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31 WBM n a typical day, there are also 10-15 transients that come in; sometimes these are planes carrying a high-profile movie star, athlete or celebrity. “They are either here to do business or get fuel,” Cherry says. “You never know who is going to walk O through the door.” For the visitors, Air Wilmington offers a private pilots’ lounge with a snooze room and shower, WIFI and computers, and snacks. “We thrive on Southern hospitality,” Cherry says. “I want everyone to be courteous.” Some of the transients arrive from out of the country to clear customs at the Wilmington International Terminal, staffed by Customs and Border Protection officers. “We are getting customs traffic from longer distances,” Cherry says. “We had some in here not too long ago from Mexico; we will get some out of Europe that actually run out of fuel and this makes a good stop for that.” Federal law establishes Wilmington as the only location on the East Coast where planes returning from areas south of 30 degrees north lati-tude may land to clear customs north of Jacksonville, Florida, without an overflight exemption, a specific authorization from the landing air-port. Wilmington is unique because it is the only location north of the demarcation line that doesn’t require the authorization to land. “In 2006-2007, at customs we were doing 2,700 airplanes a year. They were high- profile people. Wilmington was their choice because we could get them in and out of customs quickly,” Cherry says. “The average turnaround at customs for a large jet is about 30 minutes. At another location, you could wait an hour before anyone would even look at you. Now with the new overflight exemptions, that number is down to about 1,500 clearing customs.” The amount of private aircraft either stationed locally or arriving from elsewhere makes it critical to airport operations to have ramp space — the tarmac or concrete that serves as a parking area for planes without hangars. Air Wilmington has approximately 10 acres of ramp space, with an additional 5-6 acres being resurfaced at the north end of the airport. “The airport is expanding its existing terminal. They are going to change some ramp space to get more availability of it, to park more airliners,” Cherry says. “There are a couple of acres there at customs we use just to park the airplanes that come in there. The corporate jets will have a 100-foot wingspan and you need more than that to adequately taxi them in and taxi them out. Most of our aircraft are in the neighborhood of 50- or 60-foot wingspan. But we do get a lot of the 95-foot wingspans. Some of these military airplanes exceed well over 100 feet. It eats up a lot of room quickly. Being able to have room to maneuver these airplanes in and out is a key element to having an efficient operation for both the customer and the operation that is handling it.” A number of other airplanes use the ramp on a regular basis, includ-ing a fair amount of military traffic. www.wrightsvillebeachmagazine.com


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