International aircraft operators and their passengers will now have the ability to land at Charleston’s West Virginia International Yeager Airport process through the U.S. Customs facility.
Tuesday marked the anticipated opening of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) General Aviation Facility at West Virginia International Yeager Airport (CRW) with local, state and federal officials on hand. The Charleston facility is now the only international port of entry in the state of West Virginia.
CRW Director and CEO Nick Keller told MetroNews that this means more opportunities for the airport and state.
“Airports open up the state to the national economy but the international port of entry makes us a player on the international stage,” he said.
According to Keller, the plan for CBP to have its own facility has been years in the making. CBP has been working without a facility at CRW since 2016. Keller said that when the previous CBP officer at CRW retired, CBP officials stated it would not restaff the facility until it had its own building.
Keller credited the help of the Kanawha County Commission, U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Charleston Mayor Amy Shuler Goodwin, and Gov. Jim Justice for helping make it possible. In July 2019, Justice announced a $2 million grant to get the project underway.
Manchin told the media that the facility allows for international travelers to visit and do business in West Virginia more conveiently and quicker than before.
“They know they can go through customs, be approved, be able to do what they need to do and go home. It makes all the difference in the world to have his ability to transport back and forth,” the senator said.
Keller told MetroNews the facility will be able to handle aircraft with up to 20 passengers from international flights. the facility, which was shown off for tours following the ceremony, features start-of-the-art screening equipment, a processing center for passports and documents, holding cells, and an agricultural inspection station.
CRW’s CEO also told MetroNews that the airport has already begun marketing the facility toward attracting people overflying West Virginia from outside the country. He gave an example of smaller flights flying from London to out west that may need to stop for fuel and clear customs.
“We have an advantage here because we’ll be quicker and less expensive,” Keller said.
The opening of CBP comes shortly after CRW rebranded as West Virginia International Yeager Airport. Keller said the name fits what CRW has to offer now.
“To let people know that we are an international facility, we can handle international general aviation flights. We don’t want to be one of the two states without a customs facility,” he said.
The first international flight scheduled to land at CRW and its passengers use CBP facility is a plane associated with the Marshall University Bill Noe Flight School coming from Canada on Wednesday.
Noe, Marshall University President Brad Smith, Mark J. Laria, Area Port Director for Norfolk, Capito, Manchin, Justice, Keller, Goodwin, and Kanawha County Commissioners Kent Carper and Lance Wheeler all cut the ribbon on Tuesday.
“Prior to the opening of this new facility, CBP at Charleston was limited to processing United States Citizen’s due to the lack of a proper facility,” said Laria in a statement. “This facility will allow CBP to fulfill our border security mandate while supporting the economic growth at the Yeager International Airport.”