May 08--New Hanover County Airport Authority members were told Wednesday which new terminal concept, out of four options, was considered the best for Wilmington International Airport.
The concept, complete with a $53 million price tag, would streamline operations at Wilmington's airport and includes the construction of a two-level parking deck where the growing airport's current short-term parking lot is.
"We still want to be the Wilmington people love," said Julie Wilsey, the airport's deputy director.
Keeping the Wilmington feel is important, Wilsey said, but she emphasized the need to expand to meet passenger and the aviation community's needs.
The airport terminal currently encompasses about 102,000 square feet, according to Travis Pence, partner at Charlotte-based The Wilson Group. Wednesday's presentation was the first made to the authority of the Terminal Capacity Study which started in August.
Pence, who presented all four options to authority members, said the eight-gate building would expand to 10 gates and 190,000 square feet.
Doubling of the building in the next 20 years was deemed necessary and consistent with Federal Aviation Administration projections that the number of passengers boarding at the local airport could nearly double by 2033.
According to FAA projections, project manager Amy McLane said, Wilmington's airport may exceed 740,000 passengers boarding annually in two decades compared to the 400,108 in 2013.
McLane works for Wilmington-based Talbert & Bright, which helped to facilitate the study.
The discussion of an expected surge in airport traffic was followed by Gary Broughton, the airport's director of operations, telling members that Delta will halt its daily nonstop flight to New York City this fall.
Broughton said Delta's operational decision would take effect in September. The airline will only maintain the Saturday morning nonstop flight to LaGuardia International Airport during the fall and winter months.
He said daily nonstop service is expected to resume next spring. Broughton did not know Delta's exact reason for stopping its daily service, but speculated that the airline's 60 percent load rate on the flight was a contributing factor.
American Airlines' load factor for its nonstop flight to New York is about 76 percent, he said.
Authority Chairman Thomas Barber said losing flights is always a concern for the airport, but officials continue work to keep other flights offered and expand destinations.
While there have been several meetings to discuss this expansion, no action has been taken to cement the deal.
During the meeting, authority members gave approval for Talbert & Bright officials to continue researching the selected terminal facility plan. McLane said the continued research would refine the estimated cost for construction.
Authority members are expected to receive a final presentation during their September meeting.
Caitlin Dineen: 343-2339
On Twitter: @CaitlinDineen
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