Air Wilmington, the private fixed-base operator at Wilmington International Airport, is the latest business to add more polish in advance of May’s Wells Fargo Championship golf tournament.
The facility, which serves the flight crews and passengers of corporate, general aviation and military aircraft on a 24/7 basis, has just completed a major overhaul of its main customer contact points at a cost of about $350,000, President and CEO Bill Cherry said.
“It’s a complete retrofit of the facility,” Cherry said, pointing to new paint, fixtures, tile, appliances, counter and table tops, artwork and bathrooms along with upgrades to its pilots lounge and a separate room used by the crews of Harrier jets arriving from the Cherry Point and New River Marine Corps air stations that also doubles as a conference room.
While the recent refurbishing was part of an ongoing series of upgrades at Air Wilmington – “We’ve had three iterations of this building in 11 years,” Cherry said – the company made sure that its curb appeal would take on more luster in time for the May 1-7 PGA Tour event at Eagle Point Golf Club, which is expected to draw up to 30,000 spectators a day.
“We wanted to have this complete by the first of April,” Cherry said. “The outer complete-date was April 15.”
Cherry expects the televised tournament to create more business for Air Wilmington.
“We’re estimating 40 to 50 additional aircraft that week” carrying golf pros, corporate passengers and other spectators, he said, adding that Air Wilmington is “ready and geared up for a lot more than that.”
The latest changes at the fixed-base operator follow last year’s opening of a new hangar at Air Wilmington designed to better serve corporate aircraft such as Gulfstream-series and Bombardier jets, Cherry said.
The 21,000-square-foot hangar – the largest ever built at ILM – was completed at a cost of nearly $2.8 million and is 150 feet wide, 140 feet deep and 28 feet high. It features a “cutting-edge” fire suppression system to protect clients, their planes and the hangar itself, the only such installation at a corporate hangar in the Tar Heel State, Cherry noted.
The hangar, now the 16th within the Air Wilmington footprint at ILM, replaces one built in the 1930s.
Air Wilmington provides line services such as quick-turn fueling and aircraft washing and holds FAA certification that allows it to inspect and maintain general aviation and corporate aircraft. Crew amenities include a private pilots lounge, snooze room, shower, computers and conference room. A public lobby features easy chairs and refreshments. “We deal with a lot of upper-end customers,” Cherry said.
He said he expects existing customers to be even happier as they experience the latest upgrades. But he also has his eye on helping the Cape Fear region leave a strong first impression with newcomers to the area who pass through Air Wilmington on their way to the golf event.
“We are ambassadors,” he said.
For additional coverage of how the region’s public and private sectors are gearing up for the golf tournament in May, pick up Friday’s edition of the Greater Wilmington Business Journal.
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