A proposed $27.5 million Van Nuys Airport construction project that would create a dedicated area for propeller aircraft and other entertainment and amenities recently cleared a major hurdle. The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners earlier this month approved a lease for the Park at Van Nuys hangar and office complex, which would consolidate two areas now used by piston aircraft. The lease between Los Angeles World Airports and Pacific Aviation Development LLC still needs approval by the Los Angeles City Council, which is expected to come in September. The three-phase project proposes to build hangar space for 250 aircraft, a terminal building with office and meeting space, an observation deck and restaurant and an aviation museum. The park would be built on a dormant 30-acre parcel in the northwest corner of the airport. If approved, it would signal a return to building at the Valley airfield, which has been stalled by the economic downturn. Hangar projects by two aviation companies are on the drawing boards and the land currently used by prop planes will eventually be repurposed after those planes move, said Van Nuys Airport General Manager Jess Romo. “Somewhere down the road there will be redevelopment opportunities,” Romo said. The airport last saw significant private aviation construction completed in 2008 with the 107,000-square foot office/hangar building from the Aerolease/Aeroplex Group and the 61,000-square foot office/hangar built for TWC Aviation by leaseholder Maguire Aviation. The prop park has been a vision of airport management since 2006, following approval of a revised master plan. The former Air National Guard property that fronts Balboa Boulevard was designated for piston aircraft. Aircraft owners are already securing hangar space, with another 15 or so coming out after the airport commissioners approved the 30-year lease on Aug. 15, said Steve Argubright, owner of Pacific Aviation. Pacific Aviation was among four developers that submitted proposals for the prop park. “We are trying to build this normally and keep the costs down to be affordable for these aircraft,” Argubright said. Argubright has three years to complete the project. He expects to begin work on the Park at Van Nuys later this year after receiving permits from the city. While lacking the prestige or glamour of the Lear jets and Gulfstreams that fly in and out of Van Nuys, piston aircraft have long played a vital role in the airport’s development and in general aviation. Pilots get their start behind the controls of a propeller aircraft. As of the end of 2010, Van Nuys was home base for 199 jets and 386 piston aircraft. With so much emphasis and attention given to the fixed base operators catering to the private and corporate jet crowd, there was a feeling among the piston aircraft owners of being forced out of Van Nuys, said Curt Castagna, president of the Van Nuys Airport Association and president of Aerolease. Setting aside land for the lighter aircraft is recognition of the importance those planes, Castagna said, adding, “This is an opportunity to maintain a much needed balance.” The end of the year will bring the start of two other projects at the airport. Castle & Cooke Aviation Services Inc. acquired two hangars that it will demolish and replace with a single hangar. Maguire Aviation is moving ahead with one new hangar on one of its properties. This is not speculative building, but rather is being done to meet the demand of a known customer, Romo said. In the case of the prop park, there will be multiple tenants using the hangars, Romo said. “They have a reasonable expectation they will be able to full up a good portion of the facility when it is complete,” Romo added. Aerolease has about seven acres of land occupied by hangers used by piston aircraft. If that area empties after the prop park is open, that won’t mean Castagna will rush to build there. “The economy is such that we are not seeing a demand that warrants more large hangars,” Castagna said.