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L.A. Sues Charter Jet Firm Over Noisy Craft at Van Nuys Airport

September 26, 2003|Caitlin Liu | Times Staff Writer

Stepping up efforts to punish noise violators at Van Nuys Airport, the city of Los Angeles filed a lawsuit Thursday seeking $4 million in fines against a Santa Monica charter jet company and one of its executives.

The complaint, which also seeks to ban Jeffrey Borer and XtraJet Inc. from Van Nuys Airport for three years, is the second time this year that city officials are suing under the airport's "nonaddition rule," which restricts the length of time that noisy, older-generation aircraft can use the airfield.

"We want to demonstrate our continuing commitment to enforcing noise regulations at Van Nuys Airport," said Stacy Geere, spokeswoman for the nation's largest general aviation airfield. "We take these violations very seriously."

XtraJet President Mark Bethea said the lawsuit took company officials by surprise.

"We've been working with Van Nuys Airport management for the past year providing evidence and documentation that our operations have been legal. We have legally purchased landing rights," said Bethea, whose company also serves airports in Santa Monica and Chino. "We're one of the good guys.... This could put us out of business."

The lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court, alleges that since early 2002, seven airplanes operated by XtraJet collectively have racked up more than a thousand violations because they were "tied down, parked or hangared" at the airport beyond the 30-day annual limit allowed.

Any older-generation, Stage 2 jet that has not been "grandfathered in" is subject to the rule, which regards a single takeoff and landing, even if both occur in less than an hour, as one day. Landing rights may be transferred from a "grandfathered in" jet to a new jet.

But Eric Moses, spokesman for City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, said the defendants' rights to land at the airport were purchased after their jets had already racked up the violations.

"The landing rights are not retroactive," Moses said. "They know the rules."

Borer, named in the lawsuit as someone who is responsible for XtraJet, could not be reached for comment. Bethea identified Borer as an executive for XtraJet, while city attorneys said Borer is the company's owner.

The lawsuit was authorized by the city's Board of Airport Commissioners earlier this week. In July, the board initiated a similar legal action against Pacific Jet Inc., a Van Nuys charter service, to seek more than $3 million in fines and a three-year ban. That litigation is headed for trial, Moses said.

Residents said they were pleased by the latest get-tough effort against noisy jets, but wished officials would do more.

"While they file these lawsuits, we still have Stage 2 jets that continue to fly and make lots and lots of noise," said Wayne Williams, chairman of the airport noise committee of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. He called on officials to phase out older jets from using the airfield. "But at least they're doing something," he added.

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