Airport prepares for U.S. Open Championship

The Moore County Airport is working to prepare the facilities for the upcoming U.S. Open Championship this summer. With a record number of private flights anticipated to arrive and depart in June from the airport, the members of the Airport Authority and senior management have been working diligently to upgrade the airport facilities, which predicts an estimated 2,000 flights with over 5,000 passengers for the week of the championship.

Recent capital improvements include the addition of several new hangars, the resurfacing and painting the main runway and taxiways, upgrading all runway and airport apron lighting to state-of-the-art LED lights, and needed renovations and facade updates on the existing terminal building.

Newly-appointed Airport Director Rick Cloutier hit the ground running in the fourth quarter of 2023 to oversee the completion of the needed projects, which will greatly impact the impending increase in 2024 airport traffic.

Airport prepares for Open Championship

Moore County Airport Director Rick Cloutier/Courtesy photo.

He has been working to maintain and enhance relationships with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), North Carolina State Department of Transportation (NCDOT), Moore County Commissioners and elected state officials who are all critically important for the current operations and future growth of the Moore County Airport. Cloutier has over 18 years of experience managing airports and aircraft industry knowledge, which is well-suited for guiding the airport’s vision and mission for the future.

“This is an exciting time in Moore County with everything that is going on, including the post-pandemic boost in tourism and the establishment of new base for the United States Golf Association (USGA) in Pinehurst, which will bring multiple golf championships to our region,” said Cloutier. “The airport has seen a noticeable increase in traffic, and it is imperative that we stay ahead of the curve and provide the best experience and services at the airport for the arriving and departing passengers, along with over 100 base customers.”

In addition to ramping up the needed flight support staff and customer service personnel for the U.S. Open, the airport has contracted to have a Mobile Air Traffic Control System and controllers to maintain safe and efficient air traffic control during the week of the Open. This equipment and extra personnel are essential when a public airport has the anticipated air traffic, especially with peak arrival and departure times during the week for the large numbers of participating championship golfers, corporate sponsors, and passengers.

Cloutier added: “Maintaining a safe environment at the airport is our number one priority. With frequent arrivals and departures, ground movement and positioning of aircraft for parking, shuttling passengers to and from the terminal, and servicing the aircraft with fuel, we need to make sure our team and any volunteers are focused on these priorities.”

In 2014, the airport introduced a “Community Gateway” program to enhance the arrival and departure experience for the passengers and pilots, which will continue for this year’s Open Championship. Enhanced services include shuttles to and from the airport terminal, terminal hospitality, including food and beverage options, beer and wine sampling, and a community concierge area that will provide personal “meet and greets” and general information for the arriving guests. The terminal will have a fresh and inviting atmosphere similar to a clubhouse, and the aircraft pilots will have their own dedicated hospitality area.

Ground transportation will be coordinated in the airport terminal with dedicated player vehicles provided by the USGA Official Vehicle—Lexus — and contacted transportation companies for corporate and other passenger use. The terminal will be secure from general traffic and golf fans, allowing for a safe and inviting atmosphere for arriving and departing passengers.

With the short-term focus on prepping the airport for this year’s Open, the real excitement will begin following the championship as the airport plans for the future. A recent grant of $5 million provided by the NCDOT Division of Aviation will allow the airport to enhance the airport terminal with structural updates and expand the facilities. The grant request was submitted by Sen. Tom McInnis, who heads up the State Transportation Committee.

“The Moore County Airport is an important component of infrastructure for economic development for the region,” said McInnis. “The economic impact for the airport is more than $107 million in 2023, which places the Moore County Airport in the top 15 of general aviation airports in North Carolina.”

The Moore County Airport is one of the only airports in North Carolina that does not receive county funding, which makes grant funding from the FAA and North Carolina government support extremely important for its future. Fuel sales and landing fees are vital sources of revenue for the facility.

Additional planned capital improvement includes the replacement of the aged tarmac apron with a new concrete surface, additional hangars and storage space, and preparing the airport for the technologies required for electronic aircraft transport, which will be a major initiative at the airport before the next U.S. Open in Moore County in 2029.

“Aircraft technology is moving at an amazing pace,” said Cloutier. “Our Airport Authority is focused on making sure we are prepared for the future as we develop our planning. The Moore County Airport and the surrounding community is   ready to welcome the world to our runways and fairways.”

Feature photo of the Moore County Airport by Sandhills Sentinel photographer Melissa Schaub.

Contributed.

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