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A Decade of Accomplishment at Van Nuys Airport

On her last day as general manager of Van Nuys Airport, Selena Birk was scheduled to be at City Hall when the City Council was expected to take up a proposed ordinance to eliminate older, noisier jets at the Valley airfield. Over the decade she oversaw daily operations at Van Nuys, Birk received several earfuls about the noise generated by the jets that take off and land there. To simplify the role of general manager it is all about balancing the needs of the airport’s tenants with those of the surrounding community. At times it probably wasn’t easy but it was also probably never boring. Birk makes a lateral move to Los Angeles International Airport where starting March 1 she will handle federal compliance, landside operations, permitting for contract employees for the airlines, and planning for non-aviation emergencies. Jess Romo, the general manager at Ontario International Airport, will split duties as the new general manager for Van Nuys. Either Romo or his assistant GM Kim Ellis will be on-site in the Valley. While there are many accomplishments that happened during her tenure, Birk isn’t one to take all the credit. “I am a firm believer that an individual doesn’t accomplish everything,” Birk said. When approved by the council, the jet phaseout will be the culmination of a years-long effort. So was the adoption of a new master plan in 2006, which sets out the uses of airport property. Birk and the airport staff drew up policies that are not often done at general aviation airports, such as standardizing procedures and a wildlife management plan to increase safety. A motor vehicle operating permit program was started to control vehicles on airport access roads to make sure they had legitimate reasons to be there. Also under Birk’s watch was the start of a project that had the vacant Air National Guard buildings demolished to make the land available as a designated area for propeller aircraft. Romo is looking forward to taking on his new role at Van Nuys. He is not completely unfamiliar with the airport and its tenants having served there as a property manager in 2001. “That is going to be an advantage for me in terms of reacquainting myself at the airport,” Romo said. Overseeing both a general aviation airport and a commercial airport will present challenges as there are more differences than similarities, Romo said. Making the airport safe and secure will be the goal he and Ellis will strive for. “From a budget perspective it’s about making sure the airport can be as self-sustaining as possible,” Romo said. NBAA Forum The National Business Aviation Association hosts a regional forum at TWC Aviation at Van Nuys Airport on March 11. The forum features about 70 exhibitors, a static display of up to 20 aircraft, and sessions on tax and safety issues, and new developments in business aviation in California and the West. Association President Ed Bolen will speak on the image of business aviation and how the use of jets for corporate travel is the sign of a well managed company. The general aviation industry, already smarting from a drop in activity due to the recession, took an additional hit of being portrayed as an example of corporate excess. The NBAA and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association started the “No Plane No Gain” campaign aimed at lawmakers, policy makers and opinion leaders to get out a message that corporate air travel improves work efficiency, gives access to smaller airports not served by commercial airlines, and the ability to visit multiple locations in a single day. “We are seeing some evidence to suggest the program is making a difference,” Bolen said. “Flight activity has been trending up over the past couple of months.” The NBAA typically does about three forums a year across the country to bring geographical diversity. Van Nuys was chosen as a site this year due to the strong general aviation community in Southern California and that no forums have taken place there in some time. Airport Friends With two meetings under its belt the new Friends of the Van Nuys Airport group is going well so far in bringing together residents and business people. The Feb. 16 meeting drew about double the size of the audience for the first meeting in January, said Bruce Ackerman, the chairman of the group. A similar group had existed once before that later evolved into the Citizens Advisory Council. The council, which meets monthly, deals primarily with policy issues and interacting with Los Angeles World Airports, the owner and operator of the airport. The friends group is more about fun and camaraderie in support of aviation and the importance of Van Nuys to the city, Ackerman said. (The audience) is a collection of people based at the airport, either owners or employees, and residents who surround the airport,” Ackerman said. “It is amazing how much they have in common.” The next meeting is scheduled for March 16 at 7 p.m. in the conference room of the Van Nuys Flyaway on Woodley Avenue. Transit Center The Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority approved submitting development plans for a new regional transit center at Bob Hope Airport to the Burbank City Council for final approval. The project is expected to go to bid in 2011 with partial opening to the public the following year. The transit center will include a stop for Metro and Amtrak buses, a moving covered sidewalk to the airport terminal, and will consolidate all the rental car facilities into a single location. And finally… Speaking of Bob Hope Airport – after the Federal Aviation Administration turned down an application from the authority for a mandatory nighttime curfew, Congressman Brad Sherman said he would sponsor a bill to achieve bringing a curfew not just to Bob Hope but also Van Nuys Airport. Well, here it is four months later and no legislation has been produced by Sherman’s office. Staff Reporter Mark Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or by e-mail at mmadler@sfvbj.com.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.
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