Amazon air gateway project in Wilmington on schedule

By Gary Huffenberger -

WILMINGTON — At the Wilmington Air Park, crews continue to revamp spacious Building F and install equipment as they work to roll out an Amazon air gateway this summer.

At Thursday’s Clinton County Port Authority meeting, Executive Director Daniel G. Evers said the Amazon project is on schedule and officials anticipate a mid-summer start to operations. The operation will include daily flights, and an on-site facility to sort packages bound for their next destination.

Also during the monthly session Evers reported that the air park’s runway visual range (RVR) system must be replaced. An airport’s RVR, he said, is essential to support maximum accuracy and safety in the landing and takeoff of aircraft.

“During the last several days the air park’s RVR system has ceased normal operations,” Evers said Thursday. He added they have, however, been able to address system failures and challenges to the system so that the RVR is functioning at effective levels at this moment.

Due to the age of the air park’s RVR system, there are no additional spare parts for it and so it must be replaced at a cost of about $485,000. While the Port Authority has the funds to pay for the purchase and installation of a new RVR, the challenge facing them is availability.

LGSTX Services’ Airports & Facility Maintenance Director Jeremy Heard said the estimated time frame is between four to six months for the air park to get the equipment, followed by a fairly quick installation.

Clinton County Port Authority Chairperson Walt Rowsey said the issue came up suddenly, and the biggest concern pertains to the upcoming increase in flight activity at the air park associated with the Amazon operations.

“How is that going to impact that growth period we’re going to see [starting] at the end of May?” asked Rowsey.

Heard replied the goal is for the impact to be minimal, and to get a new RVR system installed and operating before critical weather events start to happen.

The more problematic type of weather events are snow and fog, “anything that reduces ground-level visibility,” said Heard. In response to a question, he said a heavy rainstorm is not as much of a problem as a fog or snow.

On another matter, Evers and Jones Lang LaSalle Vice President David Lotterer — who provides leasing services for the Port Authority — reported they recently attended an air cargo conference in Las Vegas. Asked whether other conference attendees mentioned Amazon opportunities to him, Lotterer said “from time to time,” drawing laughs.

Evers said at this year’s air cargo conference, most of the people they spoke with “already knew who [Amazon] we have here,” so he and Lotterer told them about the additional capacity at the air park.

The Port Authority executive director said the convention yielded “some pretty interesting follow-up opportunities as well.”

Lotterer was asked what he thinks about the Amazon air gateway at the Wilmington Air Park in terms of the volume of Amazon business within a 500-mile radius.

“I think if we’re able to meet their expectations, which I believe we will, we’ll see a growing share of that [business],” said Lotterer.

By Gary Huffenberger