HAMMOND, La. - The Hammond Northshore Regional Airport is one small step closer to becoming an international port of entry, Mayor Mayson Foster said Tuesday.
The city received a letter from Gov. Kathleen Blanco's office last week indicating her support for Hammond's pursuit of international status for its airport, Foster said.
State Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, was instrumental in obtaining the approval from the Governor's Office, Foster added.
The governor's approval will be attached to the city's application to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to be a port of entry for international aircraft, Foster said.
Without that approval, the city could not apply, Foster said.
Whether the airport will become a port of entry is still uncertain because the city has to make sure it can fund the costs of maintaining a Customs inspector at the airport and make sure no federal regulations would hinder the airport's successful operations as a port of entry.
Foster said a Customs agent and related expenses would cost the city about $150,000 the first year and $125,000 each following year.
The city is looking into how much it might collect in fees to pay that cost.
Foster also said there is a federal regulation that prevents an incoming aircraft to bypass one port-of-entry airport for another.
For example, an airplane flying over New Orleans would have to land there rather than seek another airport.
Foster said his staff is looking into whether that regulation would apply to what Hammond wants to do.
If the application is successful, Foster said, he wants the city's cost for becoming an international airport to be included in next year's government budget.
The next fiscal year begins July 1, he said.
The Hammond Northshore Regional Airport primarily serves cargo planes, business planes and private pilots, Foster said.
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