RDU’s growth has business flying at Sanford airport



SANFORD, N.C. — Raleigh-Durham International Airport isn't the only airport in the region that is booming.

The Raleigh Executive Jetport, off U.S. Highway 1 in Sanford, has grown each year since it opened in 2000. More than 140 planes are now based at the airport, up from the initial 29.

"We have the ability to land large airplanes here, but our niche is really on the general aviation side," airport director Bob Heuts said. "The weekenders, if you will, certainly have an opportunity to fly in and out of here. It's more difficult at RDU with all the commercial activity."

Many of the planes based in Sanford are corporate jets, making it a big part of Lee County's economy.

"Just as important as roads, just as important as rail, it gets people in and out of here. It gets parts in and out of here," said Meg Moss, executive director of the Sanford Area Chamber of Commerce.

The state Department of Transportation and Department of Commerce are helping Sanford and Lee County pay for a $3.5 million airport expansion to keep up with demand. The project includes widening the runways and building more hangars.

As the Triangle grows and RDU's commercial traffic squeezes out smaller planes, Heuts said, the Raleigh Executive Jetport is in a good position to benefit.

"Those are opportunities for us, and we want to be sure to be ready. Given this construction project, it gets us a long way toward being ready," he said.

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