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Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023

Fixed-Base Operator on Board with Customs

Representatives of Signature Flight Support, Van Nuys Airport and U.S. Customs and Border Protection met this month to finalize the return of customs agents to the San Fernando Valley airport. Signature is a national fixed-based operator that supplies fuel and other ground support to private planes. The company, based in Orlando, Fla. is owned by British company BBA Aviation plc. “Everyone is on board,” said Eric Hill, general manager of Signature in Van Nuys. “It is a matter of coming together to interpret customs policy and the ramifications of following the guidelines.” Signature has taken the lead on the custom agents issue. The company will pay upfront costs of $75,000 for the hiring of customs agents to handle flights at Van Nuys and will spend another $225,000 to remodel a portion of their building for passenger clearance. Signature will make money through a user fee paid by charter operators, Hill said. CBP requires a space of at least 14,075 square feet where its agents will clear passengers. The space at Signature, while part of the main building, has separate doorways to the aircraft ramp and to the street and separate restrooms. Van Nuys has been without on-demand customs agents since 2006, when they were pulled from there and Bob Hope Airport in Burbank for reassignment elsewhere. Since 2007, airport officials backed by charter operators flying to international destinations have worked to get the agents back. Van Nuys, as a worldwide destination airport, benefits from having the agents onsite because flights would otherwise stop at Los Angeles International Airport for clearance, adding to an otherwise already congested airspace. “It is a time savings by flying from destinations point to point and a significant cost savings to the operators,” Hill said. Sharing those agents with Bob Hope Airport is not allowed under CBP guidelines. Under the user fee program, the Burbank airport would have to provide its own facility for customs clearance. “Every airport has to do it on its own,” Hill said. “We are hoping that eventually (CBP) will lighten up and get multiple uses from the same staff.” Once Van Nuys Airport, LAWA, Signature and CBP are comfortable with the situation, LAWA needs to get a letter of support from Gov. Jerry Brown. Once that letter is received, Signature will begin the remodel of its building, Hill said. Boeing Goes Pop When pop singer Rhianna took to the skies for her 777 Tour in November, the passenger list included the singer’s entourage, a few select fans, more than 100 journalists and the man responsible for securing the Boeing jet they flew on. David Young, through his Van Nuys-based charter aviation firm YoungJets, coordinated the use of the Boeing 777. While he typically does not travel with the tour groups that he supplies with aircraft, Young made an exception for Rhianna when she traveled to seven cities in seven countries in seven days. “It was non-stop,” Young said. “We hardly ever slept; we always kept going.” If the name YoungJet does not sound familiar it’s because Young started the company just 10 months ago and has kept a low profile. He did no marketing because it was not necessary as the clientele he went after come from the movie and music industries that Young knows well. But now coming up on the start of the second year, he felt it was time to get the YoungJet name out to the flying public. In addition to standard charter flights, YoungJets handles the arrangements for financial road shows, world tours, sports team travel and private group travel. Young splits his time between the Van Nuys and Santa Barbara offices of YoungJets. In January, the firm plans to expand to the East Coast with an office in Washington, D.C., an area that Young said is underserved by the charter industry. “What we have learned is by doing high-profile, VIP service we would be well served expanding into the political and business worlds in Washington,” Young said. YoungJets does not own or manage any aircraft but relies on third-party operators that are charter friendly and looking for business. The company avoids dealing with aircraft management firms looking to fill hours when their private or corporate aircraft owners are not using their planes. Serving entertainment clients requires these aircraft companies be available at a moment’s notice. “They have to have flexibility with their schedules,” Young said. Offering the flight coordination for music tours was a service that Young gravitated toward given his background. Prior to his aviation career Young worked for record labels and operated Bliss Artist Management. His new role is rewarding in its own ways. “The touring side with jets can be lucrative,” he said. Staff reporter Mark R. Madler can be reached at (818) 316-3126 or by email at mmadler@sfvbj.com.

Mark Madler
Mark Madler
Mark R. Madler covers aviation & aerospace, manufacturing, technology, automotive & transportation, media & entertainment and the Antelope Valley. He joined the company in February 2006. Madler previously worked as a reporter for the Burbank Leader. Before that, he was a reporter for the City News Bureau of Chicago and several daily newspapers in the suburban Chicago area. He has a bachelor’s of science degree in journalism from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

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