Earlier this week, the new general aviation U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at Gary/Chicago International Airport (GYY) received its first international flight. The facility officially opened last week, after a ribbon-cutting ceremony over the summer attended by scores of local dignitaries and elected officials that included Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Indiana).
The inaugural flight, which received a water cannon salute on arrival, was a Bombardier Global 6000 that flew nonstop from Copenhagen, Denmark. Airport authorities and CBP officials were on hand to greet the ultra-long-range business jet and clear it through customs, a process that took less than half an hour from the time of landing.
“The grand opening of the new general aviation customs facility opens the door to a whole new international market and services for the airport and its users,” said GYY Authority chairman Tim Fesko. “We are excited about the continued growth of the airport and the opportunities Customs at the airport will bring.”
Those sentiments were echoed by the two FBOs on the field, who believe the new facility will help make the airport, and by extension their businesses, more attractive to business aviation operators. "The onsite CBP facility will allow our FBO customers to arrive directly from international locations, and continues to prove that the Gary Chicago International Airport is becoming the business aviation airport of choice in the Chicago area," noted John Girzadas, president of B. Coleman Aviation.
Both service providers have greatly expanded their FBOs over the past few years, pumping more than $22 million into their campuses to meet anticipated demand. "The new customs facility further improves our ability to compete with other major airports, while also enhancing our marketability to the corporate and general aviation community," added Gary Jet Center president Lynn Eplawy.
Since GYY lengthened its main runway to 8,859 feet in 2014, giving it the second longest runway in the region after O'Hare International, it has seen an increase in use by larger private aircraft, flying to destinations farther away, as well as an 82 percent increase in fuel flowage revenue, a more than 140 percent increase in landing fee revenue and a more than 15 percent overall increase in operations.