SOP readies for the U.S. Open — and beyond

CARTHAGE, N.C. – The Moore County Airport (SOP) recently completed an extensive renovation and expansion program.

Projects include the expansion of the aircraft apron areas to accommodate additional parking areas for arriving aircraft, the construction of additional hangars for privately owned aircraft, lengthening of the existing runway to 6,502 feet,relocation of passenger guest parking areas, and the renovation of the main terminal building and conference room at the airport.

These improvements are designed to enhance the safety of operations into and out of the airport and to maximize the available space for additional incoming aircraft and privately owned aircraft that are based at Moore County Airport, according to airport officials.

The majority of the funding for these projects came from North Carolina airport block grants, in addition to some local funds from the hotel occupancy tax.

“The runway has been lengthened to allow for more room for the aircraft to accelerate to their optimal takeoff speed and to maximize the amount of fuel the aircraft can hold so they can reach their destinations without a refueling stop,” stated Steve Borden, Executive Director of Moore County Airport. “We can now welcome and service larger business jets and occasional commercial size aircraft to Moore County. The construction projects were planned to be complete in time to support the upcoming U.S. Open Championships.”

The airport can accommodate almost twice as many parked medium-sized business jets on a daily basis and can expand parking from 70-100 aircraft based on the aircraft size and arrival frequency for these aircraft, airport officials said.

The main passenger/guest parking areas had to be relocated to an adjacent area near the existing parking lot to accommodate the runway expansion. Additional parking spaces have been added in anticipation of greater traffic for this year, officials add.

The terminal building enhancements, designed by Village Design group, have just been completed and include the creation of a new customer lounge in the terminal waiting area, the relocation of the customer service desk to a more central area within the building to support incoming pilots and passengers, and the design of a state-of-the-art conference room, which will be used by the airport authority and staff, as well as being available for rental by local businesses and groups in the community.

The 2014 U.S. Open Golf Championship, slated for June 12-15, will present a vast array of opportunities for the Moore County Airport, airport officials say.

An estimated 3,000 to 4,000 flights carrying thousands of visitors are expected to arrive via the airport during the two weeks of the championships. Private contractors have been hired to handle the air traffic control during the championships. They will utilize a temporary control tower to manage the influx of private aircraft into the airport. The FAA-certified air traffic controllers will have a combined 175 years of experience in the orderly sequencing of aircraft into and out of the airport during this busy time, officials note.

“The goal of the Airport Authority and staff is to showcase our airport and its gateway image to our customers,” said William H. Bateman, Chairman of the Moore County Airport Authority. “We are working with local companies to assist the airport staff in developing and executing a master plan for enhancing the arrival/departure experience at the airport and to give these corporations and individuals a reason to return to our community after the U.S. Opens are completed. We are excited to have participation from many national and North Carolina companies that will assist us in this endeavor.”

The long range plans for the airport continue to involve the search to attract commercial service to the airport for the future, airport officials noted.

The Moore County Airport was established in 1929 when the Tufts family, founders and operators of the Pinehurst Resort, opened a dirt runway and named it “Knollwood Airport.” The airport was acquired by Moore County in 1935 and was later leased to the U.S. Army Air Corps until 1945, when it transitioned from a military airfield to a commercial airfield. The Pinehurst-Southern Pines Airport, with Piedmont Airlines as the primary commercial carrier, operated commercial service until the late 1960s. The airport was renamed the Moore County Airport in 1980, and commercial air service returned in 1991 with CCAir, operating as USAir Express providing round trip service to Charlotte, North Carolina. Passenger traffic peaked in 1998 with over 50,000 passengers arriving and departing from Moore County. Commercial service was discontinued following the disasters of Septe. 11, 2001, which impacted commercial air travel around the country.

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