By JULIE ROSE
CONCORD - TSA screening and general passenger traffic are coming to the small, city-owned Concord Regional Airport. It’s a major step for an airport that has been, to this point, frequented mainly by NASCAR teams on private planes.
RELATED NEWS: Concord gets a new airport code – “USA” – See below.
The tarmac of Concord Regional Airport is a noisy place, but that’s only because even small planes make a big racket. Nothing like what you’d experience at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, 20 miles away, though. More than 550,000 planes took off and landed at Charlotte last year, compared to 65,000 in Concord.
“We’re very busy during NASCAR season because of all the teams coming and going, but we’re still busy throughout the year – very steady,” says Rick Cloutier, aviation director at Concord Regional Airport – where you can park for free, walk 20 yards and board a plane without taking off your shoes or being frisked by security. For now, anyway.
Come December, a hangar near the terminal will be converted into a temporary TSA screening and a waiting area for passengers of new twice weekly flights to suburban Orlando on Allegiant Air. The round-trip will start at $99.
For Cloutier, it’ll be the start of Concord’s transformation from a place for private jets and charter planes to the airport of choice for Charlotte-area leisure passengers seeking a cheaper, easier flight. Within three to five years, Cloutier hopes enough regional and low-cost carriers will be flying into Concord to merit major expansion: a larger terminal facility built on the other side of the runway. Private and charter planes will continue to operate out of the existing terminal.
Cloutier does not yet have a cost estimate for the expansion, but says the money will come from airport revenues and federal grants in the same way Charlotte Douglas International funds itself.
As for the regional airport commission state lawmakers created with a clause that could allow it to take over Concord’s airport operations one day? Concord Mayor Scott Padgett says, “No thanks.”
“I think we have done very well managing our airport and I think our city council would feel very strongly that it needs to remain under the supervision of the city of Concord,” says Padgett.
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CONCORD GETS A NEW AIRPORT CODE – “USA”
After announcing the new Concord to Florida flights last week, Allegiant Air had some difficulty getting its online ticket sales up and running. It turns out, the tiny Concord Regional Airport didn’t have an International Air Transport Association (IATA) code, which is required for regularly scheduled commercial flights.
But it all worked out in the end – and Concord has ended up with a code to be envied: “USA.” Allegiant spokeswoman Lindsay Hernquist explains what happened:
“We were all hoping that this application process would go smoothly because the airport has an FAA code, JQF, which is used for general aviation and charter activity. Unfortunately, upon applying for their new identifier, we found out that that specific code (JQF) is already registered to a location in Moscow, Russia.
“Naturally, a different code had to be chosen and if it wasn’t going to be JQF, Concord Regional Airport wasn’t going to pick a lackluster code. They wanted their identifier code to be something the airport and their travelers could identify with. Codes such as WRL (Where Racing Lives) RCG and NCR were considered for the area’s love of NASCAR and racing, but none of those options were available. So what did Concord Regional Airport finally land on? Something more American than the NASCAR identifier: USA.”
Allegiant says it now has started selling roundtrip flights for as low as $99, though that price is only available through Aug. 30 for travel by April 29, 2014. Visit allegiant.com or call 702-505-8888. Seats and flights are limited.’
- David Boraks, DavidsonNews.net