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'We die so the 1% can fly': Kardashians and other celebrities' private jets blanket California neighborhood with noxious fumes, residents call for action

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Denise Truscello via Getty Images

Many celebrities are not shy about lecturing others about the dangers of climate change and the life-altering actions everyone needs to take to combat it. However, many celebrities also enjoy the convenience of flying on private jets. In fact, private jet use has skyrocketed so much at one California airport that local residents say their neighborhoods are being blanketed by noxious fumes.

The Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles has become a hotspot for private jet flights to take off and land. The Van Nuys Airport handled 46,140 jet operations in 2016, but that figure spiked to 69,907 flights in 2021 – an average of one take-off or landing every seven minutes, according to the Los Angeles World Airport website.

Van Nuys Airport is a general aviation airport. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) defines general aviation airports as "public-use airport that does not have scheduled service or has scheduled service with less than 2,500 passenger boardings each year."

All of those flights from the small airport has unleashed concerning air pollution on to the neighboring residential areas.

"In preparation for a flight, a single jet might run its engines for more than an hour on airplane ramps separated from residential streets by little more than a low wall and chain-link fence," the Los Angeles Times reported. "While the Jenners of the world selfie on the tarmac, residents who live yards away are eating their dust — or, more accurately, their ultrafine particles (a pollutant emitted during jet operations that has been linked to various cardiovascular and respiratory conditions)."

Some local residents near the Van Nuys Airport are complaining that the uptick in private jet use has blanketed their communities with noxious fumes from private jets.

"I've lived here since 1986 — never had a problem," local resident Sue Steinberg said, but noted the fumes have become "unbelievably bad" in recent years.

A local resident told the Times, "I can’t let my son out. When the fumes come out, I have to bring him inside."

Suzanne Gutierrez-Hedges – a resident of the nearby neighborhood of Lake Balboa – told the Los Angeles Times that VNY has turned into a "commercial airport."

Gutierrez-Hedges said, "We die so the 1% can fly!"

"These aren’t just private planes that fly the owner around. These are charters," said Thomas Materna – a Sherman Oaks resident who sits on the Citizens Advisory Council.

Residents want an air quality study conducted.

The Van Nuys Airport has a “quieter nights” program that requests flights do not take off or land between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. – however, it is only suggested and not enforced. Noise complaints have been filed for airplanes roaring at all times of the night.

Area residents are calling for a real curfew for the airport.

Van Nuys Airport is in close proximity to ritzy celebrity enclaves such as Beverly Hills, Calabasas, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, and Santa Monica.

Celeb Jets – a website that tracks celebrity private jets and has nearly 125,000 followers on Twitter – found that many celebrities use Van Nuys Airport to fly with their private jets.

The celebrity private jet tracking website noted that numerous celebrities had used their private jets at Van Nuys Airport.

Hollywood director Steven Spielberg – who previously noted that "global warming is a scientific reality" – has reportedly used his private jet extensively in Van Nuys Airport, according to Celeb Jets. Since Sept. 30, Celeb Jets has found that Speilberg's private jet has landed or taken off from Van Nuys Airport 13 times since Sept. 4.

According to the flight tracker, Kim Kardashian's plane flew in or out of Van Nuys Airport four times since Sept. 22 – including a 10-minute flight to Los Angeles Airport.

Since Sept. 2, rapper Travis Scott's private jet has taken off or landed at VNY Airport, according to the Celeb Jets Twitter account.

Kylie Jenner reportedly used Van Nuys Airport eight times since Sept. 18. The flights included a 4-minute flight to VNY from Camarillo Airport – which is drivable in under 45 minutes.

Over the summer, Kylie Jenner was slammed online for posting a photo on Instagram of two private jets on the tarmac with her kissing her boyfriend Travis Scott. The caption for the photo read: "You wanna take mine or yours?"

Many online commenters said the post was elitist and that the private jet usage was exacerbating the "climate crisis."

In July, the British research website Yard named the biggest private jet celebrity carbon offenders.

The top six private jet celebrity carbon offenders include Taylor Swift, Floyd Mayweather, Jay-Z, Alex Rodriguez, Black Shelton, and Steven Spielberg.

"Our data reveals that the celebs have emitted an average of 3376.64 tonnes of CO2 emissions in just their private jet usage in 2022 so far," the study found. "That's 482.37 times more than the average person’s annual emissions."

A report published by the green Transport & Environment organization found, "Private jets have a disproportionate impact on the environment. In just one hour, a single private jet can emit two tonnes of CO2. The average person in the EU emits 8.2 tCO2eq over the course of an entire year."

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