June 24--After years of waiting, the owners of private planes are getting a place to park their props at Van Nuys Airport.
Work is now underway on The Park at Van Nuys, a campus-like complex on the west side of the airport that will be home to propeller airplanes that fly in and out of the facility.
San Fernando-based Pacific Aviation Development is developing the $21 million complex on 30 acres that for years was home to an Air National Guard wing and will own and operate the facility when it is completed.
Pilot Elliot Sanders, former president and current board member of the Van Nuys Propeller Pilots Association, said that plans for the facility date back to 2001. "Because of the economy in 2008, there was a nose dive, and financial issues (arose) for a project of this size, and it required extra time to complete," he said of the planning that stretched out for years.
Insisting the park will be more than just a parking place, Sanders said he's hoping there will be flight schools coming to the premises.
"We do have a pilot shortage, and by building this here in the middle of a large population concentration, it will help protect the future of general aviation and commercial aviation by providing a location for pilots to train," he said.
The park will front Balboa Boulevard north from Stagg Street, and workers are currently pouring concrete pads. Airport officials, pilots and community leaders hosted a groundbreaking Monday evening.
The 350,500-square-foot complex will also include a terminal, maintenance services, restaurant, self-service fuel station and aircraft wash rack. Eventually, there will be an office component, retail store for pilots and a car rental.
The company's website notes the project will feature 115 new hangers holding up to 270 additional propeller planes. About 400 prop planes are now at the facility.
It will be built in four phases, with completion scheduled for 2017.
The first phase involves the relocation of some 70 existing hangars, followed by construction of two buildings for 24 new hangars on a nearly 10-acre site. Nearby Balboa Boulevard will receive new sidewalks, streetlights and landscaping.
Jess Romo, Van Nuys Airport general manager, said the prop park will bring an updated look to the west side of the facility.
"It's going to create a campus for the propeller operators to have a home of their own that's very distinct from other parts of the airport," he said. "That will be nice. It's going to give them a sense of place and separation from the larger aircraft."
Van Nuys was once the nation's busiest general aviation airport -- home to 1,300 propeller plans -- but lost its title in 2006 with the prevalence of bigger private jets and charter firms located there.
Pacific Aviation officials could not be reached for comment.
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