Van Nuys Airport

June 17, 2010

California’s Van Nuys Airport: Economic Engine, Community Connector

When viewed from the vantage of Google Earth’s aerial map, California’s Van Nuys Airport (VNY) appears as a small scratch of open space in the heart of the San Fernando Valley. Located near I-405, the San Diego Freeway, Van Nuys is 20 miles north of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). With Ontario International (ONT) and Palmdale (PMD), they comprise the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA) family, overseen by a mayor-appointed 18-member board of commissioners.

Important Economic Contributor

Van Nuys is an important component of the region’s economic makeup, annually contributing $1.3 billion to the Southern California economy. The airport pays for itself, and then some, through lease, rental and user fees, and it generates more than $80 million in tax revenue, says VNY Manager Jess Romo. The airport and its 240 resident businesses employ 2,060 people who are indirectly responsible for another 10,000 jobs.

Van Nuys opened on December 17, 1928, built on 80 acres surrounded by trees and farmland. It grew during World War II as a P-38 training base, and continued growing to its current 730 acres after the Army sold it to LA for $1, retaining an area for the Air National Guard. The control tower started operation in 1968. Today, the airport features five major FBOs and hosts the Los Angeles Fire Department helicopter fleet, which provides crash/rescue services and an airport police bureau, on duty 24/7.

LAWA’s “noise management program strives to balance the needs of airport users and neighbors,” says Romo. In 1985, Los Angeles passed its initial noise abatement ordinance and created a citizens advisory council. It meets monthly and contributed to the master plan that guides the airport through 2026. In 2009, the city launched WebTrak. Displaying traffic (with a 30-minute delay) and noise levels from network monitors, the system shows the community “how aircraft operate in the airspace, and the noise from those operations,” says Environmental Services Manager Robert Freeman.

Community Connector

For nearly 50 years, education has been a prime community connection, annually reaching roughly 50,000 people, says Public & Community Relations Director Diana Sanchez. VNY is home to the Los Angeles School District’s Aircraft Mechanics Program, has adopted nearby schools, holds a summer Aviation Career Education Academy and Aviation Career Day for up 1,400 middle and high schoolers, recognizes young achievers and awards mini-grants to teachers. Roughly 125 tours a year explore the airport.

VNY’s speakers bureau annually addresses more than 60 events while free seminars educate businesses about topics like international trade opportunities. It holds numerous aviation events, says Sanchez, and its public observation and picnic area round out Van Nuys’ efforts to “balance the needs of the airport and its neighbors through effective communication and education about general aviation’s contributions to the community.”

Access Challenges

VNY airport access regulation will continue to represent challenges for the business aviation community. In February 2010, the Los Angeles City Council voted to implement the “VNY Airport Noisier Aircraft Phase-out Project,” which targets primarily Stage 2 aircraft for future exclusion. NBAA has called the proposal unreasonable, and in filings before the council, the Association has cited factual and legal flaws in the document. The Association maintains that a phase-out would be discriminatory and serve no valid purpose. NBAA will monitor the FAA’s review of the city council vote and keep Association Members advised as developments unfold.

NBAA continues to work with LAWA, business aviation operators and other airport stakeholders to have meaningful dialogue regarding airport economics, noise issues and community relations. NBAA welcomes Member feedback on this topic via e-mail to NBAA Director, Airports & Infrastructure Alex Gertsen at agertsen@nbaa.org.