CVB hears airport commercialization proposal

Moore County Airport Director Rick Cloutier presented a proposal to commercialize the airport at the June 24 Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area Convention and Visitors Bureau meeting. 

The airport previously offered commercial flights until the early 2000s.

An average of 1,300 passengers daily each way (PDEW) use North Carolina’s top five airports from the catchment area (one-hour radius), with an average one-way fare of $230.

Excluding Sanford, Moore County Airport aims to serve 950 of the 1,300 flyers in the catchment area.

“Once you establish service at the airport, numbers do not decrease. It spurs an increase in flyers and a decrease in expense,” Cloutier said. “I do not expect it to grow into a Charlotte-Douglas airport.”

A study conducted last year showed that 320,000 people lived within the airport’s one-hour catchment area.

“Right now, we are a general aviation airport … receive one hundred fifty thousand from the federal government, and after we have eight thousand passengers daily, we’ll be granted one million,” Cloutier said.

A two-year-old Department of Transportation study revealed that commercialization stimulated car rentals, restaurants, hotels, and attractions by $300 million.

Commercializing would not impact Sanford’s rate of flyers because they are closer to Raleigh-Durham Airport.

“During the U.S. Open, we had 1,800 associated flights, and Sanford had one,” Cloutier said.

Moore County Commissioner Frank Quis asked how to prepare, and Cloutier said they could establish a temporary space for the first year and that once they reach 8,000 PDEW, they could get it off the ground for $1 million.

Preparation plans include writing a Small Community Air Service Development Grant (SCASD), which is due July 25. The 30-page grant costs $12,000. They need to connect with business partners and meet with potential airlines. The grant will take two to five years to develop.

“You score better with partners,” Cloutier said about having partners in place before submitting the SCASD grant because partners are a requirement.

Low-cost carrier bases provide more weekend flights, which are in high demand for Moore County. Cloutier explained that larger planes mean lower costs and nonstop flights reduce complications. The partner airlines would fly only on days with peak demand.

Cloutier said the pilot shortage worked against the commercialization initiative.

Nationwide, there is a 13,500 shortage, but this resulted in better training.

According to Cloutier, the airport board will discuss expansion, terminals, and parking and apply for federal grants, but the community needs to decide if this is the way to go.

Feature graphic via the Pinehurst, Southern Pines, Aberdeen Area Convention and Visitors Bureau meeting.

~Written by Sandhills Sentinel journalist Stephanie M. Sellers. Stephanie is also an English instructor at Central Carolina Community College. She is the author of young adult fiction, including When the Yellow Slugs Sing and Sky’s River Stone, and a suspense, GUTTERSNIPE: Shakespearean English Stage Play with Translation.

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