Raleigh–Durham International Airport

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"Durham Airport" redirects here. For the UK airport, see Durham Tees Valley Airport.
International Airport
Raleigh–Durham International Airport Logo.jpg
Raleigh Durham International airport satellite view.png
Airport type Public
Owner/Operator Raleigh–Durham Airport Authority
Serves The Research Triangle Metropolitan Region of North Carolina
Location Cedar Fork Township, Wake County, North Carolina
Focus city for Delta Air Lines[1]
Elevation AMSL 435 ft / 133 m
Coordinates 35°52′40″N 078°47′15″W / 35.87778°N 78.78750°W / 35.87778; -78.78750
Website rdu.com
RDU is located in North Carolina
RDU is located in the US
Location of airport in North Carolina/United States
Direction Length Surface
ft m
5L/23R 10,000 3,048 Concrete
5R/23L 7,500 2,286 Asphalt
14/32 3,570 1,088 Asphalt
Statistics (2016)
Aircraft movements 191,348
Passenger movements 11,049,103
Sources: RDU website[2]

Raleigh–Durham International Airport (IATA: RDUICAO: KRDUFAA LID: RDU) is the main airport serving Raleigh, Durham and the surrounding Research Triangle region of North Carolina. It is located 4.5 miles (7 km) northeast of the town of Morrisville in Wake County. The airport covers 5,000 acres (2,000 ha) and has three runways and has passenger service to 41 destinations with 126 average daily departures.[3] In 2016, RDU set an all time record for passengers, with 11,049,143 passengers traveling through the airport.[4] The RDU Airport Authority is in charge of the airport facilities and its operations. The Airport Authority is controlled by a board of representatives from the counties of Wake and Durham and the cities of Raleigh and Durham.[5]



Early photo of Raleigh–Durham Airport

The region's first airport opened in 1929 as Raleigh's Municipal Airport, south of town at 35°44′06″N 78°39′22″W / 35.735°N 78.656°W / 35.735; -78.656. It was quickly outgrown, and in 1939 the North Carolina General Assembly chartered the Raleigh–Durham Aeronautical Authority to build and operate a larger airport between Raleigh and Durham. This was promoted by Eastern Air Lines, led by then chairman Eddie Rickenbacker who wanted to make RDU a stop on the airline's New York–Miami route.

The new Raleigh–Durham Airport opened on May 1, 1943 with flights by Eastern Airlines. The passenger terminal was built from materials remaining after the construction of four barracks for the Army Air Forces Air Technical Service Command airfield.[6] The three runways the airport had in 1951 are still visible on the southeast side of the airport: 4500-ft runway 5, 4500-ft runway 18 and 4490-ft runway 14.

After World War II Capital Airlines joined Eastern at RDU; Piedmont Airlines arrived in 1948. The April 1957 Official Airline Guide shows 36 departures a day: twenty Eastern, eight Capital and eight Piedmont. Nonstop flights did not reach beyond Washington, Atlanta, or the Appalachians (but Eastern started a Super Constellation nonstop to Newark in 1958). The next airline (aside from United's takeover of Capital in 1961) was Delta Air Lines in 1970. In April 1969 nonstops didn't reach beyond New York or Atlanta, and Chicago was the only nonstop west of the Appalachians.

In the 1970s, the last decade before airline deregulation, Piedmont connected RDU to Charlotte, Greensboro, New Bern, Norfolk, Richmond, Rocky Mount, Washington, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.[7] United flew to Asheville, Charlotte, Huntsville and Newark,[8] while Eastern flew to Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond and Washington,[9] and Delta flew to Chicago and Greensboro.[10]

After deregulation Allegheny Airlines arrived in 1979 and by 1985 Trans World Airlines, American Airlines, Ozark, People Express, New York Air and Pan Am had all put in appearances.

Hub years[edit]

American Airlines built a terminal at RDU between 1985 and 1987 to house a new hub operation,[11] and flew to 38 cities when the hub started in June 1987.[12] The December 1987 timetable shows AA nonstops to 36 airports and Eagle prop nonstops to 18 more. The RDU hub operated at a loss even during its heyday in the early 1990s, like the north-south hubs AA then had at Nashville and San Jose.[13]

The hub's traffic peaked in 1991. Although the Raleigh/Durham area had growing local traffic, the connecting hub faced competition from Delta and Eastern in Atlanta and from USAir in Charlotte, as well as the short-lived Continental Airlines hub in Greensboro that opened in 1993. American began to consider closing the hub in late 1993; operations were reduced until June 1995 when American closed the hub, retaining flights to three AA hubs and London.[14]

Midway Airlines replaced AA as the airport's hub carrier from 1995 until 2003.[15] In 1995, Midway had flights to Boston, Hartford, Long Island, Newark, Newburgh, New York, Philadelphia and Washington in the Northeast, and to Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach in Florida.[16] American subleased its gates at RDU to Midway in order to repay $113 million in American-guaranteed bonds which had been used to construct the hub facilities.[17] Midway suspended service for some time after the September 11, 2001 attacks, ceased operations in 2002 and filed for bankruptcy in 2003.

An American Airlines Boeing 777-200 from London-Gatwick landing at RDU in 2005

American Airlines retained the daily nonstop flight from RDU to London, originally launched to Gatwick Airport in May 1994 with a Boeing 767-200ER. The route continues to operate, partly due to the needs of the region's corporate travelers, particularly those of GlaxoSmithKline which has major bases of operation in west London near Heathrow Airport and in the Research Triangle Park near RDU. On March 29, 2008, American shifted the RDU-London flight to Heathrow Airport. The RDU-London flight used three-class Boeing 777-200s for several years and now is operated with a two-class Boeing 767-300ER. From June to September 2015, American operated the 777-200 back to RDU temporarily, as the 767s were being refurbished with new interiors. From March 5, 2017, the London flight will see the return of the Boeing 777-200ER permanently as demand for international travel increases and as the Boeing 767-300ERs previously serving the flight are being retired from service.[18]

Post-hub years[edit]

RDU's post-hub years have brought the addition of several new carriers (notably Southwest Airlines and new destinations). Because of the economic downturn and high fuel prices in 2008, American ended the flights to Jacksonville, Kansas City, Newark and Louisville. Mainline flights to Austin, Columbus (OH), New York–LaGuardia and St. Louis were also dropped and service to other cities was reduced or downgraded. Other airlines cut flights and destinations also, including United's service to Denver, US Airways' services to Las Vegas and Phoenix–Sky Harbor. ExpressJet ended its independent flights to Kansas City and New Orleans (ExpressJet now only operates as United Express and Delta Connection). In 2008 RDU lost over 30 flights from the March 2008 schedule.

In 2010 RDU's traffic began to recover. In the first few months of the year passenger numbers stabilized at RDU, ending the decrease in 2008/2009. In the first four months of 2010, 2.7 million passengers traveled through RDU.[19] Growth was flat, compared to the same period a year before, but these signs were positive, indicating that the decline was over. Also, after cutting service, carriers at RDU began to add (or re-add) new service to the schedule. In April 2010 Midwest Airlines resumed service from RDU, adding service to Milwaukee.[20] This route ended when Midwest was acquired by Frontier Airlines. Southwest Airlines, which began service to RDU in June 1999,[21] had also aggressively expanded at RDU, adding service to St. Louis in May, and replacing American Airlines as the largest carrier at RDU.[22][23] JetBlue Airways also increased service to Boston in May 2010.[24]

Delta Air Lines has increased operations since 2010, with resumed nonstop service to Los Angeles in June 2010,[25] followed by new nonstop service to Columbus (OH), Fort Myers, Hartford, Miami, Orlando, Baltimore, St. Louis and Tampa, and additional frequencies to Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul and New York (JFK), in November 2010, and new services to Albany (NY) and Providence in April 2011.

The Inaugural Flight of Delta Air Lines' service from Raleigh-Durham to Paris

In February 2011 Continental Airlines commenced its first international flight from RDU, to Cancún. Delta added three daily flights to Baltimore in September 2011. In November Vision Airlines began operations at RDU and added a twice weekly flight to Freeport.[26] This service was taken over by Bahamasair in May 2012. United Airlines started the airport's first non-stop flight to San Francisco in August 2012. In December 2012 American Airlines announced the airport's first daily non-stop flight to Los Angeles, beginning in April 2013. April 2013 marked the return of Frontier Airlines with nonstop service to Trenton, New Jersey. Since then, Frontier has added non-stop service to Chicago–O'Hare, Cleveland and Denver. Allegiant Air began their first non-stop services out of RDU to Orlando/Sanford, Punta Gorda/Fort Myers and St. Petersburg/Clearwater in May 2015. In September 2015, United resumed service to Denver at twice a day using 76-seat Embraer 175 jets. In April 2015, Alaska Airlines announced RDU's first daily non-stop flight to Seattle, beginning in October 2015.

In September 2015, RDU announced its second transatlantic flight, to Paris, which began in May 2016 and is operated by Delta using Boeing 757-200 aircraft. For Summer 2017, Delta will operate this flight using a Boeing 767-300. In a Triangle Business Journal Article, published on March 2, 2016, Delta explicitly referred to Raleigh-Durham as a focus city. Since then Delta has added several new flights out of Raleigh-Durham including Austin, Newark, Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington DC, and Seattle.


Raleigh-Durham has finished most of its construction with the completion of the Terminal 1 renovation, leading the airport to have the proper infrastructure until 2040. Nevertheless, the airport still owns nearly 2000 acres of unused land around the airport that it wants to develop. Some ideas for developing that land include an airport hotel or warehouse facilities.[27] For air service, the airport is looking at several domestic destinations including Kansas City and San Diego for new non-stop air service.[28] With the addition of the Paris flight, Raleigh is now looking into a trans-pacific flight, possibly to somewhere in India, the Middle East[29] or China where companies such as Lenovo have frequent business flights.[30]

Airport facilities[edit]

Raleigh–Durham International Airport has terminals 1 (Concourse A gates A1-A9 though only A5, A6, A7 and A8 are in use;[31] there is no Concourse B) and 2 (Concourse C gates C1–C25, Concourse D gates D1–D20). Gates C23, C24, and C25 are international gates and can accommodate aircraft up to the Boeing 747.The airport has implemented the most ambitious expansion in its history, begun in 2006 and completed in January 2011. Terminal 1 was re-opened after extensive renovation in 2014; and Terminal 2 was opened in 2008. The two terminals do not have an airside connection. Passengers moving between the terminals may ride a shuttle bus or take the moving walkway through the covered parking decks between the terminals.

Terminal 1[edit]

Terminal 1

The first terminal at RDU opened in 1955. Expanded in 1972 and again in 1976,[32] the building was named Terminal B in 1982 when the then-new Terminal A opened. The two terminals were connected by a landside interior walkway. Terminal B was closed in 1989. In 1994, Terminal B lost its identity when it was renovated into an extension of Terminal A; an airside walkway was added to link all gates. In 2001 the south end of Terminal A was extended to include five temporary gates; these gates were closed in 2009, as the airlines using them moved to other gates.

Terminal A was renamed Terminal 1 on October 26, 2008 to bring RDU in line with terminal naming conventions and to end years of confusion.

After years of proposals,[33][34] the 1981 part of Terminal 1 was closed in 2012 for a complete renovation. The building reopened on April 13, 2014 with nine gates; Southwest and AirTran occupied the rebuilt terminal.[35] The terminal achieved LEED certification in December 2014.[36] In 2016 the pre-1981 parts of Terminal 1 and the 2001 south-end extension were demolished due to expenses and lack of practical use of these ends of the building.[37][38]

Terminal 2[edit]

Terminal 2

Terminal 2 occupies the site of the former Terminal C, built between 1985 and 1987 for the American Airlines hub. In planning the terminal, American assumed that only around 20% of passengers would originate or terminate their trips in Raleigh–Durham; rather, Terminal C was optimized for the exchange of passengers between connecting flights, with a relatively small check-in and baggage claim area. In reality, connecting passengers only accounted for around two-thirds of the terminal's passengers. After the American and Midway hubs closed, the airport faced a decision about the future of Terminal C and how to eliminate the inconveniences it imposed on local passengers.[11]

In December 2003, the Airport Authority announced plans to expand and renovate the 300,000-square-foot (28,000 m²) building, transforming it into a new 900,000-ft² (84,000 m²) facility. In January 2006, the airport instead decided to replace the building entirely.

Terminal 2 was designed by Fentress Architects under a philosophy of contextual regionalism, related to Critical regionalism. The terminal, invoking the flowing hills and culture of North Carolina's Piedmont region,[39] consisted of two phases of construction. The first, larger Phase 1 opened on October 26, 2008 while Phase 2 opened on January 23, 2011 in time for the 2011 NHL All Star Game.[19] Terminal 2 has 36 gates; three configured for international flights. All gates feature adjustable jetbridges that can accommodate aircraft from regional jets to Boeing 747s. The federal inspection area has 16 stations.

Airport lounges[edit]

The following Airport lounges are located in Terminal 2:

Cargo Terminal[edit]

North Cargo Terminal

The airport incorporates two cargo areas, North Cargo and South Cargo. The North Cargo terminal area is used by cargo airlines. The largest cargo operators are FedEx and UPS. The South Cargo terminal area is used by commercial airlines for cargo operations.

Fixed-base operators[edit]

The airport has two, full service fixed-base operators (FBOs) on the airfield:

Both FBOs offer:

  • 24 hour fuel services
  • heated hangars
  • internet cafe
  • maintenance services
  • sleep rooms
  • Catering
  • rental cars
  • US Customs
  • complimentary coffee
  • conference room
  • crew showers
  • hotel/dinner reservations
  • taxi/limousine services
  • flight training on site
  • tie-downs

General Aviation Terminal[edit]

General Aviation Terminal

RDU's General Aviation Terminal serves as:

  • Terminal for charter flights (sports, military and leisure)
  • Pilot's resource center
  • Private-event facility
  • Office for several local aviation-related companies
  • Cross-Winds Cafe
  • Indoor/outdoor observation deck, overlooking runway 5R/23L
  • Raleigh–Wake squadron of the North Carolina wing of the Civil Air Patrol Meeting Location
  • Rental Car Facility (military personnel and charter flight passengers)


RDU has three runways. Two parallel runways are designated 5L/23R and 5R/23L, and a cross-wind runway designated 14/32. Both parallel runways have been equipped with LED lights.

  • Runway 5L/23R: 10,000 feet (3,000 m) x 150 feet (concrete)
  • Runway 5R/23L: 7,500 feet (2,300 m) x 150 feet (asphalt)
  • Runway 14/32: 3,570 feet (1,100 m) x 100 feet (asphalt)

Prior to the September 11 attacks in 2001, the RDU Airport Authority and Federal Aviation Administration planned a fourth runway at the airport, but with the demise of the Midway Airlines hub and the airline industry downturn following 9/11 terrorist attacks, this plan was placed on hold. During the period between May 27, 2008 and June 24, 2008, and between May 19, 2010 and June 17, 2010, runway 5R/23L was closed for renovation.[40]


Parking garage

In addition to standard hourly and daily parking garages, RDU operates four park-and-ride lots served by shuttle bus.

  • Lot 1 is a "cell-phone waiting" lot
  • Lots 2 and 5 are used primarily for seasonal overflow and holiday traffic.
  • Lots 3 and 4 are traditional park-and-ride facilities.

There are 11,021 parking spaces available to passengers[41]


Observation areas[edit]

RDU maintains two public observation decks.

  • One deck overlooks runway 5L/23R near the air traffic control tower and park-and-ride lot 2. It has a playground with a simplistic model of RDU's runways for kids and air traffic communications are broadcast via a loudspeaker for the curious public.
  • The second deck is located at the General Aviation Terminal. It includes a café called "CrossWinds Cafe". This observation deck allows for both inside and outside viewing.

Airlines and destinations[edit]


An Air Canada Express (formerly Air Canada Jazz) Bombardier CRJ-900 taxiing at RDU
A JetBlue Embraer ERJ-190 taking off from RDU
An American Airlines Boeing 767-300ER taking off from RDU
Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 taking off off from RDU
Airlines Destinations Refs
Air Canada Express Toronto–Pearson [44]
Alaska Airlines Seattle/Tacoma [45]
Allegiant Air New Orleans, Orlando/Sanford, Punta Gorda (FL), St. Petersburg/Clearwater [46]
American Airlines Charlotte, Chicago–O'Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth, London–Heathrow, Los Angeles, Miami, New York–LaGuardia, Philadelphia
Seasonal: Cancún
American Eagle New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington–National
Seasonal: Charlotte
Delta Air Lines Atlanta, Detroit, Los Angeles, Paris–Charles de Gaulle, Salt Lake City, Seattle/Tacoma (begins June 8, 2017) [48]
Seasonal: Cancún, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Orlando
Delta Connection Austin (begins March 9, 2017),[50] Baltimore, Boston, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus (OH), Detroit, Fort Lauderdale, Hartford, Indianapolis, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Nashville (begins June 12, 2017) [51], New York–JFK, New York–LaGuardia, Newark, Orlando, Philadelphia, Tampa, Washington–National
Seasonal: Miami
Frontier Airlines Trenton
Seasonal: Atlanta, Chicago–O'Hare, Cleveland, Denver, Orlando, Philadelphia
JetBlue Airways Boston, Fort Lauderdale, New York–JFK [53]
Southwest Airlines Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago–Midway, Dallas–Love, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Houston–Hobby, Las Vegas, Nashville, New Orleans (begins April 30, 2017),[54] Orlando, Phoenix–Sky Harbor, St. Louis, Tampa [55]
United Airlines Chicago–O'Hare, Denver, Newark, San Francisco
Seasonal: Houston–Intercontinental, Washington–Dulles
United Express Chicago–O'Hare, Denver (ends May 4, 2017), Houston–Intercontinental, New York–LaGuardia, Newark, Washington–Dulles [56]
Vacation Express
operated by Interjet
Seasonal Charter: Cancún [57]


Airlines Destinations
Bankair Charlotte
Business Airfreight New Bern
FedEx Express Indianapolis, Memphis
UPS Airlines Louisville
UPS Airlines
operated by Martinaire
Edenton, Jacksonville (NC), Manteo/Dare County, New Bern, Wilmington (NC)


Southwest Airlines landing on runway 5L/23R.

Top destinations[edit]

Busiest domestic routes from RDU (Dec 2015 – Nov 2016)[58]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Atlanta, Georgia 720,000 Delta, Frontier, Southwest
2 Charlotte, North Carolina 335,000 American
3 Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois 290,000 American, Frontier, United
4 New York–JFK, New York 263,000 American, Delta, JetBlue
5 Boston, Massachusetts 256,000 Delta, JetBlue
6 New York–LaGuardia, New York 253,000 American, Delta, United
7 Baltimore, Maryland 240,000 Delta, Southwest
8 Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas 217,000 American
9 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 215,000 American, Delta, Frontier
10 Newark, New Jersey 187,000 Delta, United

Annual traffic[edit]

Annual passenger traffic (enplaned + deplaned) at RDU, 1985 through 2016[59]
Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers Year Passengers
2010 9,101,920 2000 10,438,585 1990 9,265,665
2009 8,973,398 1999 8,941,775 1989 8,594,671
2008 9,715,928 1998 7,228,653 1988 7,352,007
2007 10,037,424 1997 6,724,874 1987 4,854,073
2016 11,049,143 2006 9,432,925 1996 6,417,871 1986 3,100,002
2015 9,943,331 2005 9,303,904 1995 5,937,135 1985 2,771,009
2014 9,545,360 2004 8,637,606 1994 8,999,491
2013 9,186,748 2003 7,912,547 1993 9,695,886
2012 9,220,391 2002 8,241,253 1992 9,925,364
2011 9,161,279 2001 9,584,087 1991 9,381,586

Airline market share[edit]

Largest Airlines at RDU (Jan – Nov 2016)[60]
Rank Airline Passengers Share
1 Delta Air Lines 1,512,662 29.9%
2 American Airlines 1,382,680 27.3%
3 Southwest Airlines 1,049,148 20.7%
4 United Airlines 622,503 12.3%
5 JetBlue Airways 240,324 4.8%
6 Frontier Airlines 123,919 2.5%
7 Alaska Airlines 50,032 1.0%
8 Allegiant Air 39,597 0.8%
9 Air Canada Express 34,417 0.7%
10 Charter Carriers 2,302 0.1%

Ground transportation[edit]

Public transit[edit]

Public transportation to and from RDU is provided by Triangle Transit (TTA), which offers scheduled, fixed-route regional and commuter bus service between the airport, Amtrak and the principal cities of Raleigh, Durham and town of Chapel Hill (where TTA connects with the respective local urban transit systems), as well as to and from Research Triangle Park and several of the region's larger suburban communities.

  • TTA Route 100
  • Taxicab service at RDU is operated by RDU Taxi Inc., with a contract extension that runs through December 31, 2014.
  • Shuttle services: As in most regions, numerous hotels throughout the area offer guest shuttles to and from the airport. Service varies by location, however most are available from approximately 6 a.m. daily through the final arrival/departure of the evening.
  • Major rental car providers operate from the airport.
  • Rideshare companies Uber, Lyft and Wingz operate at the airport and pickup/dropoff riders at the "Pre-arranged Zones" outside baggage claim at both terminals.

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On February 19, 1988, AVAir Flight 3378, a Fairchild Swearingen Metroliner was on a regularly scheduled flight between Raleigh and Richmond when it crashed into a reservoir about a mile from the airport, where it had departed in the vicinity of Cary, North Carolina: The aircraft departed during low ceiling, low visibility and night conditions. Analysis of radar data indicated the aircraft was in a 45-degree descending turn. Both crew members and all 10 passengers were killed. It was revealed during the investigation that the pilot had complained of illness but decided to continue the flight.
  • On December 13, 1994, American Eagle Flight 3379 operated by AMR's regional airline Flagship Airlines,[61] a Jetstream 31 was on a regularly scheduled service of Raleigh–Greensboro-Raleigh when it crashed into a wooded area about 4 miles (6.4 km) SW of the airport, in the vicinity of Morrisville, NC. Of the 20 onboard (18 passengers and 2 crewmembers) 15 were killed while the 5 survivors received serious injuries. The probable cause of the crash was the pilot not following proper procedure when it came to an engine failure situation.[62]

See also[edit]


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

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  6. ^ Baskas, Harriet (October 11, 2004). "Stuck at the Airport: Raleigh–Durham – Haven for Bibliophiles at RDU". Expedia.com. Retrieved September 22, 2008. 
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  19. ^ a b http://rdu.com/news/2010/release_052010.htm
  20. ^ http://rdu.com/news/2010/release_040110.htm
  21. ^ "1998 to 2000 - By Date - Southwest Airlines Newsroom". 
  22. ^ http://rdu.com/news/2010/release_051010.htm
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  30. ^ http://rdublog.com/2014/09/05/going-international-the-emergence-of-asia/
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  38. ^ Saying Goodbye to Terminal 1 North and South, May 9, 2016, retrieved May 9, 2016 
  39. ^ http://rdu.com/terminal2/aboutproject/architecture.htm
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  41. ^ "Fast Facts". Raleigh/Durham Airport Authority. Retrieved April 6, 2008. 
  42. ^ "1–130th Aviation Battalion". GlobalSecurity.org. Retrieved September 26, 2009. 
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  54. ^ http://www.bizjournals.com/triangle/news/2017/02/08/rdu-gets-second-nonstop-flight-to-new-orleans.html
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  58. ^ "RITA - BTS - Transtats". Bureau of Transportation Statistics. Retrieved February 16, 2017. 
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  61. ^ Harro Ranter (December 13, 1994). "ASN Aircraft accident British Aerospace 3201 Jetstream 32 N918AE Raleigh/Durham Airport, NC (RDU)". 
  62. ^ American Eagle Flight 3379 NTSB Brief Report

External links[edit]