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AVL celebrates Aviation Day: Where we've come, and where we're going

There has been a lot of change at the Asheville Regional Airport lately, but there is a constant: our commitment to be a part of this community. The airport has played a role in the growth and success of our region from its inception, contributing almost a half a billion dollars to our local economy every year. Our sustained growth and impact on the region are made possible by our loyal passengers and their commitment to fly local. In honor of National Aviation Day (celebrated each August), we wanted to appreciate our history and the exciting things that are happening here at AVL.

We are currently in phase four of Project SOAR:  Significant Opportunity for Aviation & the Region. This four-year, $80-million runway reconstruction project is the most significant development undertaken by the airport since it was built and opened in 1961.

OUR HISTORY:  AVL has a reputation for making history, beginning over 90 years ago when the idea of an airport in the area first appeared on the scene.

In 1925, the Asheville Chamber began to research the feasibility of an airport. This research paid off, and in 1936 Asheville, Hendersonville and Henderson County purchased 122 acres of land and unpaved runways in exchange for land and cash totaling $31,000. This land would be developed into the Asheville and Hendersonville (A&H) Airport over the coming years. As demand increased, mountain ranges surrounding the A&H Airport became an obstacle. A new location was planned, and a bond was authorized for the City of Asheville to spend $1.2 million constructing a new airport that could grow and accommodate larger aircraft. In 1961, the $2.2 million AVL opened its doors to the public as the region’s first fully-operational commercial airport. The new airport featured 740 acres, a 25,000-square-foot terminal and a 6,500-foot runway; but this was only the beginning. The coming decades would keep the airport running full-steam ahead to keep up with the demands of continuous expansion.

Today, AVL is still at a full sprint to keep up with the growth we’ve seen over the past few years.  Project SOAR is a vital piece of our efforts to expand, but it isn’t our first airfield undertaking. President Jimmy Carter allocated $2 million to extend the runway to 8,001 ft in 1978, allowing the largest aircraft yet to land in Asheville. This new runway opened the floodgates, and in 1987 AVL hosted more airline services and passengers than ever before. The influx of people created a need for a larger terminal, and five years later the airport’s $20 million expansion project made AVL the fourth largest airport in the state. Steady growth continued into the early 2000s, bringing a new apron, more ramp space, passenger service facilities and many other improvements. The larger and improved Asheville Regional Airport saw a record-breaking number of passengers in 2010, and again in the past four consecutive years (2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017).

In 2018, we are continuing to see unprecedented growth and are on track for a fifth consecutive record year.  In fact, AVL is on track to serve more than 1 million annual passengers for the first time this year. In May 2018, AVL was named the second fastest growing small hub airport in the country by Bloomberg News, with 33.2 percent growth since 2016.  The airport is continuing to respond to the increase of passenger demand. The past two years involved constructing a $22 million parking garage and undergoing a comprehensive terminal assessment.

The Asheville Regional Airport’s growth doesn’t stop here. Our numbers are projected to continue increasing over the coming years. With the anticipation of steady growth and a recently completed terminal assessment study to guide future expansion, there are some exciting things on AVL’s horizon. We are eager to see what the future holds for the airport and our community. Thank you for flying local!