This week, pilots and business owners gathered to celebrate the beginning of a new chapter at Van Nuys Airport (VNY), one of the busiest general aviation airports in the world. A 32-acre section of the airport is being specifically dedicated to propeller airplanes in an area called Propeller Park. The area will house flight schools, a dedicated terminal, a full-service FBO, self-fueling facilities, avionics shops, maintenance facilities and a restaurant.
Elliot Sanders, the president of the Van Nuys Propeller Association, said that the idea of Propeller Park emerged about 15 years ago when the owner of the airport - Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), which also owns Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Ontario Airport (ONT) - was working on its modernizing master plan. It was recognized that the future needs of VNY would evolve around corporate jets and that the propeller aircraft community needed to be safeguarded, particularly with regards to flight training. “Without little pilots in propeller airplanes you don’t get big pilots in jet airplanes,” Sanders said.
Pacific Aviation Development has already begun preparing the area for construction. Approximately 65 existing hangars will be relocated to the site from other parts of VNY and another 115 hangars will be built, according to the developer’s website. Hangar rent starts at $750 per month for a 40-foot x 32-foot hangar and there will be buildings as large as 100 feet x 160 feet available. Tie downs will also be available and Propeller Park will be able to accommodate approximately 270 airplanes in total. The total cost for the development project is estimated at more than $26 million.
About 65 percent of the space is preleased and the project will be built on demand, said Sanders. Any airplanes under 12,500 pounds and any pre-1951 historic propeller airplanes are welcome at the new facility.
One unique addition to the facility will be a lighted board displaying the current ATIS, intersections available for takeoff and other information pertinent to the pilots. The board will be located at a new runup area near the exit of the park.
There are many flight schools at VNY and it is likely that some will remain in their existing locations. But with a 30-year lease, the new “propeller park” should be an attractive alternative to business owners who are unsatisfied with their current facilities. And being separated from the jet operators has some benefits. While there will be propellers spinning at Propeller Park, the noise level will likely be lower than in areas where APUs and jet engines are often running. And jet blasts present a potential danger to smaller airplanes. If successful, Propeller Park may become a concept that is copied at other busy general aviation airports around the country.