ILM Releases 5 Year Vision Plan – Includes $165 Million in Capital Projects to Keep up with Record Growth

On March 1st, the New Hanover County Airport Authority approved ILM’s Vision Plan, which outlines key strategic objectives for the next five years (2023-2027).  The Vision Plan is a culmination of feedback from key airport stakeholders and collaboration among the Authority, airport staff, consultants, and aviation experts.  “The Airport Authority fully supports ILM’s 5 Year Vision Plan, which lays out a clear strategy and will act as a guiding document as we plan for ILM’s growth,” stated Spruill Thompson, Chair of the New Hanover County Airport Authority. “The vision plan will culminate with a Master Plan, allowing ILM to meet the needs of our increasing population,” Thompson added.

Specifically, the airport outlined priorities around four strategic components: business development, marketing and air service growth, a five-year capital plan, and its financial plan.  Top priorities include:

  • Business Development
    • The most recent ILM Business Park expansion will result in increased revenues from ground leases.  Future business development plans will continue to include expansion of the Aero Park and Business Park.  Page 1-9 the Authority has identified areas for short-range, medium-range, and long-range growth opportunities. 
    • At the 3/1/23 Airport Authority meeting, the Authority voted to award a contract to Faber, bringing two national brands to the airport’s concession offerings, Dunkin’ and Jimmy John’s, providing news and gifts, and expanded retail.  The new businesses are expected to open at ILM by year-end.
  • Marketing and Air Service Growth
    • Marketing is important to ensure the success of existing and new service. ILM increased its marketing budget to amplify marketing the airport as well as its new airlines and new nonstop routes. Quantifiable marketing results were very strong.  Further, two new airlines were announced along with six new nonstop routes. The Airport Authority notes the importance of continuing a robust marketing program in the southeastern NC region to ensure the public is aware of new air service.
    • ILM had two new airlines come to market and five new nonstop routes added in 2022, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, New Haven, Baltimore, and Minneapolis-St. Paul.  Additionally, Delta offered new nonstop service to Boston, adding to the flights already offered by American. This addition brought ILM’s new nonstops to six.  ILM exceeded pre-pandemic passenger numbers in 2022 and set a new passenger record for the year, serving 1,086,245 total passengers.  ILM anticipates nearly 15% growth in 2023, pushing enplanement levels in 2023 beyond 625,000 (1,250,000 total annual passengers). 
    • Staff will continue to look for the next best opportunity for growth at ILM.
  • Five-Year Capital Plan
    • With record growth, the Authority recognizes capacity constraints of the terminal building, associated roadways and parking lots.  Additionally, a runway pavement overlay to the airport’s primary runway and upgrades to taxiways are needed.  The design capacity of the new terminal is 552,000 enplanements (1,104,000 total annual passengers).  At peak times, the airport hit the design capacity of the new terminal this past year.
    • 5 Year Capital Projects include:
      • Terminal Curb Front Improvements:
      • Airport Boulevard Improvements
      • Parking Improvements
      • Terminal Expansion & Future Improvements
      • Runway & Taxiway Improvements
      • General Planning, Airfield, & Infrastructure Improvements
      • General Aviation Infrastructure Improvements
      • Business & Aero Park Improvements
  • Financial Plan
    • ILM is in a good financial position.  Compared to ILM’s peers, the airport has low operating expenses, minimal debt, and strong cash reserves.
    • The five-year funding, to support ILM’s 5-year capital plan, consists of available dedicated funding sources already committed including federal and state grants, passenger facility charges (PFCs), and customer facility charges (CFCs) (totaling $106,000,000). This funding does not come from local taxpayers. It is generated by the local, state, and federal aviation system and must be used for airport improvements.
    • The balance of the capital program will be funded with reserves ($20,000,000), discretionary sources ($30,000,000), and debt ($10,000,000 up to a maximum of $20,000,000), all while maintaining ILM’s strong financial position. At the end of the program, ILM will have the same level of cash on hand as its peers and less debt.
    • The airport currently maintains a high level of reserves.  The Authority determined, to be in line with peer airports, 600 days of cash on hand is sufficient. The Authority will release reserve funds to support priority capital projects, ensuring projects are fully funded.
    • Further, the Authority allocated $5 million to plan for Business Park and Aero Park improvements.

Jeff Bourk, ILM Airport Director stated, “ILM’s Vision Plan allows the airport to keep up with demand, while eliminating constraints for future growth.  We look forward to ensuring the airlines and general aviation users have the facilities they need to continue to grow at ILM and that our passengers have convenience and ease when choosing to fly ILM.  At the same time, we intend to implement a FAA Part 150 study, and other required environmental reviews, to ensure potential impacts from future operations are addressed.”

View the ILM Vision Plan
View the Airport Director Briefing

Media Contact:
Erin McNally
Marketing, Air Service Development & PR Manager


About the Wilmington International Airport: The Wilmington International Airport serves southeastern North Carolina with commercial air service on American, Avelo, Delta, United, and-starting June 2023- Sun Country.  These airlines provide nonstop service to fourteen markets, connecting travelers to hundreds of destinations.  In addition to commercial air service, ILM supports a growing general aviation community and has two FBOs, Modern Aviation and Aero Center Wilmington, that serve the GA community.   The ILM Business Park, located on the airport campus, encompasses 140 acres and is strategically located in an intermodal environment.  The NCDOT Division of Aviation’s 2022 report estimated ILM’s economic impact at $2.5 billion.  For more information on ILM, please visit