Federal agents apprehended 79 suspected illegal aliens Monday on a single Eastern Airlines flight that originated in Los Angeles and made a stopover at Atlanta en route to New York.

"We believe this is one of the largest operations we've conducted that involves illegal aliens on board commercial aircraft here in the U.S.," said Thomas P. Fischer, district director of the Atlanta office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.INS agents, acting on tips from confidential sources at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport and from undercover operations around Los Angeles, boarded the plane shortly after its arrival, said INS spokesman Tom Thomas.

Thirty-nine of the suspected aliens were from Mexico, 22 from Guatemala, 13 from the Dominican Republic, three from El Salvador and one each from Honduras and Ecuador.