Lumberton Regional Airport
taking off to new infrastructure heights
A Great Stopping Point No Matter the Destination, Lumberton Regional Airport soars into 2023
With COVID- related disruptions to regional air service firmly in our rearview mirrors, local airports around the country are gearing up to welcome the new aviation year ahead. Lumberton Regional Airport is no exception. With an impressive list of infrastructure projects ready to take off, Lumberton’s operational capabilities will meet the anticipated demands in passenger traffic for 2023.
Lumberton Regional Airport traces its origin to the Second World War when the War Department leased the land and constructed an airfield. In 1952 the airport was turned over to the city of Lumberton, and is the halfway point between New York and Miami, became a layover for commercial traffic. The coming of the jet era, and further distances between refueling, saw the jetliners flying over Lumberton and it settled into a life of recreational flying.
“We still have daily military traffic,” says Gary Lewis, Airport Manager. “Touch and go refueling, or sometimes they do training operations, but it remains part of what we do. We have a good mix of private and charter-type services, and there is also some corporate traffic, but we do not have commercial aviation. We work cooperatively with the city as well as the county and we have a lot of business projects that are developing around the airport which helps bring in the corporate folks.”
One of the larger projects is the planned development of land near the airport for a new business park. The Lumberton area is seeing a surge of growth which helps the airport, while the airport is both an economic driver and a recreational outlet.
Lumberton Regional covers an area of 485 acres and has two runways with asphalt surfaces: 5/23 is 5,502 by 150 feet and 13/31 is 5,003 by 75 feet. Within the last three years, they have constructed a new modern terminal with an operations center, pilot’s lounge, and a large conference room with an adjacent serving kitchen. There is a real sense that this is a great stopping point, and to capitalize on this, they want to offer appropriate amenities.
“If you took a look outside of our window you would see a lot of construction going on, “ Lewis points out.
“Right now, it’s focused on the taxiways. We have a new taxiway being constructed for the 23 end of our runway which is a six-million-dollar project which is being completed using mostly federal and state funds, with a mix of local funds as well,” he continues.
“We have also just completed a taxiway extension project for Runway 05 that was more like $4 million. This project is mostly complete and operational with a couple of minor items to finish. This will allow us to come up to FAA standards for our taxiway, creating a parallel taxiway that will make it a little bit easier for pilots to navigate to the terminal from the runway. This is being done by Barnhill Contracting and they are a great partner,” he determines.
“We do have a couple of other upgrades to the airport,” he continues. “We had our weather system overhauled this past summer,which had not been working for the past three years. The next biggest project that we have coming, and we just awarded a contract for, is a new $2.3 million fuel farm.”
This will replace the old fuel farm, which is now outdated, and allow us to not only provide self-serve aviation gas but also self-serve Jet fuel as well. During business hours we do offer full service, but this will allow charter jets and helicopters to be able to fuel up here 24 hours a day – this also includes some other upgrades to the fuel farm that deals with efficiency and safety,” Lewis outlines.
Lewis is quick to point out several other valuable partnerships that keep the airport running smoothly and is adamant that first and foremost that includes the staff. He points out that his employees who work at the airport have stepped up in so many ways to make sure that service is always a priority.
“A huge partnership is with the Division of Aviation for North Carolina,” he adds. “We wouldn’t have the money to be able to do the projects that we have done without them working with us. It takes millions of dollars to keep the airport running and we are just not going to bring that in locally.”
Lumberton Regional is doing better now in terms of overall traffic than pre-pandemic. The growth has been in all areas, charter, recreational and corporate. However, Lewis has seen a possible reversal of this due to current fuel prices.
“The fuel pricing is astronomical compared to what it was last year and so that has slowed down some of the traffic. We have done everything we can to drop our prices, negotiate bulk sales, and keep this increase fair. At one point we were only making 11 cents profit on every gallon, which doesn’t add up to a whole lot,” Lewis relays.
“Our fuel supplier is Campbell Oil and they are a really good partner. If I need anything they get it here quickly, if we were to have extra traffic coming in and it uses up our fuel because with the jets, depending on what comes in, they can take on 1000 gallons – but I call up Campbell and they will have a truck out here right away. Still, the price increase has affected all airports and it is causing a decrease in recreational traffic,” Lewis elaborates.
When looking to the future Lewis hopes to see an increase in corporate and business traffic with all the new businesses relocating to the Lumberton area. Because of the proximity to Myrtle Beach and other commercial airports, commercial service is probably not in the cards for Lumberton.
“This really is a great stopping point for any type of traveler,” Lewis muses, “We get a lot of people stopping over who are heading down to Florida or up north as well. And this is the perfect stopping place for them. We have really worked hard on making sure that this is true. Our new terminal has been a great attraction for stopovers and tourists alike.”
“We are also very pilot friendly, and we offer all the amenities they need. There are also a ton of restaurants and hotels and local businesses that welcome travelers as well. Adding to that, Lumberton is a great place to do business, and a lot of folks are recognizing that.,” he notes.
“In the meantime, we have convenient conference and office space at the airport which they can use. We have used this a lot to help the businesses that are coming in to discuss their local ventures. We think this is a great place to live and we want to show it off,” Lewis concludes.
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AT A GLANCE
Lumberton Regional Airport
WHAT: A general and corporate aviation airport
WHERE: Lumberton, Robeson County, North Carolina