Van Nuys Airport Seeks 'Local Control'

Panel wants independent body to oversee facility


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June 23--The powerful Los Angeles Airport Commission has neglected the needs of city-owned Van Nuys Airport and its neighbors, critics say, by focusing on LAX.

That's why a San Fernando Valley airport advisory group has mounted a grass-roots campaign to cut the civilian panel governing Los Angeles World Airports in two.

The Van Nuys Airport Citizens Advisory Council has called for an independent commission for the airport known as VNY. Last week, an alliance of nearly two dozen neighborhood councils from the San Fernando Valley voted to recommend a feasibility study.

"The problem right now is Van Nuys Airport is pretty much a stepchild of the LAWA system," said Don Schultz, vice chair for the 15-member advisory council on which he's served for 26 years. "We get very little attention on important issues.

"If we had our own commission, we could deal with those issues. Local control. That's what it's all about."

Van Nuys Airport was once the nation's busiest general aviation airport, worth $1.3 billion to the San Fernando Valley economy.

But airport operations have fallen 10 percent a year for the last decade as propeller plane operations and flight schools declined. The recession dealt another blow to airport companies, whose business plunged by up to 45 percent.

Rather

than having to slog to LAX for a two-hour Airport Commission meeting that focuses on the needs of Los Angeles International Airport, the advisory council has been drumming up support for an autonomous VNY commission accessible to local residents.

"I think it's a great idea," said advisory council member Elliot Sanders, a veteran pilot and long-time businessman at VNY. "The perfect storm is upon us -- and VNY is turning away from the core business of aviation and learning how to fly."

Los Angeles World Airports operates LAX and VNY, in addition to Ontario International Airport. The city agency is overseen by the Airport Commission's seven members, who are appointed by the mayor and meet twice monthly to formulate airport policy.

In the past year, the Airport Commission has met in the Valley only once.

Neither its president, Michael A. Lawson, nor its Valley commissioner, Joseph A. Aredas, responded to a request for comment. A decision whether to form a commission for Van Nuys Airport would have to be made by the Mayor's Office and the City Council.

"I agree that LAWA needs to pay appropriate attention to Van Nuys Airport," City Councilman Tony Cardenas, whose district includes VNY, said in a statement. "And we are looking at formal ways of addressing this."

To help handle the issues raised by local residents and businesses, Cardenas has asked the Airport Commissioners to appoint a subcommittee to handle Van Nuys Airport.

The committee, composed of three commissioners, would meet regularly in the Valley and report back to the full board. A Van Nuys Airport commission might simply add another layer of bureaucracy, officials said, and complicate the contract management for the three airports.

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