Van Nuys In Decline

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Van Nuys Airport, the generally accepted "busiest" GA airport in the U.S. has fallen on hard times. According to the Los Angeles Daily News, not only did VNY lose the title for the the most general aviation operations to Phoenix's Deer Valley more than three years ago, there now seems to be concern about the future viability of the iconic airport. There were 337,000 operations at VNY last year, a 40 percent reduction from the high of 607,000 in 1999. "If I was a doctor and Van Nuys was a patient, I'd be calling the family over, and calling for a priest," said Cessna 210 owner George Hulett. "But if better management can come in soon, it could survive." In fact everyone interviewed for the story, including 50-year lessee Clay Lacy, said airport owner/operator Los Angeles World Airports is to blame for mismanaging the facility into its current state. Lacy said LAWA's answer to declining revenues has been to raise rents and that's forcing more businesses to look elsewhere.

"We're talking with them now, but there's no real effort to resolve it," said Lacy, founder of Clay Lacy Aviation. "They want to raise rents 50 percent or more, but it doesn't make sense, because nobody is really making it." Others point to LAWA's lack of attendance at major trade shows to promote the airport and a bias toward jets when light aircraft have historically been the airport's mainstay. At one time there were six flight schools on the field but the last one closed last year. Lacy said that from an economic point of view, the jets are more lucrative but others argue that the bottom end of the market is where new people and money are attracted to aviation.