Cape Fear Jetport improvement plan

Cape Fear Jetport has landed another big one.

This time, it’s not a multi-million-dollar Citation-class jet, capable of soaring across continents. It is millions of dollars for improvements that will attract and serve those customers and others in the aviation world.

The state Department of Transportation announced it would invest at least $4.3-million for the second phase of an apron and tie-down area on the west side of the jetport. Airport staff moved into a new, expanded terminal more than a year ago. The apron expansion will assist flyers, especially those in larger aircraft, who need more space than afforded at the old terminal off Long Beach Road. The new terminal, at the north end of the property, has room for growth but needs more “parking” spaces, called “aprons,” in aviation lingo.

“When this is done … we’ll look and feel like a professional airport,” said jetport director Howie Franklin.

Franklin said the apron expansion would increase capacity from about five to nearly 40 aircraft in the immediate vicinity of the new terminal. An existing apron and hangars are at the old terminal; plans call for additional hangars closer to the new terminal.

“We’ve been working on this for two-plus years,” he said.

The new apron will increase safety by reducing the number of times aircraft and service vehicles have to cross the runway for various reasons.

The project includes a stormwater management system and elevating the land to be utilized by aircraft. Franklin said the jetport authority expects to finish the work by summer of 2022.

About 80 aircraft are currently based at the jetport and there is a waiting list for others. Future plans include construction of 30 T-hangars and nine large box-style hangars. Jet and other airplane owners are anxious to keep their crafts out of the sun, wind, rain and salt spray, so there’s a big existing market for that service, said Franklin said.

“It will be a money maker,” he added.

The grant was part of a statewide package of more than $9.5-million to boost aviation businesses and travel, the DOT stated. The state’s 72 public airports contribute $61-billion to the economy and support 373,000 jobs statewide.

“We are a service-oriented business and an economic engine for the county,” Franklin said.