Scottsdale Airport hosting more international flights










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Michael Clancy, The Republic | 9:28 a.m. MST May 16, 2014

More international flights landing at Scottsdale Airport

A record number of international flights landed at Scottsdale Airport in the early part of 2014, in part because the city expanded the U.S. Customs office and hours at the airport.

Through April, 334 international flights landed in Scottsdale. The record for a year is 490 in 2013. The highest first four months’ usage was in 2012, when 219 flights arrived in Scottsdale from outside of the United States.

Scottsdale added a second Customs officer in February in response to growing international business.

Scottsdale pays for the service, which in turn pays the salary, benefits and office space of the two Customs officers. That comes to $303,000. In exchange, the city keeps fees charged to the flights that use the Customs service. The bigger the plane, the higher the fees, ranging from $50 to $750.

“We estimated it would take two years to recoup the costs of the second officer,” said Michael Goode, a member of the Airport Advisory Commission, who works in the private-aircraft industry. “But there is a good possibility that we will recoup the costs in one year.”

Goode said the expansion was based upon feedback from airport users, all of them owners and operators of privately owned aircraft. No commercial aircraft use the airport.

“The schedule made no sense,” Goode said of the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekday setup. The new schedule runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

New weight limits for the airport runway set the stage for larger aircraft, he said.

Scottsdale can handle planes that weigh up to 75,000 pounds routinely. With advance notice, it can take in planes up to 100,000 pounds. In the works are plans to boost runway strength to make 100,000 pounds routine. The proposal is awaiting Federal Aviation Administration approval.

The higher weight limits will allow planes to reach Scottsdale from almost any point on Earth. Recently, a plane came non-stop from Moscow, more than 6,000 miles away.

Passengers have come from Australia, Great Britain, Bangladesh, Belgium, China, Colombia, Croatia, France, the Philippines, Germany, Hong Kong, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Japan, Mexico, Norway, New Zealand, Peru, Switzerland, South Africa, Spain and Venezuela, airport officials said.

The numbers spike at exactly the time one would expect, with fall, winter and spring months by far the highest — when high-profile events and some of the best weather in the nation draw thousands of visitors. April has been the busiest month the past two years. Usage drops from May to September, the hot season.

Usage of the airport by international flights not only boosts Scottsdale’s business profile, it also benefits airport services, from maintenance and catering to fuel sales.

“This is a good opportunity for the airport,” Goode said.

Sarah Ferrara, aviation planning and outreach coordinator, said most of the flights come from Mexico and Canada. International flights must notify the Customs office of their arrival by 2 p.m. the day before arrival. Flights outside of normal hours are accommodated with an additional fee.

Scottsdale has been accommodating international flights since 2001. Rules governing them changed, allowing incoming flights to bypass the first port of entry and conduct Customs work at the point of landing, which results in more flights to enter entering the United States at Scottsdale.

Upgrades planned

Besides hardening Scottsdale Airport’s main runway, enabling the airport to handle 100,000-pound planes routinely, the airport has other improvements in the works.

• Airport operations center, new building — Currently housed in the business center next to the main terminal, the operations center handles most airport activity. The new building will cost $3 million. Design has been finalized, and the city is preparing to take it to bid.

• Taxiway A — Crack seal, seal coat, restriping. This is the main taxiway for planes heading to hangars after landing or heading out to taxiway B to take off. This currently is in the contract execution phase, and the design phase will begin after July 1. Cost: $220,000.

• Taxiway B — Strengthening and rehabilitation. The main runway will be strengthened to handle larger aircraft. Design is complete, and the city is awaiting grant funding to pay the $5 million price tag.




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