The Gary Fire Department offered a water cannon welcome Sunday as the Gary/Chicago International Airport welcomed its first international flight.
A crew and passengers from Copenhagen, Denmark, became the first arrival to pass through the airport’s new U.S. Customs and Border Patrol facility that opened Oct. 4. They touched down in a Bombardier Global 6000 plane directly from Copenhagen, officials said.
Airport executive director Duane Hayden briefed members of the Gary City Council on the first customs arrival during a budget hearing on Monday. He said a second arrival was anticipated from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Hayden said the new international flights would improve the airport’s operations’ revenue.
Previously, international travelers coming to Gary had to clear customs at other airports because Gary didn’t have a customs office.
The airport spent about $1 million transforming a former brick building formerly used to train firefighters into the customs facility.
“We are excited about the continued growth of the airport and the opportunities Customs at the airport will bring,” said airport authority chairman Tim Fesko, in a statement.
Gary Jet Center president Lynn Eplawy said the customs facility will aid in the ability to compete with other major airports and would enhance marketability in the corporate and general aviation community.
Gary Jet Center and B. Coleman Aviation are the two fixed base operators at the airport that bring in the biggest share of the airport’s revenue. Both have made significant investments in hangars and terminal improvements in the past few years.
The airport is also constructing its own $1.3 million corporate hangar.