Best Private Jet Charter Airports to Fly In and Out Of the Greater LA Area

by Richard Zaher / Apr 12, 2014


The sprawling Los Angeles, California area is home to finance and the entertainment industry, and therefore a major hub for corporate jet activity. There are a number of executive airports up and down the Southern California area that falls into the “greater LA area” from Oxnard to Orange County, and from Santa Monica out to Ontario. No matter what neighborhood of the southern Sunshine State you find yourself in, you are not far from an executive type airport. By far the most popular of these is Van Nuys, followed by Santa Ana, Long Beach and Burbank airports, comprising the 4 main executive airports in the region. Many private jet aficionados ask for flights from Santa Monica, but that airport is being excluded from the following articles because of its short runway and issues with traffic from smaller general aviation aircraft and nearby LAX. SMO is considered a dangerous airport, and from a charter standpoint is not preferred.

Average Yearly General Aviation Activity Report

VNY: 270,000 takeoffs and landings per year. Source

SNA: 163,565 takeoffs and landings per year. Source

LGB: 194,938 takeoffs and landings per year. Source

BUR: 65,384 takeoffs and landings per year.

VNY – Van Nuys Airport

Van Nuys Airport

Of the major LA area corporate jet airports, Van Nuys is by far the most popular. The airport lies in the middle of Van Nuys, California just north of the Hollywood Hills. The airport serves the communities North West of LA, and the famous Beverly Hills area. It is also the airport of choice for Hollywood, being the setting of many movie and television scenes, such as Madmen and Airwolf.

VNY is well situated just a few blocks off of the I405 north of Hwy 101, as mentioned just north of the Hollywood hills. It has two runways – 8000 ft, and big enough for the largest jets, and a 4000 ft. runway, too short for must jets but good for turboprops. The airport is moderately busy with private and business jet traffic and some military usage as well. Of the four executive airports, VNY has far more takeoffs and landings than any of the other airports.

Because of its position as the most popular executive airport in the LA area, Van Nuys has attracted a number of major and some established locally owned FBO’s. The five FBO’s on the field is positioned on both sides of the airport, with some companies like Signature (who recently bought out another FBO) having a presence on both sides of the field. There are also a number of repair facilities at VNY that make this a popular destination for many aircraft on the road and needing maintenance services.

Van Nuys is the home of two companies founded by and named after famous aviation pioneers. Bob Hoovers Jet Center is one of the FBO’s you will find on the field and was established by a WWII Veteran and test pilot Bob Hoover. Hoover is considered a pioneer in aero-acrobatics and was a friend and contemporary of Chuck Yeager. On the operations side of the airport, one of the operators that fly aircraft from Van Nuys is Clay Lacy Aviation. Clay Lacy was also an experimental test pilot in the early days of jet flying and was also an aerial race pilot, and world record breaker before establishing one of the first corporate jet companies in the US.

Van Nuys boasts the largest corporate jet fleet in Southern California, with too many aircraft and too much turnover to count. The airport is home to every type of jet from large to small. With its fleet, location, and services, Van Nuys is positioned as the premier airport for the LA airport. When looking for empty legs to LA, expect 90% of them to desire to end in Van Nuys.

SNA – John Wayne Orange County Airport

John Wayne Airport

John Wayne-Orange county airport, in Santa Ana California, is one of 4 main corporate airports that serve the LA area. It has some very popular features, such as location, and a few drawbacks as well. SNA is a very typical corporate aviation airport, with a runway length just big enough for the largest corporate jets, but restricting major commercial traffic. This allows the airport to focus on general aviation and reduces delays but can cause some minor issues when the weather becomes a problem. But since it never rains in southern California, that’s not really a problem, right?

John Wayne Airport, named after the famous western actor is well situated on I405 south of Los Angeles, in the middle of affluent Orange County. For many living in the Southern LA area, it is the preferred airport, beating out nearby, and much busier Long Beach airport. With a single jet runway and a small parallel GA runway for small piston aircraft, it does not offer much in the way of redirects when winds are not favorable. This means a landing may be slightly rougher than anticipated if there is a cross wind, but with favorable winds, it is just right. (LGB has 3 main runways!)

As with the other LA area General Aviation airports, SNA does not have customs. Shortly after September 11th, the local customs offices at LAX determined to stop clearing customs into their satellite airports like Van Nuys, Long Beach, and Santa Ana, so all international flights must fly into LAX, however outbound customs can still be obtained on a case by case basis, so you may depart to international destinations.

Two of the major national chain FBO’s, Atlantic and Signature, supply fuel, hangar space, and other services to inbound and outbound passengers and operators. Both FBO’s offer state of the art buildings with plush passenger waiting areas, coffee and beverages, and complimentary snacks as well. Atlantic Aviation and Signature Aviation both have access to public streets from Campus Drive, which is across McArthur, the road that feeds the main terminal at SNA.

There are about 30 corporate jets and turboprops available for charter out of the SNA airport. These aircraft range from Pilatus and King Air turboprops up to Challenger 604s and other large jets, and everything in between. These aircraft will charge a small, competitive reposition fee to go to other area airports for departures, and add to the huge Southern California charter fleet that boasts many of the newest, largest, fastest aircraft in the fleet, as well as a few older, budget-oriented aircraft as well. Some of our favorite operators are based at this airport, and we look forward to getting your request for any departures from SNA or any of the LA area airports.

LGB Airport – Long Beach Airport

Long Beach Airport

Long Beach Airport or Daugherty Field is one of the largest executive airports in the LA area, and one of the two that offer commercial flights as well as private jet services. The airport is due south of downtown LA, just east of the LA River, positioned on I-405. It is close to the Long Beach docks, as well as many other industrial areas, and infamous inner-city areas like Compton. The locale can be a deterrent for private jet fliers who are looking for a safer, easier airport experience.

As noted in the airport’s name, the field is named after Earl S. Daugherty, a famous barnstormer in the 1920s. Prior to the airfield being established pilots landed their biplanes on the local beach. Daugherty convinced the city to open a municipal airstrip, which would be home to many famous aerobatic pioneers.

LGB airport has a small amount of commercial service, with Jet Blue being its largest operator, due to noise abatement restrictions in place limiting the number of daily departures of both commercial and commuter traffic. However, the airport is still a hub to commercial traffic which has no restrictions. The airport boasts 5 runways with the longest being a 10,000 ft runway capable of landing any size jet. Three of the other four runways are also jet capable, allowing aircraft to land at LGB in any type of wind.

The airport has four FBO’s positioned on the south, east and west side of the airport. These include a major chain FBO, in Signature, as well as a charter operator/FBO and two other FBO’s, including one, voted as the number one FBO in the US. As with VNY, LGB airport also hosts several maintenance facilities able to service most aircraft, and an airline pilot training facility.

Long Beach airport is not as well established with charter jet operators as the other four airports in LA. There are only 16 aircraft calling the airport home and most of these are large jets like Gulfstreams. The long runway and facilities lend the airport to being a large jet field. Yet there are a number of small jets as well, and the operators at LGB are known for good pricing, and a willingness to reposition to area airports to pick up a flight. Standing second place in take offs and landings, LGB airport should certainly be considered as one of the top executive airports in the Los Angeles Area.

BUR Airport – Bob Hope Airport

Burbank Airport

Burbank, California’s Bob Hope airport, or KBUR is one of the least busy of the executive airports surrounding the Los Angeles area. The airport has commercial as well as private jet service and is situated on the northeast side of the city of LA. One of the major drawbacks of BUR with regards to private traffic is the location. Servicing Burbank, Pasadena, and Glendale, it is not well situated to any of the more glamorous and glitzy LA residential area, but rather is in the midst of more middle-class suburban areas.

Unlike Van Nuys or Long Beach, BUR does not have a lot of historical glam either. The airport was opened as a commercial terminal, and for a long time was the largest of the LA area airports, until LAX opened. In 2003 the airport was renamed as Bob Hope Airport after the famous comedian who had passed away earlier that year. Hope was a resident of nearby Toluca Lake and kept his personal aircraft nearby.

Burbank has two runways that are able to service most jets, up to and including a Boeing 737, allowing it to be usable by Boeing Business Jets and similar VVIP airliners. The runways are north and south and east and west facing allowing landings in a variety of wind direction. With a lower amount of traffic than the other four area executive airports, BUR seldom has traffic issues, which can benefit private jets looking to depart quickly and without delays.

The airport has two FBO’s, both of them major chain facilities. Atlantic and Millionaire facilities are both situated side by side on the North West side of the airport. The FBO’s are accessible by Sherman Way and North Clyborne Avenue, and the nearest major highway is Interstate 5. Both FBO’s have state of the art facilities, and the entry to the corporate side of the airport is through residential areas, as opposed to industrial inner-city paths.

There are only a few charter operators at Bob Hope airport, but a decent-sized fleet, boasting some of the larger corporate jets in the region. Like the operators at Long Beach, Burbank operators realize their airport’s drawbacks and are willing to reposition to other area airports to pick up flights. However, it’s important to remember being flexible with departure points will bring a flight’s pricing down as you are able to cut down the positioning costs. As noted in this article, there are strong points and drawbacks of all of the area airports and BUR is certainly a valuable asset to the Los Angeles area.

About Richard Zaher

Richard Zaher Richard Zaher is the founder and CEO of Paramount Business Jets. He is a pilot and the President of Air Charter Association of North America (ACANA). Richard is a graduate of Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU) with a Bachelor of Science in Aerospace Studies. A seasoned international jet charter expert, entrepreneur, humanitarian, and the recipient of the Embry Riddle Eagle Excellence Award at the 2012 National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) convention. He is also an active member of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) as well as several safety and air charter organizations.

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