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Charlotte/Douglas International Airport
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Charlotte/Douglas International Airport

Charlotte Douglas International Airport is a joint civil-military public international airport located in Charlotte, North Carolina. Established in 1935 as Charlotte Municipal Airport, in 1954 the airport was renamed Douglas Municipal Airport after former Charlotte mayor Ben Elbert Douglas, Sr. The airport gained its current name in 1982 and is currently US Airways' largest hub, with service to 175 domestic and international destinations as of 2008.[1] In 2009, it was the 9th busiest airport in the United States[2] and in 2010, the 24th busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic.[3] In 2010, it was the 6th busiest airport in the world, based on traffic movements.



United States Geological Survey (USGS) aerial image before 18R/36L was built.

The early years

The city received a $200,000 grant from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1930 to establish Charlotte's first municipal airport.

In 1936, the Charlotte Municipal Airport opened and was operated by the City of Charlotte. Eastern Air Lines began its first regularly scheduled passenger service in 1937. The original passenger terminal is still at the airport, and is now used as Fenway Sports Group's Boeing 727 parking area. (FSG's North American motorsport venture, Roush Fenway Racing, is based in the old terminal).

The United States Army Air Forces took control of the airport and established Morris Field Air Base in 1941. The airfield was used by the Third Air Force for antisubmarine patrols and training.

1950 to mid-1960s: into the jet age

In 1954 a passenger terminal opened and the airport was renamed Douglas Municipal Airport in honor of former Charlotte Mayor Ben Elbert Douglas, Sr. The terminal had two floors, though passenger operations were confined to the ground floor. Ticketing and baggage claim were on each side of an open space which bisected the building from north to south, and a mezzanine restaurant and airline offices overlooked this open space. Delta Air Lines began scheduled passenger service in 1956. The OAG for April 1957 shows 57 weekday departures on Eastern, 7 Piedmont, 6 Capital, 4 Delta and 2 Southern. Nonstop flights did not reach beyond Newark, Pittsburgh, Columbus, Louisville, Birmingham and Jacksonville.

Eastern Air Lines began the region's scheduled jet service with the Boeing 720 in early 1962.[4] Eastern used the west pier, Piedmont and Delta the center pier, and United and Southern used the east pier.

Late 1960s to 1978: growth pre-deregulation

A major renovation project in the late 1960s expanded the facility considerably. Eastern opened a 'unit terminal' in 1967, replacing the old west pier. This new facility had 8 dedicated gates for Eastern, each with its own departure lounge, as well as a snack bar and separate baggage claim space. Eastern passengers continued to check in at the main terminal.

Two years later in 1969, a new enclosed concourse was built parallel to the center pier. When it was completed, Piedmont, Eastern and Delta moved in and the old center pier was demolished. The new concourse also had separate departure lounges, as well as restrooms and an enlarged baggage claim area. United's flights continued to the use the east pier, although an enclosed holdroom was added for waiting passengers.

In 1973, Eastern added two more gates to the end of its west concourse.

1978 to 1989: becoming a major hub

After airline deregulation in 1978, passenger numbers at the terminal nearly doubled between 1978 and 1980, and a new parallel runway and control tower were opened in 1979 to handle the increased passenger loads. The airport's master plan also called for construction of a new terminal across the runway from the existing site. Ground for this expansion was broken in 1979.

In 1979, Piedmont Airlines dedicated Charlotte as the hub for its rapidly expanding route network. To accommodate the booming growth of the facility, a new passenger terminal designed by Odell Associates opened in 1982, and the airport was renamed Charlotte Douglas International Airport[5].

Concourses B and C were expanded in 1987 and 1984 respectively, while Concourse A was built in 1986 in order to handle future growth in traffic[5]

In 1987, Piedmont inaugurated non-stop service to London.

In the mid-1980s, the old terminal site was converted in to a cargo center, and the central concourse and Eastern 'unit terminal' were removed to make way for larger, more modern cargo buildings. The original main building still stands, however, and is used for office space. The old control tower was removed in the late 1990s.

In 1989, Piedmont merged with USAir, the new merged operations kept the USAir name.

1990 to 2004: the influence of US Airways

livery]] Lufthansa Airbus A340-600 on final approach to runway 18C The central atrium of the passenger terminal building In 1990, a new international and commuter concourse (Concourse D) opened, and in 1991 further expansion of the central terminal building continued, reflective of USAir's dominating presence at the airport. A monumental bronze statue of Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (the namesake of the city), created by Raymond Kaskey, was placed in front of the main terminal.

In 1992, Lufthansa began Boeing 747 service to Germany; however, this service was discontinued shortly thereafter. In 1994, British Airways began service to London via a "global alliance" with USAir. This has since been discontinued, as the airlines have chosen opposite alliances. Lufthansa did restart service to Charlotte in 2003 and now operates flights between Charlotte and Munich, Germany utilizing Airbus A340-600 and Airbus A330-300 aircraft.

In 1999, plans were announced for the construction of a regional carrier concourse (present-day Concourse E) and for the expansion of Concourses A and D. This expansion was designed by The Wilson Group and LS3P Assocites Ltd.[6].

In 2002, the new 32-gate Concourse E opened,[7] and US Airways also began non-stop service to Belize, Freeport, Providenciales, Punta Cana, and St. Croix.

In 2003, the main ticketing hall was expanded to the east, providing 13 additional ticketing counters and a new security checkpoint; and Concourse D was expanded by an additional 9 gates. That year, US Airways began service to Costa Rica, Mexico City, and St. Kitts. Lufthansa also returned to the airport at this time providing service to Munich.

2005 and beyond

Following America West Airlines' acquisition of US Airways in a reverse takeover,[8] Charlotte (CLT) remains the primary domestic hub for the airline. However, the majority of US Airways' international routes are served out of the airline's second-largest hub, Philadelphia. In April 2007, Charlotte was the fastest growing airport in the US.[9] and is among the 30 busiest airports in the world in terms of passenger traffic.

Construction and Expansion

Airport diagram showing the three north/south parallel runways with the intersecting runway 5/23. Construction of Charlotte International's fourth runway began in the spring of 2007. At long, the new "third parallel" will allow three independent approaches for arrivals even from the south, potentially increasing capacity by 33 percent. This new runway lies west of the three existing runways. The construction of the fourth runway required the relocation of parts of Wallace Neel Road (which had previously formed the Western boundary of the airport) to an alignment located further to the west.

Construction involved two phases. The first phase, which began in March 2007, included grading and drainage. The second phase included the paving and lighting of the runway. In August 2009, crews paved the last section.[10]

On the morning of November 20, 2008 runway 18R/36L was changed to runway 18C/36C in anticipation of the upcoming commissioning of the new third parallel runway which would carry the 18R/36L designation when opened.

The runway opened January 6, 2010. The cost for the runway and taxiways was $325 million, with the federal government paying $124 million and the rest funded by a $3 fee added to the cost of a ticket.[11]

The new runway was initially operational for visual approaches only, but is since February 11, 2010 approved for instrument approaches as well. The Runway construction also has planned to reroute several roads around the airport. Within these plans, a new interchange at the I-485 Outerbelt is planned to connect the airport and another relocated


The airport plans to extend Concourse E by to accommodate additional aircraft. Unlike the rest of Concourse E, this new portion will have 2 levels to accommodate larger CRJs and A320s.

In addition, construction of a new International Terminal will begin in 2012, and Concourse E is planned to be disconnected to the main terminal, and would then be accessible by underground walkway. A shuttle will be built connecting the terminals, parking garages, rental car center, and eventually, light rail.

On September 28, 2010 construction officially began to expand the ticket counter area connecting it to Concourse E eventually making room for one more Security checkpoint area.

The estimated completion date for Phase 1 of the terminal expansion is slated for June 1, 2012


The parking options at Charlotte Douglas have drastically improved in recent years. There have been two new Daily Parking decks erected since 2005, providing almost 6,000 additional parking spaces for the traveling public. There are also two Long Term lots, with a combined 6,500 spaces. In addition, there is the Remote lot, which is between the Daily and Long Term lots, with about 1,500 spaces. A new 40-million-dollar Business Valet Parking Deck, which will utilize Post Tension Concrete for each massive level, has now opened. Charlotte's close-in surface and deck parking exits are serviced by part-time personnel from booths apparently dating to the 1982 terminal expansion. The Daily parking rates at CLT are some of the lowest in the nation, with Long Term costing $4 & Remote parking costing $6 per day (Remote parking is closed as of January 5, 2009 for an unknown length of time). Daily Parking is $6 per day, and Hourly $2 per hour with a maximum charge of $16 per day. Hourly also allows the first 30 minutes of parking free of charge. Staff audits every parking area each evening to upload license plate data to ensure each vehicle is assessed the correct parking fee when it exits. The airport has recently aligned with a customer service program called SmartPark, which allows customers to call a hotline 24 hours a day to receive updates on parking conditions. Charlotte Douglas also has Valet parking that provides vehicle washing and detailing and even paintless dent removal services for an additional charge.

The Overlook

Charlotte]] skyline in the background. Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is one of the few airports in the US that has a public viewing area. Here, visitors can watch planes take off, land, and taxi to and from runway 18C/36C. It is credited with having one of the best airport views in the United States.

Carolinas Aviation Museum

Charlotte-Douglas International Airport is one of a small number of major "hub" airports in the world which has an aviation museum located on the field. The Museum, established in 1992, has a collection of over 50 aircraft, including a flying DC-3 which is painted in Piedmont Airlines livery. The Museum also has an aviation library with over 9,000 volumes and a very extensive photography collection. Rare aircraft in the collection include one of only two surviving Douglas D-558 Skystreak aircraft, and the second (and oldest surviving) US-built Harrier, which was used as the flight-test aircraft and accumulated over 5,000 flight-test hours.

In January 2011 the Museum acquired N106US, the US Airways Airbus A-320 which Chesley Sullenberger landed in the Hudson River on January 15, 2009. This aircraft, which was delivered on June 10, 2011, is about 35 years younger than any other commercial airliner on display in a museum, gives the museum an unparalleled technological lead over other aviation museums in the field of commercial aviation.

Concourses, airlines and destinations

Concourse A
  • Concourse A has 12 Gates, and is the only concourse not used by US Airways
Concourse B
  • Concourse B has 16 Gates
Concourse C
  • Concourse C has 18 Gates
Concourse D
  • Concourse D has 13 Gates and serves as the international concourse. All international arrivals without customs preclearance are handled at this facility
Concourse E
  • Concourse E has 32 Gates, and is mainly used for US Airways Express

Airline Lounges

US Airways Club: Concourses B and C/D connector USO Lounge: Atrium

There was an additional US Airways Club located in Concourse D, which was closed due to US Airways costcutting. British Airways also operated a lounge in the Main Atrium, which became a USO Lounge after they canceled service to Charlotte.

Cargo Airlines

Top destinations

Busiest Domestic Routes from CLT (March 2011 February 2012)[12]
Rank City Passengers Carriers
1 Atlanta, GA 819,000 AirTran, Delta, US Airways
2 New York, NY (LGA) 569,000 American, US Airways
3 Dallas/Fort Worth, TX 562,000 American, US Airways
4 Chicago, IL 532,000 American, United, US Airways
5 Boston, MA 479,000 JetBlue, US Airways
6 Orlando, FL 471,000 AirTran, US Airways
7 Baltimore, MD 463,000 AirTran, US Airways
8 Newark, NJ 453,000 United, US Airways
9 Phoenix, AZ 425,000 US Airways
10 Philadelphia, PA 403,000 US Airways
Busiest International Routes from Charlotte (2010 2011)[13]
Rank Airport Passengers Carriers
1 Cancun, Mexico 308,221 US Airways
2 Montego Bay, Jamacia 275,461 US Airways
3 Toronto (Pearson), Canada 197,883 Air Canada, US Airways
4 Frankfurt, Germany 177,634 US Airways
5 Nassau, Bahamas 170,209 US Airways
6 Punta Cana, Dominican Republic 160,805 US Airways
7 London (Gatwick), United Kingdom 158,071 US Airways
8 Munich, Germany 147,780 Lufthansa
9 Oranjestad, Aruba 135,826 US Airways
10 Rio de Janerio, Brazil 115,227 US Airways

Reliever airports

  • Concord Regional Airport
  • Rock Hill Municipal Airport

Ground transportation

CATS' Sprinter Enhanced Bus Service connects the airport to the downtown Charlotte Transportation Center (this route was formerly known as the "Route 5-Airport"). It arrives and departs in front of Zone D Baggage Claim in the commercial lanes, and is easily identifiable by its green livery and "Sprinter" decals.

The service is operated from the airport every 20 minutes Monday Friday from 5:50am to 7:00pm, after 7:00pm, service is offered every 30 minutes until 12:02am. On Saturday and Sunday, Sprinter operates from the airport every hour from 6:00am to 8:00am, every half-hour from 8:00am to 9:00pm, and every hour from 9:00pm to 1:00am. Trip time from the airport to downtown is approx. 20 minutes (depending on traffic conditions) and one-way fare is $1.75 (this is the same as all local routes in the CATS system). View the Sprinter Schedule for more detailed schedule and route information.

Military facilities

Charlotte Air National Guard Base

As a joint civil-military facility, the airport is home to Charlotte ANGB and its host unit, the 145th Airlift Wing (145 AW) of the North Carolina Air National Guard, located in a military containment area on the east side of the airport. As an Air National Guard organization within the U.S. Air Force, the federal mission of the 145 AW is theater airlift and it is operationally-gained by the Air Mobility Command (AMC). The 145 AW is composed of over 300 full-time and over 1000 traditional part-time military personnel, operating and maintaining C-130 Hercules aircraft in support of combatant commanders world-wide or as otherwise directed by higher authority. Its state mission is to respond to requirements, typically of a humanitarian or disaster-relief nature, as identified by the Governor of North Carolina.[14]


Charlotte/Douglas International Airport is also home to the USO of NC (United Service Organization of North Carolina) travel center which functions as an airport lounge for military personnel, military retirees and their families. Staffed by volunteers, the centers offer comfortable chairs, books, magazines, television, movies, video games, kid play areas, and refreshments. Internet and phone use available free of charge

Incidents and accidents


  • On September 11, 1974, Eastern Air Lines Flight 212 crashed on final approach en route from Charleston, SC. The crash site is due south of what is now Runway 36R west of York Road and north of Thornfield Road. The NTSB determined that the probable cause of the accident was a "lack of altitude awareness" of the pilots at critical points during the approach. During the approach the pilots conversed about numerous non-operational topics. With pilot attention drawn outside the aircraft, altitude "call outs" were neglected. With foggy treetops in sight, the pilot pulled back sharply and went to full throttle. The DC-9-31, traveling over 200 mph, clipped trees and snapped its wings, rupturing fuel tanks that spilled of Jet A fuel. The fiery airliner slid through dense woods into a ravine, broke into pieces, and came to rest with most of its cabin exit doors blocked by pine trees. The Steele Creek Volunteer Fire Department responded quickly, extinguishing the fire within minutes. Of 82 people onboard, 13 survived the crash and fire. Two passengers died several days later, and a third died 29 days after the crash. Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, lost his father and two brothers in the accident. Many passengers were wearing stylish "double-knit" garments that adhered to the skin when burned.[15]
  • On October 25, 1986, Piedmont Airlines Flight 467 overran the runway at Charlotte-Douglas Airport. The airplane was damaged beyond repair. Of the 119 people on board, 3 passengers sustained serious injuries, and 3 crewmembers and 28 passengers sustained minor injuries in the incident. There were no fatalities.[16]
  • On 19 January 1988, a Mountain Air Cargo De Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter 200 (N996SA), on a flight from Erie, Pennsylvania to Charlotte, descended below the glide path on approach to Charlotte Douglas International Airport, collided with a tree and struck the ground 1.6 km away from the airport. The crash was due to pilot error. The pilot was killed. There was no one else on board.[17]
  • On July 2, 1994, USAir Flight 1016 crashed in a residential area on approach, killing 37. The crash of the DC-9 was attributed to windshear during a thunderstorm. The flight originated in Columbia, South Carolina.
  • On January 8, 2003, US Airways Express Flight 5481 crashed at the airport, killing all 21 people aboard. The flight was operated by Air Midwest, an independent airline operating under a US Airways Express codesharing agreement.

Other incidents

  • On May 29, 2009, a runway incursion occurred on Runway 18L between US Airways Express Flight 2390, a CRJ-200, and a general aviation Pilatus PC-12 turboprop. While Flight 2390 was on its takeoff roll, the general aviation aircraft was instructed to taxi into position and hold on the same runway for an intersection departure. The aircraft came within 10 feet of each other. There were no injuries.[18]
  • On August 28, 2010, US Airways Express flight 2455 traveling from Washington DC to Nashville TN, was diverted to Charlotte NC after a windshield cracked, of the 14 passengers and 3 crew members no one was hurt.
  • On Monday, March 28, 2011, a US Airways Boeing 737-400, flying from Philadelphia to Charlotte, appeared to have a bullet hole in the side of the fuselage.



External links

  • NCDOT Airport Information:

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