Local airports could see traffic increase during convention
The Democratic National Convention is expected to bring more than 35,000 additional people to Charlotte next month.
To get there, a significant amount of those 35,000 will arrive by plane, meaning area airports are preparing for some additional runway traffic.
Joe Tate, airport manager at the Lincolnton/Lincoln County Regional Airport, said his airport is prepared for whatever comes its way.
However, he isn’t looking for huge revenue from the convention.
“I don’t have a big marketing budget to chase things. Whatever we get from it is just gravy,” Tate said. “Yes, we’ll get some overflow – we’re not sure how much – hopefully private or corporate jets will know this is just the best kept secret.”
He’s hoping members of Congress will come to Lincolnton to avoid the hassle of Charlotte-Douglas International Airport or the Concord Regional Airport.
Tate’s $30 million facility includes a 5,500-foot runway and can hold about 50 aircraft.
“We can handle about anything they want to throw at us,” Tate said. “There may be a dozen towns in America the size of Lincolnton that have an airport this nice.”
There are also negatives attached to the convention, Tate said, as general aviation and flight lessons will pretty much be shut down during the three-day period.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has issued Temporary Flight Restrictions from Sept. 3-6, and general aviation pilots would rather park their planes than risk losing their license under tight restrictions.
Tate, a veteran of the airline industry for more than 25 years, thinks the effect of the convention will be less than what’s being projected.
“I lived in Atlanta in 1996 when the Olympics were there,” Tate said. “The Olympics brought the world, the convention is going to bring 35,000 visitors.”
Rick Cloutier, aviation director for Concord Regional Airport, is anticipating a pretty sizeable increase in air traffic.
“Concord will house a lot of representatives and delegates. We expect a lot of charters during that week,” Cloutier, who’s only been on the job for two weeks, said. “For some of these aircraft, we might not even know they’re coming until a few minutes before.”
Concord Regional can hold as many as 200 planes, Cloutier said, and he expects certain security measures to be put into place as the convention nears.
Cloutier hopes the flight restrictions won’t have a large impact on Concord because of the efforts the staff has gone through leading up to the convention.
Overall, Cloutier thinks the convention can be a positive.
“We’ll see some increased traffic which means increased fuel sales and more people in the community,” he said.