Ireland’s Shannon Airport holds unique status as the only airport outside the U.S. able to provide inbound customs and immigration preclearance for business jets and crews. The preclearance process has been considerably accelerated following a decision to permit operators to keep aircraft powered up. The move means that chocks-on to chocks-off procedures can be completed in 45 minutes, a claimed saving of at least 35 minutes over aircraft that have to shut down all power.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency allows aircraft to run auxiliary power units, as long as exhaust outlets are no lower than eight feet from the ground, or to receive power from ground units. So far this year, there has been a slight increase in demand for preclearance compared with last year, according to cargoand technical traffic development manager Joe Buckley, who reports “plenty of spare capacity” for any operator wanting to use the service.
Buckley said a mix of about 20 business aircraft types use the airport, “with the Gulfstream IV making up 20 percent of our movements.” Other popular types transitioning via Shannon include Bombardier Challengers (about 10 percent) and Dassault Falcon 900s (about 8 percent).
FBO services are available at Shannon from Jetex Flight Support, Signature Flight Support and Universal Aviation. Dubai-based Jetex has established a joint venture with Westair to operate an FBO there. The facility includes an executive terminal, with pilot and passenger lounges and flight-planning room, and 40,000 sq ft of hangar space. Westair/Jetex also provides fueling and EASA-approved maintenance for several business jet types.
Quintessentially Aviation is to develop a VIP lounge for corporate jet traffic operated from Al Bateen Executive Airport in Abu Dhabi to Shannon.Some of the larger aircraft–such as the Boeing 737 and 767 and Airbus A319–operating from the Middle East, together with U.S.-based jets, account for almost 50 percent of Shannon’s traffic. Overall, there were about 4,500 business jet movements at the airport last year, according to director Mary Considine.
Also being emphasized at Shannon’s NBAA booth (No. 4642) this year is the airport’s location as “Number 1 for technical stops on the North Atlantic,” a circumstance that is seen as contributing to its high levels of business aircraft movements. Although airport officials are uncertain what caused a record total of 460 business aircraft movements in June this year, Shannon always sees an increase in traffic in line with transatlantic flight trends, said Buckley. The June traffic was about 25 percent higher than in June 2011. However, the airport said it saw no particular sign of movements being influenced by the timing of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
A recent initiative at the airport is an effort to focus on business aviation as a potential growth area through promotion in partnership with Shannon Development, a joint exhibitor here in Orlando. With the regional government agency, Shannon Airport has established an annual Irish Business Aviation conference.
The airport is being promoted as a center of excellence for the industry, which has led to a number of foreign direct investment inquiries, especially for maintenance and other aerospace projects, according to Buckley. The Irish government has established a Shannon Aviation Task Force to stimulate aviation development at the airport.