By Linsey Lips
One of Van Nuys Airport’s true community leaders and supporters, also respected mentor and friend of mine, Dave Kirkendall of Blue Skies Aviation, invited me to attend a meeting for the Van Nuys Prop Association to celebrate the association’s first birthday, on May 21, 2002.
Tuesday evening drew near and work was wrapping up for most; I grabbed my notepad and a pen, and headed to Mike Pupich’s B-25 hangar. Upon arrival, I was greeted by many friendly (some familiar) faces and proud voices—all members of VNYPROP, which includes several Van Nuys Airport “pioneers.”
As everyone ate BBQ, I took the opportunity to talk to some of these legends. I listened to stories and was even treated to a couple of plane tours. No one can convince me that Van Nuys Airport lacks passionate aviators. This airport has genuine character!
I was enjoying myself so much that I almost forgot why I was there. Elliot Sanders, president of VNYPROP, started things off with a brief history of the association and its founders.
VNYPROP is a growing group of voices “fighting for the preservation of propeller aircraft, hangars, tie downs and businesses that support them.”
“We are fighting for a political solution,” Rick Voorhis explained to the attentive audience.
Organization members are aircraft owners, pilots, aviation enthusiasts, homeowners, business operators and other individuals who have joined together to promote and enhance community awareness of general aviation and to assure that propeller aircraft and related businesses maintain a presence at Van Nuys Airport.
Dave Cartier, former president and one of the “master minds” (I was told by one attending member) helped organize and found the Van Nuys Propeller Aircraft Association. Later, the name was “leaned up,” and a board of directors was elected.
The original board organized the infant group into a 400-person-strong body of interested pilots and aviation enthusiasts. Meetings were held to discuss the goals of the organization and to best find paths to accomplishing those goals. A committee for membership was formed and co-directed by Margie Oldenkamp and Ginny Oleand. Oleand has taken on the additional responsibility of treasurer and is also the organization’s secretary.
The Honorable Jim DiGiuseppe initially held the title of director in charge of the government relations committee before handing it to Voorhis.
When Cartier found his plate too full, earlier this year, Sanders took over as president with Rich Voorhis elected first vice president of government relations.
Two new board members were elected to replace the vacant positions left behind by DiGiuseppe and Ed Erath. Bob Carroll and Ruth Mutti co-direct the public relations committee, responsible for the organization’s newsletter and website.
At the meeting, Director Harry Berg nominated Kirkendall to serve with him as co-director. Cheers accompanied the unanimous vote.
VNY has 113 acres of unused airport space. Voorhis informed us that the association has requested 60 of those acres.
“We want this airport to be used as an airport,” he said.
Bill Dunn, vice president of regional affairs for the Aircraft Owners And Pilots Association and one of the guest speakers, who traveled from Maryland to attend, said he was pleased to see such a “fantastic turnout.”
“We commit the resourses of the AOPA to this association,” he said. “We are here to help, and to make sure there is a place for you! We support your position, and want to ensure that issues of this airport get in front of the people.”
Dunn’s advice for moving forward is to continue supporting our leaders, stay involved, and go to meetings. Before leaving the podium, Dunn, on behalf of the AOPA, shared a contagious amount of support and enthusiasm and donated a generous amount of money.
In one year, VNYPROP has established a recognizable voice. They are armed with knowledge and support, and have a driven group of leaders. In a well deserved awards and recognition ceremony, Sanders, Voorhis, Oldenkamp and Oleand received plaques.
The VNYPROP always welcomes new members, new ideas and supporters. I recommend you check out the website, www.vnyprop.org, for scheduled meeting times and information. Awareness is powerful!