Profile compiled by Mark Klein
CHICAGO – When the world’s biggest golf event rolls into Chicagoland in September – pro golfers, corporate sponsors, journalists and spectators pouring in from across the globe – DuPage Flight Center (KDPA) will be swinging for the pins with a full set of clubs.
With its 24-hour FAA control tower, 24-hour United States Customs, 24-hour firefighting and rescue service, 24-hour staffed line service, and the second longest runway in Chicagoland, DuPage Flight Center has the chops to handle the demands of what many consider to be golf’s most prestigious event, the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah Country Club, just 15 miles away.
The hotly contested 85-year-old event is held every two years for international bragging rights to a gold cup that pits an elite team of U.S. golfers against a European counterpart.
“We’re expecting a tremendous amount of traffic to be generated by the event,” explains David Bird, Executive Director of DuPage Airport Authority. “We think we are going to capture the majority of it here. We are the closest airport to Medinah, but we also have the most capacity and the largest array of critical services of any general aviation airport in the region.”
Indeed. One of DuPage’s four runways is second only to O’Hare in length. Two runways provide ILS approaches. And with a one-million-square-foot apron, the Phillips 66® Aviation fixed base operator has the most ramp capacity of any general aviation field in the region.
Add in a multimillion-dollar renovation scheduled to be ready in time for the Cup, and you have an FBO ready for tee-off.
“It’s a huge corporate event; the prediction is that it could be the largest-grossing event in golf’s history,” Bird says. “There are 76 corporate hospitality tents alone. We are expecting lots of domestic traffic from these corporations that have a presence at the event, in addition to several European flights.
“We don’t want there to be much difference between walking into a high-end hotel and DuPage Flight Center, from the time they touch the pavement to the time they go wheels up,” explains Bird.
A testament to tenaciousness
When asked about the FBO’s commitment to service, Bird points out that DuPage Flight Center has not had a snow closure in 30 years. When the third highest snowfall in Chicago history brought the town to its knees in 2011, DuPage was open, runways cleared, planes de-iced and flight operations running.
“We had our entire crew out here in ungodly conditions and we resumed operations within 30 minutes of the weather lifting,” Bird says. “There was essentially no downtime, despite contending with 12-foot snowdrifts around the flight center. We were able to keep our customers warm, comfortable and fed before they departed.”
DuPage is an FBO owned by a government agency, in this case, the DuPage Airport Authority. But what’s unique about DuPage Flight Center is that no tax money is used to subsidize the FBO operation. It is self-sustaining.
“We feel we’re one of a kind,” says Bird. “It’s a credit to our managers that people don’t distinguish our employees from private sector ones. Our competition is private sector and we recognize it. We take very much a private-sector approach and we stress trying to give the best customer service possible.”
The 1,343 foot extension strengthens capabilities at the general aviation facility that serves corporate flight departments and national security operations.