Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Gary Airport to get commercial service; Peotone still a field of dreams

Landing in Smyrna to take the MTSU Blue Raider...
Soon to be flying over the skies at Gary/Chicago Airport
The Gary/Chicago International Airport has once again made an announcement that commercial air service will begin at Gary. This time, the announcement was made by Keith Hanson, who represents the airline. He announced that two flights per week, destined to Orlando, FL will fly out of the Gary airport, starting in February 2012.
Last September, it was rumored that Allegiant would begin service at Gary, but apparently the announcement was premature. The day before a press conference was scheduled, several news sources reported that a big announcement by an unnamed airline would be forthcoming. The marketing firm—Diversified Marketing Strategies of Crown Point, IN, identified the airline as Allegiant. The announcement was cancelled by the airlines .
That isn’t the case presently, as the latest proclamation that Allegiant Air will begin service at Gary, this time, comes from the airline itself. Hanson added that service to Florida may be just the beginning. He added that If it proves to be successful, additional destinations can be added.
While commercial airline service at the Gary airport has been on-again-off-again proposition, it is not for a lack of trying. Indiana officials have long committed to the success of the northwest Indiana airport.
The last commercial airline to utilize the Gary/Chicago airport was Skybus which ceased operation just one week after it began in the spring of 2008. A year prior, SkyValue ceased operation at Gary due to financial difficulties. Other airlines have come and gone over the years, but a subscription for success has yet to be achieved. That certainly isn’t for a lack of trying. The Gary/Chicago airport has had financial help from the federal, state, and local agencies, including the City of Chicago, in an attempt to land long term commercial service there.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the border, Illinois officials continue to: 1) ignore the ready aviation facility at Gary, which is just miles from the south suburbs they claim to be trying to help; 2) try every way possible to coerce support for a new airport in the farm fields near Peotone, IL, almost 50 miles south of Chicago.
The project has been talked about for almost a half-century with little forward progress except to shrink it to about the size of Gary’s airport.
The only real step toward fruition came when the incarcerated ex-Illinois Gov. George Ryan, made a deal with a campaign contributor to buy the first piece of land outside the airport footprint. Since that first parcel in an under-developed upscale subdivision became state-owned, Illinois officials have used scare tactics and threats of eminent domain to scare landowners into selling their property to the state. They have taken full advantage of artificially reduced land prices due to the threat of an airport nearby, and most recently the country’s economy and housing bubble to entice willing sellers who feel they have no other options but to sell to the state. Even still, the state has now obtained only about half of the land it would need for a new airport. Landowners that remain are unwilling sellers who vow to fight the state from taking their property, especially for a project that hasn’t even been approved.