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"Few fliers at new Raleigh, N.C.-area airport terminal"
- From: "Stephen Irwin" <stepheni@xxxxxxxxx>
- Date: Thu, 7 Apr 2005 05:55:05 -0500
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
Few fliers at new Raleigh, N.C.-area airport terminal
The Raleigh (NC) News & Observer
The new general aviation terminal at Raleigh-Durham International Airport
was envisioned as a place where corporate executives could wait in comfort
and their pilots could get some sleep between flights.
But weddings and children's birthday parties?
The $4.9 million facility has seen a daily trickle of corporate use since it
opened in mid-2004, but it has yet to take off. It's not that there isn't
enough jet traffic in and out of RDU. After all, there were 4,278 landings
and take-offs by private planes just last month.
But some pilots are balking at paying $10 an hour to sleep in bunk beds. And
most executives use the nearby facilities provided by Piedmont Hawthorne and
Southern Jet, two private companies which provide maintenance, fueling and
hangar service for private planes.
"We're not thrilled with the use now but think it will pick up," said Tim
Clancy, chairman of the RDU authority. "Keep in mind, this hasn't been the
best time in the last couple of years for aviation, period."
The terminal, funded with airport revenue primarily from rental and parking
fees, is just north of Terminal A, which is for passengers on commercial
airlines. The general aviation terminal is part of the $56.6 million
makeover of the general aviation area that was begun in 1997. Almost 200
private planes are based there.
Officials expect use of the terminal to increase after paving is finished
for a new parking apron for private aircraft. And they said the building was
planned all along to host functions like the recent birthday party for a
"The terminal never was planned to be as busy as the passenger terminals,"
said RDU spokeswoman Colleen Fischvogt. "If the space is there and it's
underutilized, why not rent the space that's available?"
During nonpeak evenings and weekends, the airport rents the
22,000-square-foot building for weddings ($600 for two hours). One woman
recently rented it for a surprise birthday party for her husband.
RDU "built it to support growing general aviation and the Triangle
community," said Fischvogt. Airport authority employees "even had our
Christmas party there."
One reason use has been slow to take off is that Southern Jet and Piedmont
Hawthorne -- which are known as fixed base operators or FBOs -- initially
planned to have customer service desks and facilities in the terminal for
arriving corporate passengers. But they dropped those plans and built their
own facilities with passenger and crew lounges.
"It would have been like Wal-Mart and Home Depot across the room from each
other," said Dave Lussier, general manager for Piedmont Hawthorne.
Lussier said several hundred customers -- mostly pilots waiting for
passengers to finish meetings in the Triangle before flying home -- still
use the terminal, which has a cafe, exercise and meeting rooms, each week.
"It has amenities we cannot provide," Lussier said. "Our conference rooms
seat 15 or 20. Theirs seat 30 or 40," Lussier said. "We have pilots that go
over there for lunch. It provides a gym for them to exercise and we can rent
conference rooms for events."
But many pilots refuse to pay $10 for snooze rooms or the $5 fee to use the
terminal exercise room, said Joy Richardson, customer service manager at
"It's a bed off a wall and a sink -- it's a jail room," Richardson said of
the nap rooms. "We pretty much have all the facilities for them right here.
None of my passengers will ever use that building and the pilots think
there's no use for it. Every time a new person comes in, they question
what's it for."
That's the question corporate pilot Geoff Bush had as he waited to begin a
flight back to Michigan. "I wondered with two FBOs on the side why it's
here, but today, I'm glad it is," Bush said.
Bush, who flies for Teleflex, wanted a nap after lunch but recliners in
Piedmont Hawthorne's crew room were occupied.
"It's a good overflow, which is why I'm using it today," said Bush, one of
only a handful of people in the building one afternoon last week. "It's
nice. I'd like to see it used a little more."
Lussier said only a few large airports, such as Boston or Los Angeles, have
general aviation terminals. "It's cutting edge," he said.
But as word of the new facility gets out, more groups are holding
conferences in the terminal, RDU officials said. Ken Atkins, Wake County's
economic development director, has used it for a half-dozen meetings with
clients considering moving businesses to the area.
"Clients always want to know about air service and it makes a nice backdrop
when you are on the second level and can see the [passenger] terminals,
runways and work going on," Atkins said.
--Cost: $4.9 million, paid for by airport revenue
--Size: 22,000 square feet
--Features: lounge with TV, VCR, DVD; snooze rooms; exercise facility;
showers; Crosswinds cafe; rental car service; 50-seat conference room;
business center; enclosed observation view of runway for aviation buffs.
--Rental availability: nights, weekends
--Rental fee: entire building -- $600 for first two hours, then $200 an
hour (capacity of pubic areas about 350 people); conference room -- $60 an
hour or $150 for four hours.
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