Improving safety at Wilmington Airport

More than $48 million has been spent to improve infrastructure at Wilmington Airport over the past decade.

Airport leaders joined representatives from the FAA and Delaware’s U.S. senators to announce funding for more safety improvements at the facility. A $5.4 million federal grant will fund the construction of a new taxiway, in an effort to improve safety and efficiency at the airport.

“These investments aren’t just about safety,” said U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, D-Delaware. “They create jobs and attract businesses.”

The new taxiway will bring the airport into compliance with current FAA standards requiring a full parallel taxiway for the airport’s only instrument approach runway. “This full parallel taxiway will serve to enhance safety and operational efficiency,” said the FAA’s Lori Pagnanelli. “An instrument runway is critical for the type of air carrier operations that the state is looking to have here.”

This is the third phase of a four phase project to realign two taxiways into one single parallel path for planes to travel to and from the runway. Construction on the latest segment of the project is expected to begin in the spring of 2018.

Wilmington Airport hasn’t had commercial flights for passengers since Frontier Airlines stopped service in mid-2015. Despite that, the airport, which is operated by the Delaware River and Bay Authority, has seen 350,000 flights over the past four years thanks to corporate clients and the Delaware Air National Guard, which is based at the airport.

DRBA Director of Airport Operations Stephen Williams said the improvements position the airport to respond to any prospects for future growth. “This airport and our mission at this airport is about being ready to respond to new business opportunities we either uncover or come our way,” Williams said. “It’s also about being able to retain and enhance all existing aviation uses at this airport.”

DRBA officials said aviation in Delaware supports 2,600 jobs and adds nearly $600 million to the state economy.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.