Clay Lacy, who runs a charter fleet of about 40 airplanes out of Van Nuys Airport, is worried.


His company, Clay Lacy Aviation Inc., operates one of the country's largest fleets of so-called Stage 2 aircraft, but concerns over the noise made by that class of planes largely older business charters has led Congress to consider a ban.


A budget reauthorization bill for the Federal Aviation Administration includes a provision that would phase out the aircraft one of the biggest sources of airport noise complaints over the next five years.


Such an action would ground a quarter of Lacy's fleet, costing him an estimated $15 million of his $80 million in annual revenue. He figures replacing the 10 planes would be too costly, while selling them abroad would bring in little.


"Stage 2 airplanes are still very viable airplanes," said Lacy, the company's president and founder. "There's no doubt that they're somewhat noisier but they're not that noisy. It's not a real issue."


Lacy's far from the only aircraft operator concerned, both locally and across the country.


More than 1,000 Stage 2 aircraft, such as the popular 1960s business jet Gulfstream II, frequent the skies over general aviation airports across the country, but a renewed push to phase out the loud planes is looking to cause certain turbulence among operators and the businesses that support them.


Use of the aircraft has declined markedly in recent years, but Van Nuys Airport the largest general aviation airport in the country is one of the primary facilities that still hosts the planes, with 32 based there and others landing and taking off.


Robert Rodine, principal consultant for the Polaris Group, which has studied industry issues for Van Nuys Airport, has found that the local economic impact would be between $10 million and $13 million annually for each plane grounded.


That loss includes ticket revenue, fuel sales and other ancillary expenditures such as maintenance and passenger parking fees. The total impact could top $400 million.


"It is an outrageously large number for a community to suffer. And it's not just loss of business; it's a loss of jobs," he said.


Congressional action

Politicians, prodded by community groups, have sought to ban the aircraft for years, as technological advances have made newer planes quieter and more fuel efficient. The stage designation, which takes into account a variety of factors including plane weight and engine displacement, is assigned by the government based on a series of complex calculations.

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