Wilmington International Airport

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Wilmington International Airport

New Hanover County International Airport
Wilmington international airport logo.jpg
Wilmington International Airport Main Terminal Front.jpg
Airport typePublic
OwnerNew Hanover County, North Carolina
OperatorWilmington Airport Authority
ServesWilmington, North Carolina
LocationWrightsboro, North Carolina
Elevation AMSL32 ft / 10 m
Coordinates34°16′14″N 077°54′09″W / 34.27056°N 77.90250°W / 34.27056; -77.90250Coordinates: 34°16′14″N 077°54′09″W / 34.27056°N 77.90250°W / 34.27056; -77.90250
Wilmington International Airport is located in North Carolina
Wilmington International Airport
Wilmington International Airport
Direction Length Surface
ft m
6/24 8,016 2,443 Asphalt
17/35 7,754 2,363 Asphalt
Statistics (2019)
Total passengers1,075,963
Total Cargo (lbs)2,724,404
Enplaned Cargo1,318,422
Deplaned Cargo1,405,982

Wilmington International Airport (IATA: ILM, ICAO: KILM, FAA LID: ILM) is a public airport located just north of Wilmington, North Carolina, in unincorporated Wrightsboro, Cape Fear Township, New Hanover County. ILM covers 1,800 acres (728 ha).[1]

During the calendar year 2018 ILM had a record high number of passengers with 470,255 enplanements and 463,803 deplanements, totaling 934,058 passengers.[2][3] The airport has two runways and a single terminal which has eight gates. The airport is also home to a fixed-base operation (FBO). There is a 24-hour US Customs and Border Protection ramp for international flights wishing to stop at the airport. The separate terminal was built to serve the international flights that land each year (private or charter). The airport's location on the coast, halfway between NYC and Miami, makes it a desirable and less busy entry point to the United States, with the recent addition of a 24-hour US Customs ramp, which was completed in 2008.

Wilmington International Airport is owned by New Hanover County, North Carolina. The airport is leased to the Wilmington Airport Authority for $1 per year and expires in 2019. The current Airport Director is Julie WIlsey, AAE. The New Hanover County Airport Authority has seven board members,[4] appointed by the New Hanover County Commissioners.


The airport was named Bluethenthal Field on Memorial Day, May 30, 1928, in honor of Arthur Bluethenthal, a former All-American football player and decorated World War I pilot who was the first North Carolinian to die in the war.[5][6][7][8]

During World War II, the airfield was used by the United States Army Air Forces Third Air Force for antisubmarine patrols and training using P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft.[9] The Army expanded the airfield with three new 7,000-foot runways, and after the war, deeded the site back to New Hanover County at no cost.[10]

In the 1950s the airport became known as the New Hanover County Airport. In 1988 the airport added "International" to become known as New Hanover County International Airport. On December 17, 1997 the New Hanover County Airport Authority changed the name to Wilmington International Airport.

Piedmont Airlines began commercial flights to Wilmington in February 1948, and used Wilmington as one of its initial crew bases. Its first route was between Wilmington and Cincinnati, Ohio, with stops in Pinehurst, Charlotte, Asheville, the Tri-Cities and Lexington.[11] Piedmont was the airport's only scheduled carrier as of 1975, with flights to Atlanta, Fayetteville, Jacksonville, Kinston, Myrtle Beach, New Bern, Norfolk and Washington-National, using YS-11, FH-227 and Boeing 737 aircraft.[12] Piedmont was acquired by USAir in 1989; USAir was renamed US Airways in 2005, and merged with American Airlines in 2015.

In addition to flights to its main regional hub at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, US Airways introduced three daily flights between Wilmington and La Guardia Airport in New York City during the 2000s following lobbying from the Wilmington community.[13] US Airways also introduced nonstop service to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in March 2011.[14] American Eagle began service between Wilmington and Chicago O'Hare International Airport in July 2011 after the airport authority offered two years of waived fees and marketing cost sharing. This route had been actively sought by the local business community for its connections to the West Coast and to Asia.[15] The route was discontinued on April 2, 2012, but reinstated in early 2018 after the US Airways merger.

ILM was one of four airports along the East Coast which served as an emergency abort landing site for the Space Shuttle. Improvements in the orbiter's braking system reduced the previous 10,000-foot (3,000 m) runway requirement to 7,500 feet (2,300 m) enabling ILM's 8,016-foot (2,443 m) runway to serve the role.[16] ILM has also been used for touch-and-go training flights by United States Air Force VIP aircraft, including the Boeing VC-25 (Air Force One), C-32 and C-40.[17]

Superfund site[edit]

A 1,500-square-foot (140 m2) burn pit on the airport property was named a Superfund site on March 31, 1989.[18] The burn pit was built in 1968 and was used until 1979 for firefighter training missions. Jet fuel, gasoline, petroleum storage tank bottoms, fuel oil, kerosene, and sorbent materials from oil spill cleanups were burned in the pit. Up to 500 gallons of fuel and other chemicals were used during each firefighting training exercise. The firefighters in the training missions mainly used water to put out the fires, but carbon dioxide and other dry chemicals were also used.[18] The soil and groundwater was found to have multiple contaminants, including benzene, ethylbenzene, total xylene, 2-methylnaphthalene, phenanthrene, chloroform, 1,2-dichloroethane, and chromium.[18] The site has finished environmental remediation, and the last five-year review for the site was completed in August 2013.[18] According to the EPA the site has been unlisted from the national priority list.[19]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On August 22, 1962, a Piedmont Airlines Martin 4-0-4 swerved off the runway at ILM during a training flight. All three occupants survived but the aircraft was written off.[20]
  • On October 4, 1975, a twin-engine Cessna 310 piloted by 28 year old Vietnam vet Joseph Michael Farkas and arriving from Charlotte, NC crashed short of the field after running out of fuel.[21] The flight was carrying passengers Professional Wrestling promoter David Crockett and wrestlers Tim Woods, Bobby Bruggers, then-U.S. Heavyweight champion Johnny Valentine, and Ric Flair. The pilot died after a two-month stay in New Hanover Regional Hospital, all passengers survived with various injuries.[22]
  • On April 23, 1987, a Swearingen Metro II operating a cargo flight for Air-Lift Commuter suffered an engine failure on takeoff at ILM and crashed, killing both occupants.[23]
  • On May 4, 1990, a GAF Nomad arriving from Raleigh-Durham crashed on approach to runway 34, killing both occupants.[24]

Airlines and destinations[edit]

As of 2019, ILM has scheduled service to eight destinations.[25] Most commercial flights are operated with Bombardier and Embraer regional jet aircraft, but American operates Airbus A319 and A320 aircraft on the Wilmington-Charlotte route, and Delta operates MD-88 and Airbus A320 aircraft on the Wilmington-Atlanta route.[26] American offered summer seasonal service to Dallas/Fort Worth in 2018 and commenced daily nonstop service to DFW in December 2018.[27]


Delta plane approaching gate
A Delta Air Lines CRJ200 approaching the gate
American Airlines Charlotte
American Eagle Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, New York–LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Washington–National
Seasonal: Boston, Chicago–O'Hare
Delta Air Lines Atlanta
Delta Connection Atlanta
United Express Chicago–O'Hare, Washington–Dulles
The main passenger terminal


DHL Aviation Charlottesville
FedEx Feeder Greensboro, Kinston, Raleigh/Durham
UPS Airlines Raleigh/Durham

Top destinations[edit]

Busiest domestic routes from ILM
(July 2018 – June 2019)
Rank` City Passengers Airline
1 Charlotte, North Carolina 239,590 American
2 Atlanta, Georgia 109,190 Delta
3 Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 41,340 American
4 New York–LaGuardia, New York 32,820 American, Delta
5 Chicago-O'Hare, Illinois 28,640 American, United
6 Washington–Dulles, DC 25,750 United
7 Washington–National, DC 13,900 American
8 Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas 12,480 American

Other operations[edit]

As of August 2011, Wilmington International Airport has 134 aircraft that are based at the Airport. There are 100 single engine aircraft, 27 multi-engine aircraft, 7 jet engine aircraft, and 3 helicopters[29]

For the period ending September 30, 2015, the airport had 129,807 operations, an average of 355 per day: 11% air carrier, 26% air taxi, 49% general aviation, and 14% military.

Charter services include Air Wilmington. Air Wilmington has its own dedicated building. There are also several private and public hangars. A new international customs station was completed in 2008.

Recent and Future Improvements[edit]

security terminal inside airport
The recently upgraded security terminal inside the airport

Wilmington International Airport is undergoing many improvements and additions to attract more business to the Airport and to improve the experience of passenger's travels. The Airport has built a new terminal to be used by United States Customs and Border Protection to process passengers from international flights. Wilmington International has also built a new Visual Approach Slope Indicator ILS for Runway 24. The Airport has recently upgraded its outdated ventilation system with a new, more efficient system in the main terminal.

In 2006, the FAA Airport Improvement Program awarded Wilmington International Airport $10,526,342. $3 million was allocated to improve runway safety areas and $7,526,342 was allocated to expand the Airports apron area, rehabilitate Runway 6/24, and rehabilitate Taxiways B, C, and E. Runway 6/24 had not been rehabilitated in more than 30 years. Rehabilitation of Runway 17/35 was completed in 2014, and the project was honored with the Ray Brown Airport Pavement Award, which recognizes the highest-quality U.S. airfield pavement produced each year.[30]

With passenger numbers continuing to grow rapidly, the airport began an $86 Million terminal expansion project in 2018. The project is divided into three phases. Phase 1 reconstructed the TSA and DHS baggage screening facilities, and was largely unseen by passengers. Phase 1 began construction in Summer 2018, and finished construction in April 2019. Phase 2 will expand the ticketing areas and airport offices. Construction for Phase 2 began in April 2019 and is expected be complete in Summer 2020. Phase 3 will involve renovating and expanding the concourse and TSA checkpoint to include more gates and screening lanes. Phase 3 is scheduled to begin in Fall 2020 and be complete in early 2022.[31]


ILM Logo on side of main terminal building

Wilmington International Airport is owned by New Hanover County. In 1987, New Hanover County created the New Hanover County Airport Authority to assist the airport director in running the Airport. The Airport is leased to the Airport Authority from New Hanover County for $1 per year until the year 2019.

The current Airport Director is Julie Wilsey, AAE and the Deputy Director is Gary Broughton, CM. The New Hanover County Airport Authority has seven board members.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b FAA Airport Form 5010 for ILM PDF, effective March 29, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Wilmington Airport Documents". Fly ILM. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  3. ^ a b O'NEAL, CHRISTINA HALEY. "ILM reports annual passenger record". WilmingtonBiz. Retrieved March 4, 2019.
  4. ^ "Airport Authority • Fly ILM". Fly ILM. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  5. ^ "Bluethenthal, Arthur "Bluey"". Jewsinsports.org. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  6. ^ "Home of Distinction: Family Treasure". Wrightsville Beach Magazine. January 2009. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  7. ^ Joseph Siegman (2000). Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Hall of Fame. Brassey's. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-57488-284-1.
  8. ^ Susan Taylor Block (1998). Along the Cape Fear. Arcadia Publishing. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-7524-0965-8.
  9. ^ McGrath, Gareth (January 5, 2011). "Is there a secret underground military base at Wilmington International Airport?". StarNews. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  10. ^ Ware, Jim (August 21, 2012). "What is the runway that is grown over at ILM? Was it part of Bluethenthal Field?". StarNews. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  11. ^ http://ncpedia.org/aviation/piedmont-airlines
  12. ^ "ILM75p1". www.departedflights.com. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  13. ^ http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20110526/ARTICLES/110519816?p=all&tc=pgall
  14. ^ http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20110113/ARTICLES/110119820?p=all&tc=pgall
  15. ^ http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20110314/ARTICLES/110319818?p=all&tc=pgall
  16. ^ NASA Names North Carolina Airport Emergency Landing Site for Shuttle
  17. ^ Gannon, Patrick (August 25, 2009). "Why is there a blue and white government plane flying around Wilmington Airport (ILM)?". StarNews. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  18. ^ a b c d "New Hanover County Airport Burn Pit". US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved December 17, 2010.
  19. ^ "Search Superfund Site Information". cumulis.epa.gov. EPA. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  20. ^ http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19620822-0
  21. ^ https://prowrestlingstories.com/pro-wrestling-stories/two-plane-crashes-that-changed-the-professional-wrestling-world-forever/
  22. ^ http://www.canoe.ca/SlamWrestlingFlair/planecrash-can.html
  23. ^ http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19870423-1
  24. ^ http://aviation-safety.net/database/record.php?id=19900504-1
  25. ^ "Wilmington Airport & Departure Information • Fly ILM". Fly ILM. Retrieved October 3, 2018. The destinations are ATL, CLT, DCA, IAD, LGA, ORD, and PHL.
  26. ^ "Airport Activity ✈ Wilmington Intl Airport (Wilmington, NC) [KILM]". FlightAware. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  27. ^ O'Neal, Christina Haley (May 31, 2018). "American Airlines adds daily nonstop flights between ILM, Dallas Fort Worth". WilmingtonBiz. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  28. ^ "RITA | BTS | Transtats". Bureau of Transportation Statistics. January 2017. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  29. ^ http://airnav.com/airport/KILM
  30. ^ "S.T. Wooten Corp. Wins National Airport Paving Award". ForConstructionPros.com. AC Business Media. January 29, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  31. ^ http://www.wilmingtonbiz.com/more_news/2018/07/19/airport_terminal_expansion_project_set_to_move_forward_ahead_of_schedule/17750

External links[edit]