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 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.[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 delisted from the national priority list.[19]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

Airlines and destinations[edit]


Delta plane approaching gate
A Delta Air Lines CRJ200 approaching the gate
American Airlines Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth
American Eagle Charlotte, Dallas/Fort Worth, New York–LaGuardia, Philadelphia, Washington–National
Seasonal: Boston,[25] Chicago–O'Hare
Delta Air Lines Atlanta
Delta Connection Atlanta
Seasonal: New York–LaGuardia[26]
United Express Newark (begins February 11, 2022),[27] Washington–Dulles (ends March 3, 2022)[28]
The main passenger terminal


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


Annual passenger traffic at ILM airport. See source Wikidata query.

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, 134 aircraft are based at the airport. There are 100 single engine aircraft, 27 multi-engine aircraft, 7 jet engine aircraft, and 3 helicopters.[30]

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, which 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 and to improve passengers' travel experience. The airport has built a new terminal to be used by United States Customs and Border Protection to process passengers from international flights. It 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 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.[31]

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 planned to expand the ticketing areas and airport offices. Construction for Phase 2 began in April 2019 and was expected to be complete in the summer of 2020. Phase 3 will involve renovating and expanding the concourse and TSA checkpoint to include more gates and screening lanes. Phase 3 was scheduled to begin in the fall of 2020 and to be complete in early 2022.[32]


ILM logo on side of main terminal building

Wilmington International Airport is owned by New Hanover County. In 1987, the 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 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. ^ "Piedmont Airlines | NCpedia".
  12. ^ "ILM75p1". www.departedflights.com. Retrieved October 3, 2018.
  13. ^ "Article 404 - Wilmington Star News - Wilmington, NC".
  14. ^ "Article 404 - Wilmington Star News - Wilmington, NC".
  15. ^ "Article 404 - Wilmington Star News - Wilmington, NC".
  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. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Martin 4-0-4 N40401 Wilmington-New Hanover County Airport, NC (ILM)".
  21. ^ "2 Plane Crash Tragedies that Changed Wrestling Forever". September 19, 2016.
  22. ^ http://www.canoe.ca/SlamWrestlingFlair/planecrash-can.html
  23. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident Swearingen SA226-TC Metro II N505LB Wilmington-New Hanover County Airport, NC (ILM)".
  24. ^ "ASN Aircraft accident GAF Nomad N.24A N418NE Wilmington-New Hanover County Airport, NC (ILM)".
  25. ^ "American Airlines and JetBlue Begin Growth from New York and Boston with 33 New Routes, Joint Schedules and Codeshare Flights".
  26. ^ "Wilmington airport adds another non-stop flight to major city".
  27. ^ https://portcitydaily.com/local-news/2021/11/08/twice-daily-nonstop-flights-to-newark-coming-to-ilm-in-february/
  28. ^ Rains, Taylor. "United is dropping 14 regional routes out of Washington DC as small cities continue to lose commercial service — see the full list". Yahoo News. Yahoo. Retrieved December 23, 2021.
  29. ^ "RITA | BTS | Transtats". Bureau of Transportation Statistics. January 2017. Retrieved October 2, 2019.
  30. ^ "AirNav: KILM - Wilmington International Airport".
  31. ^ "S.T. Wooten Corp. Wins National Airport Paving Award". ForConstructionPros.com. AC Business Media. January 29, 2014. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  32. ^ "Airport terminal expansion project set to move forward ahead of schedule".

External links[edit]