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Who’s clearing Customs at Boca Airport?

Some 1,491 aircraft from 40 countries cleared U.S. Customs at Boca Raton Airport. That’s double the estimate on opening day, May 31, 2018.

The Bahamas accounted for 936 flights, Canada 78, Turks and Caicos 49 and the Dominican Republic 45. Flights came from as far away as England, Germany, Ireland, Spain and France.

“Our busiest days are Wednesdays and Sundays, and the busiest month was March,” deputy airport director Scott Kohut said.

Medium-size jets accounted for 40 percent or 596 of the flights using the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.

Single-engine piston planes came in at 228; turbo props 208; small jets 186; large jets 154 and single-engine pistons 119.

Last June and July, 290 and 330 passengers were served. By November, the numbers picked up to 637, reaching 938 in February and 1,269 in March as Kohut said.

The biggest surprise wasn’t the upsurge in use. “It was the cross-section of users; recreational, charters and businesses,” said Clara Bennett, executive director.

Customs’ fees help the airport authority offset the operating costs, Bennett added.

A workman polishes the wings on an airplane in Privaira’s hangar at Boca Raton Airport.

The facility serves tenants like Privaira, a company that include a private charter service with a fleet of 15 aircraft.

Have the presidential trips to Palm Beach and resulting diverts affected international travel? Hard to know, she said.

“We’re collecting data to respond to demand,” and possibly extending hours, Bennett said.

Now the hours are 10:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. But Customs is available 24/7 with prior notice, Kohut said. He estimates 25 percent of flights needing Customs come in just before it opens or just afterward, between 6:30 and 8:30 p.m.

An airport tour for the anniversary included the air traffic control tower and Privaira. But the U.S. Customs and Border Protection was strictly off-limits.

By Marci Shatzman

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