They served their country with honor in years past as distinguished officers in the United States Army. Now they want to honor their fellow veterans with jobs.
That’s the goal of former Major General Peter James Gravett and Chief Warrant Officer Carl Burhanan, who have, in a manner of speaking, signed up to serve once again. The two formed Van Nuys-based FBO Investments VNY Inc. and have a $77 million plan to bring more than 350 jobs to Van Nuys Airport, with roughly 60 percent of them aimed at vets.
In the entity, which was formed six months ago, Gravett serves as CEO, Burhanan the managing member.
The company has submitted a proposal to Los Angeles World Airports to build another fixed-base operation to serve private planes that fly in and out of Van Nuys, one of the nation’s busiest general aviation facilities. These businesses provide fueling and maintenance services for private aircraft that use the airport.
LAWA is looking to secure a tenant for the 12-acre parcel at 16644 Roscoe Blvd. that Pentastar Aviation, one of the airport’s biggest operators, vacated in January 2013.
“We want to focus on veterans now,” said Gravett, a graduate of Long Beach State, the War College and former commanding general of the Army’s 40th Infantry Division. “We want to hire the best, and in many cases veterans trained in the military have been doing the job for a few years. We’ll focus on those and those training right here at Van Nuys (aircraft mechanic school).”
The project will be financed by an investor partner, a construction loan and tax-free bonds, Gravett said.
FBO investments proposes a six-building complex that includes three hangars — at 78,400, 72,400 and 36,000 square feet — as well as fueling stations and maintenance areas.
The proposal also features several firsts. The project includes a 25-seat IMAX theater and showroom for pre-owned jets to be bought and sold. And Gravett and Burhanan say theirs will be the airport’s first LEED Platinum Certified facility and the first black-owned and operated FBO, which will include a gallery honoring the Tuskegee Airmen.
Turns out both vets are used to breaking new ground. Gravett was the first African-American division commander in the National Guard, and his father was an enlisted pilot in a Tuskegee unit in World War II.
Burhanan, a helicopter pilot, was the first African-American to command an aircraft carrying an American commander in chief. He ferried presidents Johnson, Nixon and Ford.
Gravett notes that the theater is actually key to their vision. “A person can sit in the lounge and dial up various aircraft” he said. “This is the hallmark of our facility. It’s unique. We think this is the way to go because there are aircraft for sale in various parts of the world, not just Los Angeles.”
Burhanan, who flew in Korea and Vietnam, has been working in fixed-base operations since the late 1970s, serving most recently as a consultant.
“We think we’ve submitted the best RFP for this facility,” he said. “We think the big impact is the new jobs we will create. The other (operators) will run it like a gas station, but we’re going to run it like a business.”
Van Nuys Airport officials could not comment on the plan because they hadn’t yet heard about it. LAWA keeps proposal details under wraps while they are under review.
“Los Angeles World Airports received two submittals in response to the current Fixed Based Operator Request for Proposals,” VNY spokeswoman Diana Sanchez wrote in an email. “Reviews are currently underway, and we expect to conduct interviews later this summer.”
So it looks to me that FBO Investments has a 50-50 chance of landing this deal.