Trying to crack down on one of the most frequent noise violators at Van Nuys Airport, officials plan to file a lawsuit today seeking more than $3 million in fines and a three-year ban against a charter flight service that caters to celebrities and corporate executives.
The legal action against Pacific Jet Inc., authorized by the Los Angeles Airport Commission during a closed session Monday, would be the first under Van Nuys Airport's "nonaddition rule," which limits the amount of time that certain noisy, older-generation aircraft can use the airfield.
"What we're trying to do is improve the quality of life in the [San Fernando] Valley," said Eric Moses, a spokesman for the Los Angeles city attorney's office, which is filing the complaint. "This is a company that has repeatedly failed to abide by the rules of the airport."
Officials at Pacific Jet did not return calls or e-mail messages seeking comment. A company employee said Pacific Jet's president, Tim Prero, was on vacation and not available.
Prero is a pilot who is also named in the lawsuit. He previously paid more than $30,000 in fines and was banned from Van Nuys Airport for three years after repeated violations, according to the complaint.
The airport's nonaddition rule, adopted by the Los Angeles City Council as an ordinance in 2000, prohibits Stage 2 jets that have not been "grandfathered in" from using the airfield for more than a cumulative 30 days in a calendar year. A single landing and takeoff, even if the trip lasts less than an hour, counts as one day.
Despite a legal challenge by air operators, the ordinance was upheld in federal court in August 2001 and the airport began enforcement in January 2002. In the last 18 months, Pacific Jet's aircraft violated the rule more than 100 times, according to the complaint to be filed in Van Nuys Superior Court.
The lawsuit is intended to "send a message" that those who violate anti-noise rules will not be tolerated, said Selena Birk, manager of Van Nuys Airport.
Residents generally applauded the get-tough effort but said city and airport officials needed to do more to combat noise.
"This is one small bit of getting rid of noisy planes," said Wayne Williams, chairman of the airport noise committee of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. He and others said the city should work harder to phase out the older, noisier Stage 2 aircraft altogether.
Gerald A. Silver, president of Homeowners of Encino and Stop the Noise, criticized the rule for being weak.
"If everyone brings in these noisy jets for 30 days, that's a big loophole," Silver said.