Frequently Asked Questions

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Vision2040 Project

What is an Airport Master Plan Study?
As defined by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), an Airport Master Plan is a comprehensive study of an airport and usually describes the short-, medium-, and long-term development plans to meet future aviation demand at the Airport.  Airport master plans serve as facility development guides for a long-range planning horizon (usually 20 to 25 years), and summarize an airport’s strategy for the development of the airport.  The Raleigh Durham Airport’s Master Plan (Vision2040) will support aviation growth through the year 2040.  The goal of the Airport Master Plan is to provide the framework needed to guide future airport development that will cost-effectively satisfy aviation demand, while considering potential environmental and socioeconomic issues.

Why is the Airport completing a Master Plan Study?
The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority is embarking on the preparation of an Airport Master Plan Study to guide future development at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.  With the completion of improvements and renovation of Terminal 1 and the relatively recent construction of Terminal 2, the Airport Authority has implemented the majority of the improvements identified in its 1994 Master Plan.  The Master Plan Study will define the future of the airport while ensuring that it continues to meet the growing demand in the Research Triangle Region and remains a driving economic force in the state of North Carolina.

What is the goal of an airport Master Plan Study?
The goal of the Airport Master Plan is to provide the framework needed to guide future airport development that will cost-effectively satisfy aviation demand, while considering potential environmental and socioeconomic issues.

Who is preparing the Master Plan Study?
In March 2015, Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority selected Ricondo & Associates, Inc. (R&A) to develop the Master Plan Study for Raleigh-Durham International Airport.  R&A is a full-service aviation consulting firm that provides facilities and operations planning, environmental planning, and financial planning to airports and the aviation industry.  R&A is assisted in conducting the study by a team of twelve sub-consultants.  More information about R&A is available on the company’s Web site:

Additional Master Plan Update team members supporting R&A include:

  • All About Pavements, Inc.
  • BREE Associates, Inc.
  • C&S Companies
  • Capstrat, Inc.
  • Connico, Inc.
  • Faith Group LLC
  • Heery International Inc.
  • Jacobsen/Daniels Associates, LLC
  • Logplan LLC
  • Quantum Spatial
  • RS&H
  • VHB Engineering

Who is funding the Master Plan Study?
The Airport Authority is receiving federal and state grant funding for the RDU Master Plan Study.  The Master Plan is funded in part by a grant from the FAA and North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT), with the remainder of the study funded by the Airport Authority.

What are the components of an Airport Master Plan Study?
The Airport Master Plan process is guided by the FAA and ultimately results in the development of a Master Plan Report which includes projections of future passenger and aviation activity growth and preparation of an Airport Layout Plan (ALP).

The major analytical elements of the RDU Master Plan Study (Vision2040) include the following:

  • Inventory of Existing Airport Conditions
  • Aviation Activity Forecasts
  • Demand/Capacity Analysis
  • Facility Requirements and Identification of Issues
  • Definition and Evaluation of Airport Development Alternatives
  • Environmental Overview of Proposed Development
  • Airport Layout Plan and Development of an Airport Property Map
  • Capital Improvement Program

The Master Plan also includes a public involvement process that will provide updates on the study’s progress to the public, airport and community stakeholders, while allowing an opportunity for public and stakeholder input and a way to ask questions and provide comment.

How long will it take to complete the Master Plan Study?
18 Months:  June 2015-December 2016

How often are Master Plans undertaken?
There is no legal requirement for how often Master Plans Updates are performed.  The timing varies based on the needs of the airport and community but are often done every 5-10 years.  In practice, Master Plans are updated as needed to keep them relevant as a guide for development priorities.

Who will typically pay for projects recommended in the Master Plan Study?
Projects recommended in the Master Plan Study would generally be funded from a variety of sources including FAA Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grants, NCDOT grant funds, airport funds, passenger facility charges and general airport revenue bonds.  Improvement projects at Raleigh-Durham International Airport are not funded with taxpayer dollars.

Are noise impacts being considered in the Master Plan Study?
Yes, the Master Plan Study will evaluate the noise impacts associated with future aircraft operations by utilizing FAA prescribed methodologies to determine the noise contours for 2020 and 2025.  These contours will be based on data from the design day flight schedules prepared as part of the forecast of future activity.

Who owns and operates Raleigh-Durham International Airport?
Raleigh-Durham International Airport is governed by the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority, an eight-member board. The Airport Authority was established by the N.C. General Assembly in 1939.

The cities of Durham and Raleigh along with Durham and Wake counties each appoint two members to the board. The Airport Authority is a local government responsible for the development, operation and maintenance of RDU.

What are Aviation Activity Forecasts?
An aviation activity forecast is a projection of future levels of activity that will occur at the airport including the number of passengers and aircraft operations.

What is an Airport Layout Plan (ALP)?
An Airport Layout Plan (ALP) is a scaled, graphical presentation of the existing and future airport facilities, their location on the airport campus and pertinent clearance and dimensional information.  The ALP is a major product of the Master Plan Study which contains information used by the FAA to program future funding assistance and to monitor the airport’s compliance with design standards and grant assurances.  It also allows the FAA to anticipate budgetary and procedural needs, and to protect the airspace required for facility or aircraft approach procedure improvements.  An up-to-date FAA-approved ALP that ensures the safety, utility, and efficiency of the airport is required for the airport to receive financial assistance under the terms of the Airport and Airway Improvement Act of 1982 (AIP) and to be able to receive specific Passenger Facility Charge funding.

An ALP, which is a public document that serves as a record of present and future aeronautical requirements, is a blueprint for airport development by which the airport sponsor can ensure that development remains consistent with airport design standards and safety requirements, as well as airport and community land use plans.

Who approves the Airport Master Plan?
The Airport Master Plan will be approved by the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority Board.  Once the Board has approved the Airport Master Plan, the Airport Master Plan can be used as a policy document that sets forth the conceptual framework for possible future airport development.

Is an airport required to do an Airport Master Plan by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)?
No, an Airport Master Plan is not a requirement set forth by the FAA.   However, the Airport Master Plan Study is considered the most prudent process for developing an Airport Layout Plan which is a requirement of the FAA.

What is the FAA’s role in the Airport Master Plan?
The FAA has only two official roles within the Airport Master Plan Study.  FAA reviews and ultimately approves both the aviation forecast and the Airport Layout Plan (ALP).  The FAA does not formally approve the Airport Master Plan since it is considered a local policy or guidance document.

Although the FAA only approves the forecast and the ALP, they are actively engaged throughout the master planning process.  The FAA may provide comments on Airport Master Plan findings, recommendations and deliverables, and may offer technical assistance and support.

How do I comment on the Master Plan?
Provide Comments Here

How can I get involved and stay informed?
We encourage you to check back to this website on a regular basis to access the latest information.

Forecasts & Analysis

What is the purpose of the facilities inventory?
Airport planners conduct a facilities inventory to understand the existing capabilities of the Airport.  This includes the types of facilities that are available and where they are located.  Typically, planners categorize the inventory into airside (airfield and airspace), terminal, landside (passenger terminals and access facilities), general aviation, cargo, and support facilities (utilities, maintenance, emergency response facilities, and FAA facilities).  Operational characteristics of the Airport are also evaluated during this phase.

How are the aviation activity forecasts prepared and why are they important?
Forecasts of future activity (sometimes called “demand forecasts”) are prepared based on a review of historical trends and using a combination of econometric modeling and professional judgment.  

RDU passenger numbers and airline operations are expected to grow by 2 percent annually over the planning horizon.

Activity forecasts are important because the Airport Authority must be able to meet customer service needs in the future and therefore has to provide the right types and levels of facilities as appropriate.  The master plan uses these forecasts to establish the timing and need for development of future facilities.

What are the significant influences on the RDU forecast?
The RDU forecast is influenced by multiple factors.  The primary driver of air travel demand is the economic performance of the local region and nation as a whole.  Because passengers at RDU are primarily Origin and Destination (O&D), in other words beginning or ending their journey at RDU, demand from both business and leisure travelers is necessary to support and grow air service. 

The Airport’s role within an airline’s route network is also an important consideration.  Some airlines operate hub and spoke networks where service to and from RDU will be primarily focused on those hubs, while other airlines operate more point-to-point routes. As demand grows, airlines will expand service at RDU based upon how the Airport fits within the greater network.

What is the FAA’s role in the Master Plan Study forecast?
The FAA is responsible for the review and approval of the forecast of future activity.  The agency guidance is intended to ensure that forecasts are realistic, based on reasonable planning assumptions and current data, and developed using an appropriate methodology.

As part of the review process, forecasts are also compared to the FAA’s Terminal Area Forecast (TAF) for RDU to ensure the master plan study forecasts are consistent with the current TAF.  Substantial differences between the forecast and the TAF must be resolved before proceeding with the master plan study.

The FAA approved the forecast prepared as part of RDU’s Vision2040 Master Plan Study on December 4, 2015, providing the foundation for continued planning.

What is the demand/capacity analysis and how is it used in Vision2040?
The demand (or need) for future facilities can be determined based on the activity forecasts.  This would include required airfield capacity and capability, terminal gates and passenger service facilities, roads, parking and rental car facilities, and other airport facilities.  Planners compare the demand for future facilities with the available facilities (capacity, configuration, etc.) as documented during the inventory to determine the need and timing for facility expansions, modifications, or additions.  This process is sometimes also referred to as a “gap analysis” and the results referred to as the “facility requirements.”

What facility requirements have been prepared for RDU in the context of the Master Plan Study?
Following completion of the demand/capacity analyses, the master plan team prepared facility requirements for the various Airport elements.  These requirements are identified by time frame corresponding to the activity levels established in the aviation activity forecasts.  Preliminary facility requirements conclusions in all categories will be presented at the Public Workshop in January 2016.  These requirements will be used in subsequent project phases to develop alternative concepts to ensure that the Airport has adequate capacity to efficiently accommodate future growth. 

What are the next steps in the master plan process?
The team is combining feedback from the public with a technical analysis of alternatives to recommend a preferred development alternative to the Airport Authority board. We anticipate identifying the preferred alternative and sharing with the public at a public workshop this Fall. The public will have the opportunity to provide comments for consideration on the preferred alternative. After official selection, the final preferred alternative may include changes to airfield, passenger terminals, access, parking and rental car infrastructure, general aviation, cargo, support facilities and outlying airport property. The team will conduct further study and review public comments to finalize the plan by December 2016.


How are the master plan alternatives developed? 
The alternatives are guided by the Master Plan Study goals and the facility requirements determined in earlier stages of the master plan process. The future development alternatives are intended to meet the defined aeronautical needs that emerged from the analysis of forecast activity, the inventory of existing airport facilities, and the consideration of changes in FAA standards.

How were alternatives selected for further study?
Multiple alternatives were developed for the major facility components: airside, terminal and landside facilities. These facility component alternatives were screened as an initial step. During the initial screening, facility component alternatives with significant weaknesses or deficiencies were eliminated. Screening criteria encompassed future capacity, operational safety and efficiency, order of magnitude cost impacts, implementation complexity, flexibility, potential environmental impacts and connectivity.

The best-performing facility components were integrated to create nine composite alternatives that were presented to the public in early June 2016. From there, four new composite alternatives were created from the best-performing elements from the group of nine using the same screening criteria from the initial step. The group of four will be narrowed to one new composite through the same process.

Will the public have input on the selection of the preferred alternative?
Yes, we have been collecting and reviewing public comments since the beginning of the master plan process. The public can submit a comment through this website or in-person at any of our public workshops. We are committed to having a two-way conversation with the public about our vision for the future, and we encourage the public to share feedback and questions with us throughout the process.

Will the selection of a preferred alternative consider the environmental impacts of development?
Yes, potential environmental impact associated with alternative airport development concepts are explored as part of the screening and evaluation process. Efforts are made to avoid and minimize environmental impact as the airport’s future development is defined. It is also important to note that additional analysis and due diligence will be conducted before any development prescribed by the final master plan begins.

Will the preferred alternative have a connection to other transit plans in the surrounding area?
Yes. The master plan’s preferred alternative will accommodate public transit options that the community chooses to link with the airport.

When will the selection of the preferred alternative be made public?
The preferred alternative will be identified and made public at a workshop during Fall 2016.

Land Use

Will the preferred alternative call for development of any of RDU’s land?
Yes.  As part of the master plan process, we are assessing the airport’s infrastructure, facilities and future development needs, as well as the short and long-term costs of those needs. The master plan study process has identified a need to use some of RDU’s land to support aeronautical services, and outlined a potential approach for the use of property defined for non-aeronautical purposes.  The Airport Authority is committed to working with the local community to assure the long-term viability of RDU.

Can RDU turn its land into permanent recreational space?
Airport land is bound by federal obligations intended to protect civil aviation interests. This means airport land can only be used for certain purposes, or must be able to be made readily available for those purposes. Because of current federal obligations, RDU cannot convert any of its land into permanent recreational space or give it away at no cost, i.e. “gifting” it to the community. With federal approval, RDU is able to sell its land at fair market value.

How did RDU come to own the land that became Lake Crabtree County Park?

Many airports across the country have purchased property over the years and reserved it for planned aeronautical facility expansion at the time of purchase. The Lake Crabtree parcel of land was purchased in 1967 to protect airspace for an additional southeast runway that was in the plans at the time. The runway was never built, but the airport must still adhere to federal requirements for use of that land.

What is the relationship between the Airport Authority and Lake Crabtree County Park.
The Airport Authority and Wake County began making preparations for recreational use of the area now occupied by Lake Crabtree County Park in the late 1970s. In 1985, the Airport Authority leased Lake Crabtree County Park to Wake County for $1 year with the understanding that one day, sections of the park may be needed for non-recreational purposes. This parcel of land runs from roughly the entrance roadway to the water. The majority of it lies within a 100-year floodplain and is likely to remain a park for the forseeable future.

In 1994, the Airport Authority amended the lease to include an adjacent parcel of land (roughly from the entrance roadway to I-40) to Wake County for the construction and operation of mountain biking trails. This lease was also enacted with the understanding that this section of land would be needed for non-recreational purposes in the future. The lease for this section is currently year-to-year, renewing automatically, until either party chooses to terminate the lease.

How is Wake County able to lease the Lake Crabtree parcel for $1/year if that is not fair market value?

The 1985 lease with Wake County for Lake Crabtree predates current FAA policy relative to airport revenue diversion. New arrangements of this type would be unlikely to be approved.

What is the Airport Authority’s position on the use of land north of I-40 for mountain biking?

Land north of I-40, commonly referred to as “286” and “Rocky Road,” is not open to the public nor part of any lease agreement between the airport and any group. Therefore, any use of this land is without permission and is trespassing. This land has been identified for future development during the master planning process.


What opportunities are provided for public comment?
The RDU Airport Authority has currently conducted seven public workshops throughout the Master Planning process to present information and solicit feedback from the public, and 3 more will be held this Fall. The public is also welcome to submit feedback at any time through the Vision2040 website. While we appreciate and welcome all comments and suggestions, those relating to the alternative use of land must fall within our federal obligations to be considered viable.   

Can I see the full list of comments received on Vision 2040?
Yes. There is a link available on our comments page. We will periodically update this document as the study progresses.