September 27, 2012

Rehabilitation of Van Nuys Airport’s (VNY) 8,000-foot-long primary runway is slated to start in February, funded mainly by an $18.4 million Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Airport Improvement Program grant awarded on Sept. 7.

The project’s success is a testament to collaboration among members of the Van Nuys Airport Association (VNAA), a nonprofit tenants group; NBAA; and the Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA). NBAA supported tenants in working with LAWA to minimize runway downtime during the construction.

“VNAA members were very strong advocates for finding another way to manage the implementation of the runway rebuild,” said Stacy Howard, NBAA’s western regional representative. “It really takes a local group to get the best results on a local level, and NBAA was there to make sure the airport authority was sensitive to the needs and wisdom of the local users.”

The anticipated closures minimize those in the original plan, which called for total runway reconstruction and 28 full-closure days. VNAA presented an alternative that prescribed a combination of resurfacing and partial reconstruction to minimize disruption and cost.

“It was really an effort to balance ensuring that we could get a runway that was going to meet the 20-year lifespan that would enable us to be eligible for the [FAA] grant against trying to keep the closure period, especially the full closure period, to a minimum,” said VNY Airport Manager Jess Romo.

Weighing rehabilitation needs carefully against disruptions was key because VNY is a busy general aviation (GA) airport. The southern California airport, with more than 308,000 operations in 2011, draws a large number of heavy aircraft that stress the runway, Romo said. An aggressive repair program (including an emergency shutdown for two weekends in summer 2011) shored up resurfacing done in the early ’90s, but “its life expectancy has run its course,” Romo added.

The FAA grant will provide 90 percent of the funding; its actual amount may change once a contractor has been selected, said Romo, adding that the four bids have come in at between $14.1 million and $16.3 million. The California Department of Transportation’s aviation division and LAWA would evenly split the remaining 10 percent of the cost.

If all goes according to plan, the contractor should begin construction in February 2013. Start to finish, the project should to take eight to nine months and require closing the primary runway completely for 10 full days, in addition to 26 nights (10 p.m. to 6 a.m.). Romo estimated the 10-day full closure, while the center is being rehabilitated, will happen midsummer 2013.

Construction will start on the runway’s north end, leaving its center and southern sections operational, then shift to the southern end, and finally tackle the largest center section. When the center section is operational, a minimum of 5,000 feet will be available for arrivals and 5,209 feet available for departures.