border, and the overlap of protected airspace between the projected Brown Field approach and the Tiajuana, Mexico International Airport.

The FAA has evaluated the airspace aspects of this proposal. Its report made clear the potential conflicts; the airport's proponents have responded that they can mitigate any of the issues identified. The issue has become highly politicized, with local, state and Federal authorities taking various positions.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 02:50:45 ZULU