Growth – in terms of the number of flights and passengers it handles as well as its physical size and financial footprint – is constant at Charlotte Douglas International Airport (CLT). And the facility’s importance to the region is also expanding.

In the last 10 years, according to the recently distributed CLT 2018 Report of Achievement, CLT has been one of the fastest-growing airports in the country, experiencing a 34 percent rise in passenger numbers. But that’s just one of the statistics illustrating the airports regional and statewide impact.

The introduction to the report lays out these details:

• In 2018, CLT served more than 46 million travelers, setting an all-time

high passenger record and representing a 1 percent jump from 2017.

• Operations saw a 0.4 percent increase from 2017 with a total of 550,013

aircraft movements.

• Cargo activity experienced the biggest growth thanks to a continuing surge in e-commerce, climbing to 178,805 tons of goods transported through CLT, a 2 percent rise.

 • CLT was the sixth busiest airport nationwide, and seventh worldwide, in total aircraft movements, according to Airports Council International’s 2018 preliminary rankings of more than 1,000 airports.

• CLT ranked 11th nationwide and 37th worldwide in passenger traffic, and 31st nationwide and 111th worldwide in cargo tonnage.

• CLT remained the second largest hub for the world’s largest airline, American, which operates 674 daily flights, about half of the 1,400 average daily aircraft movements at the airport.

What those numbers and others add up to is a facility that produced $23 billion in economic impact, provided 132,330 jobs and contributed more than $1 billion in state and local taxes.  

The airport is also in the midst of a multi-billion dollar construction and renovation project, including terminal upgrades, concourse expansions, new gates, passenger amenities, roadway improvements and more all designed to accommodate anticipated continued growth.

Construction of a fourth north-south runway is also in the plans for the 6,000-acre CLT complex, with 2024 the targeted date for that project.

Regional repercussions

A byproduct of the airport’s popularity, and its volume of aircraft arrivals and departures, is noise. And that was the topic of an update delivered to Davidson commissioners in late June. Robert Cameron, the town’s representative on the Airport Community Roundtable (ACR), reported that while progress has been made, noise from passing aircraft is not likely to disappear.

The ACR, established in 2017 at the request of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), provides a regional platform to discuss noise concerns, gather input about airport-related noise impact and find possible solutions.

At the town board session, Cameron said the implementation of the FAA’s “metroplex” initiative – which extends the boundaries of prescribed flight patterns to reduce the number of higher-noise-generating speed, route and altitude adjustments closer to the airport – has made a difference

Cameron explained that, because of the steady flight volume in and out of CLT and the need to avoid backups and delays, aircraft are sometimes diverted from established metroplex routes and those “shortcuts” can result in more noticeable overhead noise.

But still, he told commissioners, from 2017 to 2018, the number of CLT noise complaints dropped from 144,000 to 27,000.

He said the ACR, which meets monthly, will continue to focus on ways to mitigate noise impacts. But he also reminded commissioners that while noise issues will continue to be discussed, they will also always be weighed against the airport’s overall impact and value to a region that includes several million people.

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