With today’s inaugural flight, EVA Air Cargo becomes the third Asian carrier offering scheduled all-cargo service from George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH).

As the Boeing 747-400 freighter aircraft made its way past the water arch setup by one of the Houston Airport System’s three aircraft rescue firefighting stations at Bush Intercontinental, the crowd at the IAH CargoCenter grew anxious with anticipation.

Among those in attendance were Dennis Kao, chief executive vice president of EVA Air Cargo; Tracy McDaniel, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Greater Houston Partnership; and Richard Vacar, director of the Houston Airport System, among many others.

All in attendance were celebrating a new era in the city’s aviation industry. One in which Houston is becoming the international gateway of choice for air carriers across the globe. Just last year, China Airlines inaugurated the first scheduled Asian all-cargo service from IAH.

Those familiar with the local region say it is just a matter of convenience and capability. McDaniel, who oversees the Greater Houston Partnership’s aviation committee, says the continued growth of the city’s largest airport is due to its strong economic ties around the world.

‘Houston is one of the global gateways of the world. We’re going to continue to position ourselves like that and we have so many innovative clusters in our region that help us do that,’ McDaniel says. ‘We are just becoming more and more attractive to all international markets.’

The Greater Houston Partnership is a business advocacy group made up of more than 2,000 local organizations in the Houston and surrounding areas. Members of this organization were also present at the luncheon put together by the Houston Airport System to commemorate this historic event.

Houston Mayor Bill White surprised EVA Air Cargo executives by presenting them with a proclamation and declaring November 1st Eva Air Cargo day in Houston.

Robert Wigington, deputy director of aviation for the airport system, presented the air carrier with the honors on behalf of Mayor White.

Kao also had a few surprises of his own. He announced that in 2008 the carrier already has plans to increase its frequencies between Houston and Taipei.

‘We need to provide more frequencies for our customers, to meet their demands,’ he adds. ‘We are confident we can reach three to four flights a week.’

The new twice weekly service, which will be operated using a Boeing 747-400 freighter aircraft, will be routed through Anchorage, Alaska on its departure from IAH; and will include stops in Anchorage and Chicago, before landing in Houston on its arrival flight.

Last year, the Houston Airport System moved more than 367,000 metric tons of air cargo. By the end of this year, airport authorities are anticipating a significant increase of at least 8 percent in total air cargo shipments from Houston.

‘Based on the traffic figures that we have already registered so far, and the number of new carriers that have expressed interest in starting new service from Houston, I’d say 2007 is going to be a very good year for us,’ says Willie Bingaman, director of cargo operations for the Houston Airport System.

Currently IAH ranks as the 10th busiest airport in the nation for international air cargo shipments; and as the 18th busiest in the country for total air cargo shipments, according to Airports Council International-North America.

Next year, Bingaman expects the airport to jump into the top 10 total air cargo shipments ranking category.

‘As we grow, so do the opportunities for the local region,’ concluded Vacar. ‘We are extremely excited about this new service, but ultimately Houston’s air cargo industry will benefit the most from having additional international access.’ (Houston Airport System)