Wilmington International Airport

Coordinates: 34°16′14″N 077°54′09″W / 34.27056°N 77.90250°W / 34.27056; -77.90250
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Wilmington International Airport
Airport typePublic
OwnerNew Hanover County
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; -77.90250
FAA airport diagram
FAA airport diagram
Direction Length Surface
ft m
6/24 8,016 2,443 Asphalt
17/35 7,754 2,363 Asphalt
Statistics (2023)
Total passengers1,317,897
Total cargo (lbs)2,705,368
Enplaned cargo1,399,827
Deplaned cargo1,305,541
Source: FAA[1] Wilmington Airport Authority[2]

Wilmington International Airport (IATA: ILM, ICAO: KILM, FAA LID: ILM) is a public airport located just north of Wilmington, North Carolina, in unincorporated Wrightsboro. ILM covers 1,800 acres (728 ha).[1][3]

During the calendar year of 2023, ILM served a record-high number of passengers, with 661,287 enplanements and 656,610 deplanements, totaling 1,317,897 passengers.[2] The airport has two runways and a single terminal which has eight gates. The airport is also home to two fixed-base operators (FBO).[4] There is a 24-hour U.S. Customs and Border Protection ramp, built in 2008,[5] 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.[6]

Wilmington International Airport is owned by New Hanover County, which leases the airport to the Wilmington Airport Authority.[7] The current airport director is Jeffrey Bourk, A.A.E. The New Hanover County Airport Authority has seven board members, appointed by the New Hanover County Commissioners.[8][9]


Lobby of the main terminal
Lobby of the passenger terminal in 2020
Interior design of the original terminal before terminal expansion
Interior design of the original terminal in 2022; now merged with the expanded terminal

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.[10][11][12][13]

During World War II, the airfield was used by the United States Army Air Forces Third Air Force for anti-submarine patrols and training using P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft.[14] 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.[15]

In the 1950s it 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.[16] 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.[17] Piedmont was acquired by USAir in 1989; USAir was renamed US Airways in 1997, and merged with American Airlines in 2013.

In addition to flights to its main regional hub at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, US Airways introduced three daily flights between Wilmington and LaGuardia Airport in New York City during the 2000s following lobbying from the Wilmington community.[18] US Airways also introduced nonstop service to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in March 2011.[19] 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.[20] The route was discontinued on April 2, 2012, but reinstated in early 2018.[21]

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.[22] 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.[23]

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.[24] 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.[24] The soil and groundwater was found to have multiple contaminants, including benzene, ethylbenzene, total xylene, 2-methylnaphthalene, phenanthrene, chloroform, 1,2-dichloroethane, and chromium.[24] The site has finished environmental remediation, and the last five-year review for the site was completed in August 2013.[24] According to the EPA the site has been delisted from the national priority list.[25]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


American Eagle plane approaching gate
An American Eagle Embraer E175LR approaching Gate 7
American Airlines Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth
American Eagle Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, Miami,[26][27] New York–LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Washington–National
Seasonal: Boston,[28] Chicago–O'Hare[29]
Avelo Airlines Fort Lauderdale,[30] New Haven (CT), Orlando,[31] Tampa[32]
Seasonal: Baltimore, Wilmington (DE)[33]
Delta Air Lines Atlanta
Seasonal: Minneapolis/St. Paul (begins May 8, 2024)[34]
Delta Connection Atlanta, New York–LaGuardia[35]
Seasonal: Boston[36]
Sun Country Airlines Seasonal: Minneapolis/St. Paul[37]
United Express Newark[38]
Seasonal: Chicago–O'Hare (resumes May 25, 2024)[39]
Destinations map
Main passenger terminal seen from the main parking area
The main passenger terminal seen from the main parking area


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


Top destinations[edit]

Busiest domestic routes from ILM
(January 2023 – December 2023)
Rank` City Passengers Airline
1 North Carolina Charlotte, North Carolina 214,680 American
2 Georgia (U.S. state) Atlanta, Georgia 100,660 Delta
3 New York (state) New York–LaGuardia, New York 88,930 American, Delta
4 New Jersey Newark, New Jersey 39,710 United
5 Texas Dallas–Fort Worth, Texas 37,940 American
6 Virginia Washington–National, DC 37,510 American
7 Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 34,660 American
8 Florida Orlando, Florida 20,440 Avelo
9 Connecticut New Haven, Connecticut 19,150 Avelo
10 Florida Fort Lauderdale, Florida 15,820 Avelo

Airline market share[edit]

Largest airlines serving ILM
(January 2023 – December 2023)
Rank Airline Passenegrs Market Share
1 American 379,000 29.08%
2 Republic Airways 190,000 14.56%
3 PSA 173,000 13.30%
4 Endeavor Air 167,000 12.81%
5 Avelo 146,000 11.22%
Other 248,000 19.03%

Annual passenger traffic at ILM airport. See Wikidata query.

Other operations[edit]

As of January 31, 2022, 107 aircraft were based at the airport. There was 67 single engine aircraft, 11 multi-engine aircraft, 21 jet engine aircraft, and 8 helicopters.[41]

For the year ending January 31, 2022, the airport had 78,237 operations, an average of 214 per day: 14% air carrier, 14% air taxi, 55% general aviation, and 17% military.[1]

Charter services include Air Wilmington, which has its own dedicated building. There are also several private and public hangars. A new international customs station was completed in 2008.[5]

As of June 13, 2022, there are two fixed-base operators providing handling services to general aviation.[4]

Recent renovations and expansions[edit]

Security checkpoint
Security and TSA checkpoint in 2014. The checkpoint was expanded during phase 3 of terminal renovations.
Interior of the newly expanded terminal
Entrance to the newly expanded terminal in 2022

Due to an increased number of passengers using the airport in recent years, Wilmington International Airport is undergoing many renovations and expansions. In 2008, the airport built a new terminal for use by U.S. Customs and Border Protection to process passengers from international flights.[5][42] In 2006, it built a new Visual Approach Slope Indicator ILS for Runway 6/24.[43]

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 airport's 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.[44]

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 the summer of 2018, and finished construction in April 2019. Phase 2 expanded the ticketing areas and airport offices. Construction for Phase 2 began in April 2019 and was completed in summer 2020. Phase 3 involved renovating and expanding the concourse and TSA security checkpoint to include more gates and screening lanes. Phase 3 began in fall 2020 and was completed in summer 2023.[45][46][47][48]

Long-term plans for the airport include various projects on improving, expanding, and renovating infrastructure around the airport. In March 2023, a five-year Vision Plan was released which ranges from 2023 to 2027, and will cost around $165 million. A majority of the improvements will focus on the entrance and parking areas of the terminal, with construction of a 1,200-space parking deck, expansion of already-existing parking lots, and realignment of Airport Boulevard planned to be completed by 2027.[49][50] Improvements to and a small expansion of the terminal are also included in the plan.[51] The airport received a $4 million grant from the FAA, in February 2024, to partially fund the terminal access road/curb expansion and realignment project.[52][53] In June 2023, construction was approved on a new parking lot with 950 spaces, costing around $4.6 million, and set to be completed in March 2024.[54] Five months later in November, Parking Lot F was completed, which has space for 500 vehicles.[55]


Wilmington International Airport is owned by New Hanover County. In 1989, the North Carolina General Assembly, ratified Senate Bill 410 (Chapter 404), allowing New Hanover County to establish an airport authority.[56][57] The county authorized the creation of the Wilmington Airport Authority, to assist the airport director in running the airport, on July 1, 1989.[7] The airport is leased to the airport authority from New Hanover County for $1 per year until 2049. The lease was extended another 30 years after it originally expired in 2019.[58][59]

The current airport director is Jeffrey Bourk, A.A.E., and the chair is Spruill Thompson. The New Hanover County Airport Authority has seven board members.[8][9]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

Several scenes for the television show One Tree Hill were filmed inside the terminal.[66]

See also[edit]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency

  1. ^ a b c FAA Airport Form 5010 for ILM PDF, effective November 2, 2023.
  2. ^ a b "Airport Documents & RFPs". flyilm.com. Retrieved January 16, 2024.
  3. ^ "ILM airport data at skyvector.com". skyvector.com. Retrieved September 15, 2022.
  4. ^ a b "General Aviation". flyilm.com. Retrieved November 11, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c McGrath, Gareth (June 25, 2010). "Customs at Wilmington airport sees fewer people, planes". StarNews Online. Retrieved November 11, 2023.
  6. ^ "Customs". flyilm.com. Retrieved November 11, 2023.
  7. ^ a b "History & Future of ILM". flyilm.com. Retrieved February 9, 2023.
  8. ^ a b "Airport Staff". flyilm.com. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  9. ^ a b "Airport Authority". flyilm.com. Retrieved August 14, 2018.
  10. ^ "Bluethenthal, Arthur "Bluey"". Jewsinsports.org. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  11. ^ "Home of Distinction: Family Treasure". Wrightsville Beach Magazine. January 2009. Archived from the original on July 18, 2011. Retrieved December 22, 2010.
  12. ^ Joseph Siegman (2000). Jewish Sports Legends: The International Jewish Hall of Fame. Brassey's. p. 87. ISBN 978-1-57488-284-1.
  13. ^ Susan Taylor Block (1998). Along the Cape Fear. Arcadia Publishing. p. 29. ISBN 978-0-7524-0965-8.
  14. ^ McGrath, Gareth (January 5, 2011). "Is there a secret underground military base at Wilmington International Airport?". StarNews. Retrieved October 3, 2018.[dead link]
  15. ^ 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.[dead link]
  16. ^ Turner, Walter R. (2003). "Piedmont Airlines". NCpedia. Tar Heel Junior Historian Association. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  17. ^ "ILM75p1". www.departedflights.com. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  18. ^ McGrath, Gareth; Faulkner, Wayne (May 26, 2011). "ILM routes to New York in jeopardy". StarNews Online. Archived from the original on September 27, 2012. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
  19. ^ McGrath, Gareth (January 13, 2011). "Wilmington Int'l sets passenger record in 2010". StarNews Online. Archived from the original on September 27, 2012. Retrieved October 18, 2023.
  20. ^ Wayne, Faulkner (March 14, 2011). "Nonstop flights to Chicago added from Wilmington International Airport". StarNews Online. Archived from the original on September 27, 2012. Retrieved August 11, 2011.
  21. ^ "American Airlines Adds Service from Chicago O'Hare to a Dozen Destinations". Aviation Pros. January 18, 2018. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  22. ^ "NASA Names North Carolina Airport Emergency Landing Site for Shuttle". Space.com. Archived from the original on June 18, 2008.
  23. ^ Gannon, Patrick (August 25, 2009). "Why is there a blue and white government plane flying around Wilmington Airport (ILM)?". StarNews. Retrieved October 3, 2018.[dead link]
  24. ^ a b c d "New Hanover County Airport Burn Pit". US Environmental Protection Agency. Retrieved December 17, 2010.
  25. ^ "Search Superfund Site Information". cumulis.epa.gov. EPA. Retrieved April 20, 2017.
  26. ^ "Palm trees and 80 degrees: American Airlines adds more ways to visit Miami with record-breaking winter schedule". American Airlines Newsroom. July 13, 2023. Retrieved July 13, 2023.
  27. ^ Wilhelm, Molly (February 6, 2024). "Wilmington airport to increase nonstop flights to major destination". StarNews Online. Retrieved February 6, 2024.
  28. ^ "American Airlines and JetBlue Begin Growth from New York and Boston with 33 New Routes, Joint Schedules and Codeshare Flights". news.aa.com. February 18, 2021.
  29. ^ "American 2023 US Routes Service Resumption Summary – 01JAN23". Aeroroutes. Retrieved January 4, 2023.
  30. ^ "ILM to FLL: Avelo Airlines expands service to Florida". Port City Daily. July 27, 2022.
  31. ^ "Avelo Airlines Soars into Second Year with New Base and Routes". www.prnewswire.com (Press release). April 28, 2022.
  32. ^ "Avelo offering flights from ILM to Tampa, West Palm Beach". www.wwaytv3.com. March 30, 2023.
  33. ^ "Avelo Airlines to Nearly Triple Number of Nonstop Destinations from Delaware's Wilmington Airport". Benzinga. Retrieved April 20, 2023.
  34. ^ WECT Staff (November 29, 2023). "Delta announces nonstop flights from Wilmington to Minneapolis/St. Paul". WECT. Retrieved November 29, 2023.
  35. ^ "Wilmington airport adds another non-stop flight to major city". StarNews Online. March 19, 2021.
  36. ^ "Delta NS23 Domestic Network Additions – 24DEC22". Aeroroutes. December 24, 2022. Retrieved December 26, 2022.
  37. ^ "Sun Country Airlines announces route from ILM to Minneapolis-St. Paul". WECT. November 15, 2022.
  38. ^ "Twice-daily nonstop flights to Newark coming to ILM in February". Port City Daily. November 8, 2021.
  39. ^ "United Schedules Additional Seasonal Domestic Routes in NS24". Aeroroutes. Retrieved February 19, 2024.
  40. ^ a b "RITA | BTS | Transtats". Bureau of Transportation Statistics. December 2023. Retrieved April 8, 2024.
  41. ^ "AirNav: KILM - Wilmington International Airport".
  42. ^ "Customs". flyilm.com. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  43. ^ "Airport Master Plan Revision - Updated ALP Drawings Section" (PDF). flyilm.com. October 2, 2013. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  44. ^ "S.T. Wooten Corp. Wins National Airport Paving Award". ForConstructionPros.com. AC Business Media. January 29, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  45. ^ O'Neal, Christina Haley (July 19, 2018). "Airport terminal expansion project set to move forward ahead of schedule". WilmingtonBiz. Retrieved May 27, 2023.
  46. ^ "Terminal Expansion". flyilm.com. Retrieved May 27, 2023.
  47. ^ Hamrick, Miriah (December 16, 2022). "Wilmington's airport readies for its next phase". WilmingtonBiz. Retrieved May 27, 2023.
  48. ^ Port City Daily staff (February 8, 2022). "ILM opens expanded terminal to serve 50% more travelers". Port City Daily. Retrieved May 27, 2023.
  49. ^ Blankenship, Carl (March 2, 2023). "More terminal space, parking deck part of ILM's $165M five-year plan". Port City Daily. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  50. ^ "Future Improvements". flyilm.com. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  51. ^ "ILM Releases 5 Year Vision Plan - Includes $165 Million in Capital Projects to Keep up with Record Growth". flyilm.com. March 2, 2023. Retrieved January 8, 2023.
  52. ^ Staff Reports (February 15, 2024). "$4M Grant To Help Fund Wilmington International Airport's Growth Needs". WilmingtonBiz. Retrieved February 19, 2024.
  53. ^ Port City Daily Staff (February 16, 2024). "ILM receives $4M grant from FAA, to help with road and curb expansions". Port City Daily. Retrieved February 19, 2024.
  54. ^ WECT Staff (June 7, 2023). "NHC Airport Authority approves $4.6 million contract for 950 new parking spaces at ILM Airport". WECT. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  55. ^ WECT Staff (November 20, 2023). "New parking lot opens at airport with about 500 economy spaces". WECT. Retrieved December 9, 2023.
  56. ^ "Senate Bill 410". North Carolina General Assembly. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  57. ^ North Carolina General Assembly (June 22, 1989). "Chapter 404 - Senate Bill 410" (PDF). North Carolina General Assembly. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  58. ^ White, Woody; Coudriet, Chris; Wurtzbacher, Lisa H. (December 5, 2014). "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report". www.nhcgov.com. New Hanover County Finance Department. p. 99. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  59. ^ Olsen-Boseman, Julia; Coudriet, Chris; Credle, Eric (November 30, 2022). "Annual Comprehensive Financial Report". www.nhcgov.com. New Hanover County Finance Department. p. 120. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  60. ^ Accident description for 54-672 at the Aviation Safety Network. Retrieved on September 24, 2022.
  61. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Martin 4-0-4 N40401 Wilmington-New Hanover County Airport, NC (ILM)".
  62. ^ "2 Plane Crash Tragedies that Changed Wrestling Forever". September 19, 2016.
  63. ^ Molinaro, John (December 28, 2000). "The plane crash that changed wrestling". Slam Wrestling. Retrieved June 21, 2018.
  64. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Swearingen SA226-TC Metro II N505LB Wilmington-New Hanover County Airport, NC (ILM)".
  65. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident GAF Nomad N.24A N418NE Wilmington-New Hanover County Airport, NC (ILM)".
  66. ^ Poulimas, Nicholas (January 19, 2021). "One Tree Hill Television Tour (68 Filming Locations)". YouTube. Retrieved August 13, 2023.

External links[edit]