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ILM sees record numbers, looks to future

WILMINGTON -- ILM saw its largest number of travelers in 2007, with numbers reaching the 800,000 passenger mark. Airport officials forecast a growth of four percent per year going forward. That would mean by the year 2020, an estimated 1.3 million travelers will pass through our local airport. In order to manage the growth, the airport has plans for a larger domestic terminal, additional carriers and more non-stop flights... But that's not all. ILM Director Jon Rosborough said, "We expect to get international traffic, true commercial international traffic so that we can bring aircraft in from Europe in to Wimington. We think ILM is a great point of entry." Rosborough says bringing international commercial flights to our area will boost Wilmington's economy in terms of tourism and business. Vision of the future It was once their vision for the future. Two brothers, Orville and Wilbur, took off on the first airplane flight in history from nearby Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. That was in 1903 and they stayed in the air all of 12 seconds. Fast forward more than 100 years, a look into our vision of the future of air travel shows the numbers at Wilmington international airport taking off. Rosborough said, "I can tell you back about ten years ago we had less than 400,000 total passengers, and in ten years we've doubled that to over 800,000." The 800,000 passenger mark made 2007 a banner year for ILM, serving more passengers than ever before and that number is only gong to get bigger. Airport officials forecast a growth of four percent each year. At that rate, ILM will go from serving 800,000 passengers in 2007, to nearly 1.3 million in the year 2020. The airport has come a long way since it's beginnings in the 1950s. The building was designed by the local firm, boney architects. The original building was about 11,000 square feet. The current terminal is about ten times that. And more growth is on the way. In terms of international travel, Wilmington has precious real estate, as New York airports get more crowded, and south Florida airports grow. Wilmington is a central entry point between the two in to the east coast from Europe. Travelers might not have to wait until 2020 for international travel, or for that matter, additional carriers and non stop flights. Officals say the time table on those added services is only about five years. But there's still more on the horizon. Twenty-four commercial flights come in to ILM each day and 24 go out. With more carriers expected that number is only going to go up. So plans are to build a bigger domestic terminal and a completely new international terminal. With all the growth in the Cape Fear region, it seems at ILM, the sky's the limit. In the coming weeks, we'll continue our look at the future of air travel in Wilmington report with a look at one of the fastest growing sectors of the airport: general aviation. We'll also glance ahead at what our streets will be like in the year 2020 and the road blocks our area might face as more and more people discover the Cape Fear region.

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