Raleigh Executive Jetport offers event space, pilot lounge, meeting rooms, and more

Posted March 19, 2021 5:00 a.m. EDT

This article was written for our sponsor, Raleigh Executive Jetport.

Scattered across North Carolina, there are 72 publicly owned, publicly accessible airports. Raleigh Executive Jetport — located just off US-1 in Lee County, between Sanford and Cary — is one regional airport on that list, but for those familiar with its facilities and amenities, it's far from typical.

Specializing in general aviation, Raleigh Exec has recently undergone some major upgrades, including a brand new terminal building and developing pad-ready sites for new tenants. With ample amenities and a 6,500-foot runway and recently improved taxiways, Raleigh Exec is starting to rival even its largest alternatives.

"The terminal buildings serve as the front door for a lot of these communities that have regional airports," said James Pearce, a communications officer at the N.C. Department of Transportation. "If someone is flying in and they're going to go tour a site where they might put in a new manufacturing facility or some other job-creating initiative, their first impression of the local area is going to be set by that terminal building — and Raleigh Exec has a beautiful, multi-story and multifunctional building."

Thanks to its convenient location, Raleigh Exec offers quick travel times to major hubs across the Triangle. Although the actual mileage to areas like Raleigh and Durham might be greater, the decreased traffic compared to RDU makes the trip relatively equal. Additionally, since larger airports prioritize major commercial and passenger planes, it can be difficult for smaller planes to find a place in the flight pattern.

In addition to the decreased traffic and travel time, the new terminal building at Raleigh Exec offers pilots, passengers, and the community at-large plenty of valuable resources. After touring other airport terminals across the region and talking with pilots and airport operators, the airport authority was able to create a carefully curated aviation hub.

"The terminal is a fantastic place to use as multi-function spaces for the community. There are some things you ought to have in any terminal building for the airport — a pilot's lounge is a big one — but these community spaces can really be fantastic open spots to hold a meeting," said Pearce. "Raleigh Exec even has a viewing platform on top. What's great about that area is it draws the community into the airport and can act as yet another gathering place."

Raleigh Exec is one of the few general aviation airports that has an observation deck, and the community is free to use the space for meetings, lunches or gatherings.

For those flying into Raleigh Exec who are waiting on clients or in need of a break before their next takeoff, the pilot's lounge is a valuable amenity.

"We wanted to make sure that we had a space for pilots and crews that they could use as they're waiting to take off. The pilot's lounge has monitors that display cameras on the front of the building and the back of the building. So then the pilot can sit in there, keep an eye on the airplane and also see when clients drive in. Then, it's easy to walk out the door to get the plane ready," said Bob Heuts, airport director at Raleigh Exec. "We also have weather monitors and a flight planning area, plus some sleeping rooms and showers. These are amenities pilots look for to help facilitate their clients' travel.”

Other highlights of the pilot's lounge include cable TV and a single-serve coffee machine. The new terminal also includes large and small conference rooms for conducting meetings and events — both equipped with the latest technology — as well as the observation deck and common space with a free public computer and vending area.

Before constructing the new terminal, Raleigh Exec also added 30 new T-hangars to the property, all of which were filled within three months of completion. In order to keep up with the demand, the airport has sectioned off an additional area for larger hangars that is prepped and ready for new construction.

"The property is on the north side and has enough land for five or six large hangars for larger aircraft. We also have space for small aircraft, but we didn't want to miss any opportunities by not having the space for large aircraft, as well," said Heuts. "We have the right infrastructure to grow, and as RDU grows and starts to focus on commercial aviation, we expect to see even more opportunities open up for this airport in general aviation — and with our updates and road infrastructure completed here, everything's pretty easy."

While attracting new companies to the area is a high priority for Raleigh Exec, Heuts also hopes to see it become more of a gathering place for the community. Already, clubs like Wings of Carolina use the airport for training and meetings. Now with the new observation deck, Raleigh Exec offers opportunities for the general public to enjoy aviation — and the economic benefits it brings to the area, as well.

"We've done a much better job of understanding and capturing the impact that airports have on their local areas. A lot of people think small airports are just for private pilots to fly around their own planes, and while that's a thing, they're actually valuable for communities by bringing in tremendous tax revenue and property tax revenue," said Pearce. "The value of the airports is the access to global markets that they provide to all local businesses, not just ones that directly deal in aviation."

For Heuts, opening the area up to that global market is crucial — but he also hopes to bring some positive change on a smaller level.

"We want people to come out here. We invite civic groups, like the Civil Air Patrol Cadets, Boy Scouts and Girl Scout troops, and leadership classes to learn about aviation and the airport as an entity and as an asset in the community," said Heuts. "One time up there on that observation deck, there may be a youngster looking at the airplanes and instead of saying, 'I want to be a firefighter or an astronaut,' or whatever else, they'll say, 'I might want to be a pilot.' And that's all it takes."

This article was written for our sponsor, Raleigh Executive Jetport.

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