Wilmington International Airport (IATA: ILM, ICAO: KILM, FAA LID: ILM), sometimes known as the New Hanover County International Airport, is a public airport located just north of Wilmington, North Carolina, in unincorporated Wrightsboro, Cape Fear Township, New Hanover County. The airport was named Bluethenthal Field on Memorial Day, May 30, 1928, in honor of Arthur Bluethenthal, a former All American football player and decorated World War I pilot who was the first North Carolinian to die in the war.
In 2009, the airport served over 800,000 passengers. The airport has two runways and a single terminal which has eight gates. The airport is also home to three fixed base operations (FBO's) which currently house over 100 private aircraft. There is also a 24-hour US Customs ramp for international flights wishing to stop at the airport. The separate terminal was built to serve the 3,200 international flights that land each year (private or charter). The airport's location on the coast, halfway between NYC and Miami, makes it a desirable and less busy entry point to the country.
The airport is one of four airports along the East coast which serves as an emergency airfield for any Space Shuttle needing to abort a take off. Should failures occur within the first 2 minutes of the launch with all main engines and solid rocket boosters still firing, the shuttle would likely return to the Kennedy Space Center but should a problem occur shortly after solid rocket boosters separation, Wilmington International could be used as a landing site. Improvements in the orbiter's braking system reduced the previous 10,000-foot (3,000 m) runway requirement to 7,500 feet (2,300 m) enabling ILM's 8,007-foot (2,441 m) runway to serve the role.
In March 2006, ILM received $6.3 million from both NC and the federal government to resurface runway 6/24, which has been untouched in nearly 30 years. In addition to the resurfacing, a new Instrument Landing System will be built for the runway. The airport authority at ILM is hoping the renovations will attract more commercial and international business to the area.
The airport is also a former military base, which accounts for the long runways.