TSA screening and general passenger traffic are coming to the small, city-owned Concord airport. It's a major step for an airport that has been, to this point, frequented mainly by NASCAR teams on private planes.
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.
Cloutier expects tickets for the first Concord-Orlando flights on Allegiant Air to go on sale within a week.