First in flight: NC outpacing nation as airports expand, improve technology

North Carolina news

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WJZY) – For North Carolina, growth in the aviation sector is finally recovering from a turbulent 2020.

On Wednesday, a report showed the state of the country’s infrastructure. It looks at the current physical state of airports, the capital required to maintain and improve, plus the current ability to compete with other transportation sectors.

Overall, the nation passed with a C-.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, aviation was a rapidly growing sector of the transportation industry, but the recent report card from the American Society of Civil Engineers put the country’s aviation infrastructure well below average, with a D+.

North Carolina, however, is outpacing the nationwide rating given by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Growth can be seen at Charlotte Douglas Airport, where the projects seem never-ending — even in the face of COVID-19 and fewer passengers taking to the skies. There are also 71 other public airports in North Carolina that are keeping the state moving.

“We are absolutely making the investments that we need to keep improving aviation in North Carolina. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a rapidly growing sector of the transportation industry,” said James Pearce with NCDOT’s Aviation Division.

In Charlotte, major improvements started in 2007 with the construction of runway 18-right and 36-left back in 2007. Since then we’ve seen terminal expansions, roadway projects, and plans for another new runway and other improvements totaling more than $3 billion.

But what about those 71 other, smaller airports?

“Obviously we’ve seen passenger traffic drop off, but we’ve seen increases in stuff like business aviation and air-care. It’s these airports like the Charlotte-Monroe Executive, Gaston County, Shelby-Cleveland County and Concord that are really important to their communities and have a massive economic impact,” Pearce said.

He added that North Carolina continues to help the air sector invest in technology for the future, like drone deliveries of medical supplies.

“We want to make sure our state is always on the cutting edge of aviation technology,” Pearce said.

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