When you think of the Van Nuys Airport, what pops to mind?

You likely associate it with noise. You might think it’s a domain of hobbyists, what with all those propeller planes. You may consider it kind of small and a tad industrial. About as glamorous as a Mama June trip to Wal-Mart.

I confess: That’s how I thought of it. As I drove by it all these years, I once or twice wondered why a general aviation airport even needs to exist right in the middle of the San Fernando Valley, creating a big obstruction you must drive around.

But as with many things in life, the more you learn, the more you know, which is something Yogi Berra apparently never said but should have.

In recent months I’ve learned that the airport is important. Vitally so. An economic impact study four months ago concluded the airport produced $2 billion worth of activity in 2015 while supporting nearly 10,500 jobs.

That makes the airport almost as big a job creator as the largest company hereabouts, the Walt Disney Co., which reported more than 11,500 local employees last September when we compiled our list of largest private-sector employers in the Valley area. And as long as I’m looking at that list, for comparison’s sake I’ll point out that the second biggest local private-sector employer is Providence Health and Services Southern California, which had an estimated 6,400 employees in the Valley area. Another big one: Amgen Inc. has 5,300 workers in Thousand Oaks.

So that means the Van Nuys Airport supports twice as many jobs as Amgen employs directly. Combine that with the hundreds of flights from the airport each day and the fact that there are some 100 airport-dependent businesses there, and it’s easy to see that the Van Nuys Airport is not small at all. In fact, if we were to make up a list of the most vital economic assets in the entire Valley area, you could argue that it is No. 1 or No. 2 on that list.

But here’s what is new and different: The airport is poised to become even bigger and more important. That’s because corporate jets are growing in stature at the airport, as you can see in the special report in this issue.

The rise of corporate jets makes sense. Not only is the economy recovering, but more airline companies are offering more ways for flights on corporate jets to be more accessible and affordable for typical companies and even well-to-do individuals. Corporate jets are no longer the exclusive domain of Fortune 500 companies.

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