While there is no shortage of business aviation access to the Chicago area—with airports such as Aurora Municipal, DuPage, Chicago Executive, Midway and O’Hare International—Gary/Chicago International Airport (GYY) is making great strides to improve its attractiveness to corporate aircraft customers.
Located just across the state line in Gary, Ind., the airport (Booth 4335) last year completed a $174 million runway expansion that was more than 15 years in the making and required the relocation of a major railway line. “Probably the most significant thing has been the extra 1,800 foot expansion to the runway,” assistant airport manager Hank Mook told AIN.
“We went from 7,000 feet to almost 8,900 feet, which now gives us the capability to go international, to go longer distances and have larger aircraft arrivals. This benefits not only the airport, but also the FBOs,” he added. Since the expansion, the airport, which situated in Class D airspace separate from the congestion of O’Hare and Midway, has noted a 15-percent increase in traffic.
That traffic should get another boost next year with the opening of a new $1.2 million stand-alone U.S. Customs facility. “There are no solely general aviation Customs facilities in the Chicagoland area,” noted Mook, adding that in the past Customs agents would come from Midway to process arrivals. Currently, international flights to the airport must clear at other airports.
The airport has fuel flowage of approximately 2.5 million gallons a year and, due to the runway improvement, that number is growing. It is also in the process of converting its aprons from asphalt to concrete to accommodate weights of larger aircraft. A resurfacing of the main runway is also on tap for next year.
GYY is currently home to 117 based aircraft, approximately 60 of them turbine-powered, a number Mook said has increased since the runway lengthening. To accommodate that increase both service providers, B.Coleman Aviation and Gary Jet Center have expanded.
B.Coleman (Booth 2239) recently enlarged its leasehold by an additional 12 acres, giving it 14 now in total. Opened in 2014, the facility has a 6,000-sq-ft terminal with another 8,000 sq ft of office space, as well as an 18,000-sq-ft hangar capable of sheltering aircraft up to a G550. Citing a shortage of hangar space in the Chicago area, the company plans to break ground next spring on a new $5 million, 40,000-sq-ft hangar that can accommodate the latest ultra-long-range business jets, according to B.Coleman president John Girzadas. He plans to offer the part of the remaining space for build-to-suit corporate hangars.
Girzadas noted that during last week’s World Series games in Chicago, the airport handled a large volume of overflow traffic from Midway Airport, due to its location just 35 minutes from downtown. “Once we get those customers, they tend to stay with us because they don’t really realize that we’re there,” he told AIN. Another popular selling point is the ease of access to light rail directly into the city. A station is located just off the airport property.
Gary Jet Center (Booth 2207) last year added a 40,000-sq-ft LEED-certified hangar and was recently approved to build a new terminal attached to it, construction of which should begin in the spring.
All those improvements will serve to increase GYY’s prominence in the region’s business aviation market. “A lot of people think that the runway project sort of spurred it, and it did, but kudos to our partners B.Coleman and Gary Jet Center and our other tenants who are investing the money in the growth of the airport,” said Mook.