ELIZABETH HAYES AND WADE DANIELS Staff Reporters Private jet traffic at San Fernando Valley airports is soaring, boosted by a strong economy, congestion at the Los Angeles International Airport and growth in the entertainment industry. “More corporations are realizing that private jets are an important business tool for more than just the top executives,” said Clay Lacy, owner of the Van Nuys Airport-based charter jet company Clay Lacy Aviation Inc., which owns and charters nine company-owned jets and manages another eight jets for the corporations that own them. Lacy said his company’s revenues have more than doubled to $32 million in the past five years. He said he is managing twice as many corporate-owned jets, and getting more charter business from fast-growing industries like entertainment and finance. “Planes here can come and go without having to deal with LAX airplane traffic, which can mean a lot of time savings,” Lacy said. In December of last year, 110 private jets were based at Van Nuys Airport, compared with 51 in 1985, according to airport officials. Aircraft businesses also report an increase in charter flights at the Burbank Airport. Private jet operations are up 10 percent over the past three years, based on jet fuel consumption, said Robert Volk, chairman and chief executive of Media Aviation, one of two companies that fuel and service private jets at Burbank. Airports throughout L.A. also are seeing a boost in charter flights. At Santa Monica Airport, officials attribute a particularly strong increase to congestion at nearby Los Angeles International Airport. “A lot of the jets that would use LAX are shying away from there and using ours more and more, to the detriment of the neighbors,” said Santa Monica Airport Manager Robert Trimborn. Santa Monica’s Mayor Bob Holbrook said the city cannot exclude jets, but may look at taking additional measures such as installing a blast wall to shield neighbors from fumes and noise. “It has changed the character of the airport a lot,” Holbrook said. “We can’t let it get worse.” Charter operators at Santa Monica and in the Valley, however, see demand continuing to grow because of the booming economy and all the amenities that go along with chartered flights more space, security, conference tables, couches and the ability to fly whenever you want. “Once you’ve done it, it spoils you good,” said Ken Curry, general manager of Petersen Aviation, a Van Nuys Airport-based jet charter service. “The people who can afford it are generally fed up with declining service on commercial airlines and like it that they can leave on their own schedules.” For all these airports, the increased traffic is drawing the ire of some local residents. Charter companies at Van Nuys Airport are currently battling local community groups that want to ban some noisier aircraft from the facility. Burbank Airport is locked in a contentious dispute with the city over plans to expand the terminal, and the noise at Santa Monica Airport is being closely monitored. Jet takeoffs and landings at Santa Monica Airport have gone up 25 percent in the last five years, from 4,800 to 6,000, according to airport officials. Built in 1919, Santa Monica Airport is one of the oldest continually operating airports in the country and was used early on by the movie industry. But as residential communities grew up around it, neighbors began to complain. The closest residents are just 225 feet from the runway. While there was a move to ban jets in the 1970s, the city instead enacted noise regulations in 1984. Trimborn said it’s “one of the most aggressive noise-control programs in the U.S.” A maximum decibel level was established for aircraft noise, which is monitored at sites 1,500 feet from the end of the runway. The results are fed into a computer in the noise compliance office. Any offending pilots are sent a warning letter. Still, the increased jet traffic has meant some late-night landings, which can sometimes wake up neighbors, said David Kaplan, a member of the city Airport Commission who lives north of the airport. Violations of the city’s noise ordinance have also risen, but surprisingly, complaints have gone down. The airport receives about three complaints a day, down from about 20 a day five years ago, said Jason Morgan, coordinator of noise/airside operations. Most complaints are related to jets, which generally are noisier and produce more fumes than propeller planes.