Panel Retains Plane Weight Limit : Van Nuys Airport Rule to Stay for Now in Compromise

Times Staff Writer

The Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners agreed Wednesday to retain the weight limit on charter planes at Van Nuys Airport, a compromise of the demands of homeowner groups and operators of air-taxi services.

Charter operators wanted the 12,500-pound limit on air taxis raised, arguing that changes in aircraft design make the old regulations obsolete, and few small business jets now manufactured can meet the weight limit.

Homeowner groups, complaining about noise and safety, wanted to eliminate exceptions that, despite the limit, now allow heavier planes to use the airport.

An attempt by the Department of Airports last year to raise the limit to 60,000 pounds, as requested by air-taxi operators, drew protests from neighborhood groups, and the airport board asked the airport management to study the question.


Public Meeting Scheduled

The board Wednesday accepted a report from Van Nuys Airport Manager Charles D. Zeman Jr. recommending no change, at least until after the board holds a meeting for public comment. The meeting is expected to be held in August or September.

Under city regulations, all scheduled commercial traffic is banned from the airport. But large planes may land there for repairs, maintenance and conversion work if their arrival is cleared with the airport manager. Military aircraft, such as those flown by an Air National Guard unit at the airport, are not subject to the rules.

The debate centers on Van Nuys-based air taxis, which carry passengers on an unscheduled basis and are subject to the 12,500-pound limit unless the owners obtain exemptions from the board.


Overweight Planes Put at 1%

Zeman said he did not know how many over-limit planes operate from the airport, but estimated the number at a maximum of 10, or less than 1% of the 1,100 aircraft based there.

Zeman said the 12,500-pound figure, set years ago, was based on the size of the first business jets. Many private jets now are in the 13,000- to 20,000-pound range, he said, and some weigh 50,000 to 70,000 pounds.

Don Schultz, president of Ban Airport Noise, a coalition of residents, said he was “tickled to death” by the decision. “It’s just what we hoped for--they didn’t raise the limit,” he said.


Clay Lacey, owner of the largest charter service at the airport and secretary of the Van Nuys Airport Assn., which represents city tenants at the airfield, called the board’s decision “a step in the right direction.”