NEW BERN, Craven County — The Coastal Carolina Regional Airport is already a busy one. It's about to get busier.
With nearly a quarter million passengers a year, the airport is a fast-growing location that is in the middle of some growing pains. So the airport is using $5.1 million from the FAA to expand its apron. Plans are to break ground on the project in early fall with the apron completed before Christmas.
"The area is growing, passenger traffic, just the very nature of it, more people fly," said Airport Director Andy Shorter. "We're actually really excited about this project. It's what I call our first transformational project in about 20 years."
The apron, also known as the ramp, is where the planes park and let people on and off. The one at the New Bern airport has not seen improvements in 20 years.
"So we've already re-patched this place twice so that's why now with the larger airplanes and the heavier airplanes we've got to go from asphalt to concrete for the entire ramp so that will be a huge improvement," Shorter said.
The expanded apron also allows for the possibility of more planes coming to the airport that will fly to more destinations. With airlines like Delta and American no longer buying small planes, the need to make the changes is even more important. Shorter said more than 62,000 square feet will be added to the apron, a major undertaking.
"Certainly in the future, with the longer airplanes that might have longer legs, if we could get legs to other hubs, say Dallas, Charlotte, say Dulles up in the Washington D.C. area, you know that is ultimately a goal for us," Shorter said. "All airports are always looking for more and better destinations.
"It's a little bit like like changing the tire of your car as you are driving down the highway, so we have to maintain all of our operations capability but yet we have to rebuild this entire ramp. So we will do it one half at a time."
Shorter said the expansion will eventually include a bigger terminal, more TSA screenings and ultimately putting some more counter space.
"It's going to be a busy time, but good busy is always nice to have," Shorter said.