SOURCE: Los Angeles World Airports

Los Angeles World Airports

February 26, 2009 14:00 ET

Kid-Friendly Airplane Vinny Lands at New Home at Van Nuys Airport

Valley Students Get First Look at "Vinny's Hangout," Now Added to VNY's Free Tours

VAN NUYS, CA--(Marketwire - February 26, 2009) - Valley second-graders today let their imaginations soar during the unveiling of "Vinny's Hangout" -- the newly completed permanent home of Van Nuys Airport's (VNY) mascot and Los Angeles' first completely kid-proof, kid-friendly educational airplane. The Hangout features an aviation-themed, large-scale mural that local students previously helped create, and allows a Vinny visit to return as part of VNY's free award-winning tour program.

The approximately 80 students from Van Nuys' Gault Street Elementary and Cohasset Street Elementary Schools had the opportunity to get up close and personal with Vinny, a brightly painted orange and purple airplane with a contagious smile, plus toured the entire airport. Birmingham High School's Marching Band provided musical entertainment to welcome Vinny back home.

With Vinny in his new Hangout, kids and adults who participate in VNY's tours once again can explore the aircraft in a safe, friendly hands-on learning environment, where they can poke, prod and peer into the cockpit while learning about the aircraft's many labeled parts.

"We encourage teachers and parents to bring youngsters on one of the airport's free tours, which offer a truly captivating journey through aviation past and present at one of America's busiest general aviation airports," said VNY Airport Manager Selena Birk.

The tours offer a close-up view of the runways, taxiways, hangars, control tower and a variety of aircraft and aviation facilities at VNY. Plus, they provide visitors with insights into VNY's contributions in providing vital community services and its rich and colorful history -- such as its use over the years as a frequent backdrop for movies and TV shows.

VNY tours are available on weekdays and select Saturdays at 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. (9:30 a.m. only during the summer months) to groups of 15 or more. Reservations are required, and can be made by calling (818) 909-3529. Groups in the San Fernando Valley unable to visit the airport can call to request a DVD or Speakers' Bureau presentation. For more information about all of VNY's community and educational programs, visit

About Vinny:

Designed to be airborne, the two-seat aircraft was built from 1973 to 1976 by William H. Statler, a retired aeronautical engineer who lived in Northridge, Calif. After 53 hours of flight, the aircraft (then called the Firefly) was donated to the North Valley Occupational Center-Aviation Branch, which in turn donated it to Van Nuys Airport in 1998 to help children learn more about the principles of flight. To enhance Vinny's initial display location (in an area later designated for the airport's now-under-construction propeller aircraft park), in 2001 VNY commissioned muralist John Zenda Estrada, founder and director of Creative Art Solutions, to create an aviation-themed, large-scale mural with the help of students from Gault Street Elementary School. Through the years, Vinny was relocated to various temporary sites. Vinny's new Hangout is a permanent home, located on the airfield just south of the Public Observation Area. It includes both the aircraft and the 10-foot-high, L-shaped mural backdrop.

Contact Information

    (818) 909-3529