Raleigh–Durham International Airport
Raleigh–Durham International Airport
|Owner/Operator||Raleigh–Durham Airport Authority|
|Serves||The Research Triangle Metropolitan Region of North Carolina|
|Location||Cedar Fork Township, Wake County, North Carolina, U.S.|
|Focus city for||Delta Air Lines|
|Elevation AMSL||435 ft / 133 m|
Raleigh–Durham International Airport (IATA: RDU, ICAO: KRDU, FAA LID: RDU), locally known by its IATA code RDU, is the main airport serving Raleigh, Durham, and the surrounding Research Triangle region of North Carolina. It is located in unincorporated Wake County, but is surrounded by the City of Raleigh to the North and East, and the towns of Cary and Morrisville to the South. The airport covers 5,000 acres (2,000 ha; 20 km2) and has three runways.
The airport is a focus city for Delta Air Lines. RDU has passenger service to 68 cities with over 450 average daily departures. The RDU Airport Authority is in charge of the airport facilities and operations and is controlled by a board of representatives from the counties of Wake and Durham and the cities of Raleigh and Durham.
The region's first airport opened in 1929 as Raleigh's Municipal Airport, south of town at 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.. It was quickly outgrown, and in 1939 the
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. 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. RDU's first scheduled jets were Eastern 727s in 1965.
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. United flew to Asheville, Charlotte, Huntsville and Newark, while Eastern flew to Atlanta, Charlotte, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Richmond and Washington, and Delta flew to Chicago and Greensboro.
American built a terminal at RDU between 1985 and 1987 to house a new hub, and flew to 38 cities when the hub started in June 1987. The December 1987 timetable shows AA nonstops to 36 airports and Eagle prop nonstops to 18 more. American later flew to London and Paris. The RDU hub operated at a loss even during its heyday in the early 1990s, like the hub AA then had at Nashville. American's December 1992 timetable, around the time of the hub's peak, showed 211 daily departures to 64 destinations, almost all in the eastern United States (the westernmost destinations being American's hubs at Dallas/Fort Worth and Chicago–O'Hare).
The hub faced intense competition from Delta and Eastern in Atlanta and from USAir in Charlotte, as well as the short-lived Continental 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. Nonetheless, it retained the daily nonstop flight to London, which continues to operate to this day.
Midway Airlines replaced AA as the airport's hub carrier from 1995 until 2003. 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. 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. Midway suspended service for some time after the September 11, 2001 attacks, and ceased operations in 2002, filing for bankruptcy in 2003.
RDU's post-hub years have brought the addition of new carriers and destinations, notably discount carriers such as Allegiant Air, Southwest Airlines and Frontier Airlines. Because of the economic downturn and high fuel prices in 2008, American ended most point to point flights it operated out of the airport. Several mainline flights were also dropped and service to other cities was reduced or downgraded. Other airlines also cut flights and destinations including United Airlines and US Airways.
By 2010 RDU's traffic began to recover. In the first few months of the year passenger numbers stabilized at RDU, ending the decrease the airport experienced in 2008 and 2009. In the first four months of 2010 2.7 million passengers traveled through RDU. Growth was flat compared to the same period a year before, but these signs were positive indicating that the decline was over. Airlines at RDU began to add new services to the schedule with both legacy and low-cost carriers significantly increasing service since the early 2010s.
The RDU Airport Authority released its Vision 2040 Master Plan in 2017 detailing the improvements which will be made by 2040. The major projects are the construction of a consolidated rental car facility, an on-site hotel, expansion of parking lots, expansion of both terminals to add gates, improvements to the taxiway layout, and the complete rebuilding of the runways. Runway 5R/23L will be lengthened to 9,000 feet and runway 5L/23R will be rebuilt to 11,500 feet just northwest of its current position. The existing runway 5L/23R will become a taxiway.
RDU contains two terminals and three concourses. 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 contains 9 gates. The terminal was built in 1982, expanded in both 1998 and 2001, and then modernized in 2014 with the 1998 and 2001 expansions demolished in 2016. The terminal occupies the site of the airport's original terminal which opened in 1955.
Terminal 2 contains 36 gates, four of which are international gates. The terminal opened in phases between 2008 and 2011 and replaced former Terminal C that was built between 1985 and 1987 for the American Airlines hub. The terminal features an Admirals Club, United Club and Delta Sky Club for American, United and Delta frequent flyers respectively.
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.
RDU has three runways. Two parallel runways are designated 5L/23R and 5R/23L, and a crosswind runway is designated 14/32. Both parallel runways have been equipped with LED lights.
- 5L/23R: 10,000 by 150 feet (3,048 m × 46 m) (concrete)
- 5R/23L: 7,500 by 150 feet (2,286 m × 46 m) (asphalt)
- 14/32: 3,570 by 100 feet (1,088 m × 30 m) (asphalt)
Airlines and destinations
|FedEx Express|| Indianapolis, Memphis, New Bern, Wilmington (NC)|
Seasonal: Greensboro, Newark, Norfolk
|UPS Airlines|| Edenton, Jacksonville (NC), Louisville, Manteo/Dare County, New Bern, Ontario, Philadelphia, Wilmington (NC)|
Seasonal: Charlotte, Columbia, Greenville/Spartanburg, Miami, Norfolk, Orlando
Top Domestic destinations
|1||Atlanta, Georgia||415,000||Delta, Frontier, Southwest|
|2||Charlotte, North Carolina||265,000||American|
|3||Chicago–O'Hare, Illinois||192,000||American, Delta, Spirit, United|
|4||Orlando, Florida||168,000||Delta, Frontier, Southwest, Spirit|
|5||Boston, Massachusetts||163,000||American, Delta, Frontier, JetBlue, Spirit|
|6||Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas||163,000||American|
|7||Denver, Colorado||158,000||Frontier, Southwest, United|
|8||Baltimore, Maryland||156,000||Delta, Southwest, Spirit|
|9||Newark, New Jersey||134,000||Delta, Frontier, United|
|10||New York–LaGuardia, New York||130,000||American, Delta|
|3||Delta Air Lines||1,467,000||18.64%|
Accidents and incidents
- On January 2, 1953, a USAF Douglas C-47 crashed near RDU attempting to land with rain and low visibility after diverting from Pope AFB in Fayetteville. The aircraft crashed nearly two miles south of the airport in Crabtree Park, three out of the four occupants died.
- On Wednesday, November 12, 1975, Eastern Air Lines flight 576, a Boeing 727-225, crashed while attempting to land on runway 23 (now runway 23 Left). The aircraft hit the ground 282 feet short of the runway and bounced back into the air before coming down on the runway and sliding 4,150 feet down the runway, stopping where the south end of Terminal 1 is today. Of the 139 persons on the flight, eight were injured, one seriously. The NTSB investigation initially blamed the crash on "the pilot's failure to execute a missed approach when he lost sight of the runway environment in heavy rain below decision height." The accident report and probable cause were later revised to include the influence of undetected wind shear. The aircraft (Boeing 727-225, N8838E) sustained major damage and was moved to an area on the north end of closed runway 18. A temporary structure was built around the aircraft which was eventually repaired and returned to service.
- 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: 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, 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. Of the 20 onboard (18 passengers and two crewmembers) 15 were killed while the five 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.
- On July 31, 2000, a Win Win Aviation de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter crashed on approach nearly two miles SSW of RDU on a positioning flight due to fog and darkness. The pilot was not instrument rated to fly in bad weather. One crewmember out of the three occupants died.
- On October 20, 2019, a Piper PA-32 crashed in a wooded area of Umstead State Park on approach to runway 32. Both occupants of the plane died.
- List of airports in North Carolina
- List of the busiest airports in the United States
- North Carolina World War II Army Airfields
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When American Airlines (NYSE: AAL) decided to take a bet on a nonstop flight from Raleigh-Durham International Airport to London decades ago, it was because of one company: Glaxo – now called GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE: GSK).
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Raleigh-Durham International Airport.|
- Raleigh–Durham International Airport
- RDU Aircraft Noise Program
- "Raleigh–Durham International Airport – RDU" (PDF). at North Carolina DOT airport guide
- (PDF), effective December 31, 2020
- FAA Terminal Procedures for RDU, effective December 31, 2020
- Resources for this airport: