By Harlis Brend
The Van Nuys Propeller Aircraft Association and the Van Nuys Airport Association held their annual joint meeting at VNY Fire Station 114 on June 3, 2009.
Featured speakers for the evening were AOPA Vice President of Airports Bill Dunn and Vice President and Assistant to the AOPA President Melissa Rudinger.
Dunn presented his perspective on the condition of the future of general aviation. “The issues at VNY are no different than those at other airports around the country,” said Dunn. He encouraged everyone to “keep up the faith”—that it’s going to get better and that aviation is a big part of the economic recovery.
“The national impact of general aviation on the economy annually is in excess of $150 billion. General aviation is important,” Dunn said. “The reality is that we don’t ‘take the message’ out of the airport and into the community. We are not getting to people in places of authority that make the decisions that have an impact on us. How do we tell our story? There is a tremendous void in the minds of people who are not involved in aviation in any way of what we (general aviation) are and what role we play.”
Rudinger discussed the new AOPA campaign that was officially launched on April 20, 2009. “General Aviation Serves America,” She started. “It’s the largest public affairs campaign that AOPA has ever done, and they are partnering with a lot of interesting and influential people.
Our official spokes person is Harrison Ford. Other celebrities that are active general aviation pilots are signing up to help spread the message to the non-flying public, to the opinion leaders on Capitol Hill, to the influencers in state and local government, about what general aviation is and how general aviation contributes to the economy and to the well-being of communities.”
The goal is simple: Get the general aviation message out to the “non-believers,” to the “non-aviators,” to the people that we typically don’t talk to, Rudinger explained.
“We have an image problem in the industry and need to get the word out about general aviation. It involves more than just the Harrison Fords of the world,” said Rudinger. “We need local pilot involvement.”
The campaign is taking on some of the biggest GA challenges, such as user fees and security (the major problems since 9-11). Rudinger went on, “The entire bureaucracy is a solution searching for a problem—coming up with new ways to regulate general aviation, ways to limit our freedom to fly. That freedom is what TSA wants to restrict. They have tunnel vision— everything is a threat. General aviation has a negative image because it is perceived as the hobby of the rich. The high-end business aviation segment is not a ‘fat cat perk.’ It’s a business tool.”
The brochure that she shared with the audience explained the program in detail. Get your copy at [http://www.GAServesAmerica.com].
Dunn presented some final thoughts. “The biggest challenges for general aviation and general aviation airports in the next five years will be based on environmental issues— the green initiatives that airports will fall into, like having wind turbines popping up all over.”
His last insight for the day? “The future of our industry really rests within our industry. We control our destiny. If you’re not involved, be involved. If you’re involved, continue to be involved. Support the leaders of the associations that represent your interests, whether it’s AOPA, whether its EAA, whether it’s VNY Prop Association, whether it’s VNY Airport Association—it doesn’t really matter. You need to have that representation, you need to be actively engaged, involved and keeping your ear to the ground on what’s happening. You have to play a role, you’ve got to be involved. We all have to work collectively to be sure this industry continues to contribute to the U.S. economy.”
VNY Airport general manager Selena Birk spoke briefly about the events of the past year. The good news—the future Prop Park. The 30 acres are now cleared of buildings and ready for development.
“Aviation gas delivery is actually up, but jet fuel is down over 20%,” said Birk. “The airport board of commissions has made it clear that we will have to cut costs. We need about a 25% cut in the VNY budget!” Birk plans a public out reach program to contact the neighborhood councils and homeowners’ association to make sure they understand the benefits of aviation.
Steve Argubright, Argubright Construction, Inc., gave an update on the status of the Prop Park. The 30-year lease with LAWA should be approved by the end of August 2009.
Within about 120 days of lease signing, they expect to move the re-located hangars to the new site. Hangar prices remain the same as estimated last year: small hangars are 52 to 60 cents per foot; larger hangars with offices are 80 to 95 cents per foot; and large hangars fronting on Balboa Boulevard are $1.20 per foot. The space is now about 75% leased. There has been a higher demand for smaller hangars than originally anticipated. The contractor is allowed up to three years to finish the entire park project.
During the question and answer segment, the issue of the increased VNY “flow charge” was discussed. The fee has been increased from three to 11 cents per gallon. Local pilots expressed concern that it may be cheaper to fill up at other local airports such as Camarillo, Santa Paula or Whiteman. The actual affect on LAWA income might be reduced, rather than increased, due to lower fuel sales at VNY.
Following the meeting, Dunn was asked to sum up the best and worst happenings for prop aviation during the last year. Dunn said, “The high price of fuel last year hurt the industry significantly, and people weren’t buying as much.
The current economy is not the best in the world either at the moment, so that is having a negative impact. From the positive aspect, we have new technology on the horizon, such as easier access to airports and instrument approaches. I think it’s going to move forward in a positive direction.”
Dunn believes that for the next one to five years, the “Next Generation” navigation will be able to go much more point-to-point in an instrument environment (which can be done similarly in the VFR environment today).
He went on to say that advances in technology are improving safety and making cockpit management much easier for GA pilots to operate in that environment. “Beyond five years— I’m not sure my crystal ball looks that far out right now!” Dunn laughed.
Additional comments were shared by Elliot Sanders. “I think that the propeller crew here at Van Nuys Airport is finally going to have the recognition, the community, that they have been needing and wanting for a long, long time. There will be a place for them to socialize, to be amongst their own, to have the old flavor of true airport community that has been missing.”
Regarding pilots that rent airplanes, inside the Prop Park will be Van Nuys Flight Center and Hollywood Aviators. There should be three or four separate locations that provide flight training and aircraft for rent. Rest assured, aircraft renters are not being left out.
For more regular updates on the Prop Park development, visit