By Stanley Ziemba
Tribune Staff Writer
September 28, 2000

Officials in Gary who contend that a rejuvenated Gary/Chicago Airport would eliminate the need for a new jetport in the south suburbs received added ammunition for their argument this week.

Pan American Airways, which inaugurated flights from Gary to Orlando and Portsmouth, N.H., last year, has announced that it will begin providing service between Gary and Lehigh Valley International Airport in Allentown, Pa., in mid-November.

The new service will link northern New Jersey and the northern suburban area of Philadelphia with the Chicago area, said Dave Fink, Pan Am's president. In addition, the central business district of Philadelphia is only 50 miles from the Lehigh Valley Airport, and Newark and New York City are less than two hours away, he noted.

"Our strategy is to provide quality and reliable service to non-congested facilities located near metropolitan areas," Fink said. "The Lehigh Valley Airport is within 60 miles of millions of people, none of whom want congested terminals, cramped aircraft or long delays."

Fink said passenger reaction in Gary has been better than anticipated. Leisure traffic to Orlando has been especially strong, he noted.

Indiana officials point to the success of Pan Am as proof that the Gary/Chicago Airport is in the best position to meet the needs of not only northwest Indiana but also Chicago.

As for those south-suburban politicians and businesspeople who insist that a third airport is needed near Beecher, Peotone, Monee and University Park, "the reality is that there already is a third Chicago airport. It's in Gary," Indiana Gov. Frank O'Bannon said recently.

Pan Am also flies to Pittsburgh, Bangor, Maine, and St. Louis from Gary.