Customs on its way to airport | VailDaily.com
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Customs on its way to airport

Veronica Whitney

Eagle County commissioners on Tuesday will be approving the final agreement needed for customs to come into the county.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection authorities in Denver have agreed with a request from Eagle County to supply a customs agent, but the federal agency still needs to sign the documents.

After that, they’ll be seeking two customs officials to work at the airport, said Becky Gadell, Eagle County assistant administrator.

Meanwhile, the Vail Valley Jet Center has signed a five-year agreement with Eagle County to provide space for customs inspectors.

“If all goes according to plan, and everything is on board with the jet center, there will be two customs officials at the airport by July or August,” said Mark Davidson, director of the Eagle County Regional Airport.

Once the initiative goes through, private planes coming from outside the U.S. will be flying nonstop to the airport in Gypsum. Currently, planes coming from outside the United States must add a stop to clear customs before landing in Eagle.

During 2001, approximately 350 private planes had to clear customs before landing at Eagle, said James C. Allen, chairman and CEO of the Vail Valley Jet Center.

Initially, the customs service in Eagle County would serve private aviation – not commercial airlines. It will likely involve two agents because of the long distance the airport is from Denver, said County Attorney Diane Mauriello.

“We already have an office for the customs agents and a ramp area for the international aircrafts,” said Bryan Burns, president of the Vail Valley Jet Center.

“The original intent of the five-year agreement is that, at first, customs will service international corporate private-planes. It’s a start and, hopefully, it can develop into something larger that includes commercial flights.”

Burns said he expects flights from Canada and Mexico to be the potential market at the beginning.

The new customs service, county Administrator Jack Ingstad said, won’t cost the county any money.

“The Jet Center has also agreed to take on the financial risk,” he said. “We’ll share on the profits.”

Ingstad said international flights would be charged to go through customs. Another benefit, Ingstad said, could be profits from refueling planes on international flights.

Other airports in Colorado with customs service are Denver International Airport, Centennial Airport in Colorado Springs and Jefferson County Airport.

Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at vwhitney@vaildaily.com.


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