Sean Tucker cuts ribbon on VNY runway, Clay Lacy makes first landing

VAN NUYS, Calif. — More than 300 business, community and aviation industry representatives joined with Los Angeles World Airport officials to open Van Nuys Airport’s (VNY) newly improved main runway, 16R. The $20.5 million, seven-month plan to modernize the airport’s 8,000-foot primary runway marks the largest maintenance project conducted at the airport in more than 50 years.

“Through months of collaboration with airport tenants, this project was carefully phased to minimize impacts on airport users and operators to the fullest extent possible and keep our tenants open for business,” said Gina Marie Lindsey, executive director of Los Angeles World Airports, the city department that owns and operates VNY. “We are committed to preserving VNY’s role as Los Angeles’ No. 1 business airport and a world-class general aviation facility.”

lacy_clay_lowresThe ribbon-cutting event was punctuated by an array of aerial maneuvers performed by aerobatic champion Sean Tucker, who learned how to fly at VNY. During the demonstration, Tucker flew his custom Challenger biplane (pictured above) at 220 mph through three ribbons strung across the runway, cutting the final ribbon while inverted.

Following Tucker, legendary pilot and business aviation entrepreneur Clay Lacy (pictured) made the first landing on the improved runway while piloting his historic Learjet 24, the first corporate jet based at VNY in 1965

Starting in February 2012, a combination of asphalt overlay and partial reconstruction was phased over the runway’s north, south and center sections. Improvements were designed to meet current FAA design standards, improve existing run-up and concrete pavement areas, and ensure a minimum 20-year runway lifespan.

Work included:

  • Improvements and installation of a new blast fence at the run-up area;
  • Repairs to existing concrete runway ends;
  • Repair and expansion of concrete shoulder pavements;
  • High-speed exit light modifications;
  • New in-pavement approach lighting; and
  • New pavement markings

The project resulted in runway closures for 10 full days and 26 nights, and shortened runway lengths for 65 days. Operations on VNY’s 4,000-foot parallel runway, used mainly by propeller aircraft, were not impacted.

“Because the primary runway handles the majority of jet operations, this project required a unique design, varying pavement sections and creative phasing, “ said Laddie Irion, senior vice president and national aviation market sector leader for HNTB Corporation, the architecture and engineering firm tasked with overall project design, engineering and phasing. “This was a rare opportunity to work collaboratively with key stakeholders on a solution that dramatically limited the number of days the runway was closed or shortened during project work.”

Airport tenants attribute much of the project’s success to implementation of an international awareness campaign that provided updated construction schedule and phasing information to pilots through outreach to aviation trade associations, a dedicated project website and hotline number, and use of social media channels.

“This is a positive example of how aviation businesses and management can work collaboratively to ensure that maintenance projects are executed successfully and with minimal impacts on airport users and operators,” said Curt Castagna, president of the Van Nuys Airport Association.

Amassing an estimated 2,500 hours of construction in under 300 calendar days, the runway rehabilitation was completed on-time and on-budget using approximately eight acres of infield grass, 2,650 gallons of airfield paint, 57,600 linear feet of electrical cable and 60,000 tons of asphalt.

VNY is one of three airports owned and operated by Los Angeles World Airports (LAWA), a self-supporting branch of the city of Los Angeles, governed by a seven-member Board of Airport Commissioners who are appointed by the mayor and approved by the Los Angeles City Council.

One of the world’s busiest general aviation airports, VNY had over 260,000 operations in 2012. More than 100 businesses are located on the 730-acre airport, including five major FBOs and numerous aviation service companies.

Annually, the airport contributes approximately $1.3 billion to the Southern California economy and supports over 12,000 jobs. In addition, VNY provides programs to benefit local residents, along with educational initiatives and aviation-related career and training opportunities. For more information:

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