Fixed-based operator (FBO) Castle & Cooke continues to experience a pick up in traffic from China at its Honolulu, Hawaii, facility, but the company is also hoping to capture more traffic at its base in Van Nuys with the opening of a new U.S. Customs office at the California airport, which is near Los Angeles.
Tony Marlow, general manager of Castle & Cooke, told AIN in early March that on-site Customs was expected to return to Van Nuys Airport early in the second quarter, after more than a decade-long hiatus.
Marlow noted that the Customs service was eliminated from the airport post-9/11, when tight budgets and priorities redirected staff elsewhere. But he noted that a number of FBO and charter executives at Van Nuys, including aviation icon Clay Lacy, made a strong push for its return.
“Now, long-range aircraft can fly nonstop directly to Van Nuys without having to divert to another airport first,” said Marlow, who added he expects it will take some pressure off of Los Angeles International (LAX). “It’s really significant and a good thing for Los Angeles.”
Having Customs at Van Nuys will mean that all three of Castle & Cooke’s facilities will be able to serve inbound international traffic. In addition to Honolulu and Van Nuys, Castle & Cooke operates an FBO in Everett, Washington, where it shares U.S. Customs resources with the local port.
Marlow noted that he has received a number of inquires on when Customs might return to Van Nuys, including some from operators with plans to attend ABACE. But in the past, Marlow had been unable to provide a definitive timeline.
The return of Customs comes as Castle & Cooke continues to build up its transient traffic at Van Nuys with last year’s opening of a new ramp and 1,500-sq-ft terminal building. Castle & Cooke’s Van Nuys facility had long been known as a private FBO, focused on its based tenants, Marlow noted. But that changed a few years ago, when the FBO began to attract transient aircraft as well.
As the size of customers’ aircraft has increased, Castle & Cooke designed its newest facilities to accommodate them. This is particularly important for international traffic. Marlow notes that the majority of aircraft from China have been Bombardier Globals or Gulfstreams.
The new ramp spans two acres, giving it enough space to serve aircraft as large as Boeing Business Jets. In addition to the ramp and terminal dedicated to transient aircraft, the Van Nuys facility replaced its older hangars that were built for a smaller business-jet fleet with a new 38,000-sq-ft hangar. The new structure was designed to accommodate aircraft such as the Gulfstream 650, Marlow said.
The additional capacity has drawn new traffic to the Van Nuys facility, Marlow said. The new hangar is nearly full, and Castle & Cooke executives already are considering options for even more space under roof.
As the economy has improved, traffic has picked up throughout the Castle & Cooke network both domestically and internationally, said the company. As well as handling more aircraft, they have experienced an uptick in fuel sales. While more traffic typically would lead to more gallons sold, aircraft have become more fuel efficient, pushing down overall fuel volumes, said Marlow.
He estimated traffic growth has been up near the double-digit range through 2014. This momentum continued into 2015, he said, adding the first couple of months of the year saw significant increases as well.
Traffic from Asia Pacific, including China, has helped with the uptick in Honolulu activity. “It’s definitely been worth my investment being at ABACE,” said Marlow. Castle & Cooke has exhibited at every ABACE since the show resumed on an annual basis in 2012.
While he still believes Honolulu is a strong draw both for “tech stops” and final-destination traffic to and from Asia Pacific, Marlow said his message at ABACE this year will focus also on the company’s international capabilities at Van Nuys.