Frequently Asked Questions

Vision2040 Project   |   Forecasts & Analysis  |  Alternatives  |  Land Use  |  Comments

Vision2040 Project

What is an Airport Master Plan Study?
An airport master plan is a comprehensive study of an airport and describes the short, medium, and long-term development plans to meet future aviation demand at the airport.  Airport master plans serve as flexible facility development guides for a long-range planning horizon and summarize an airport’s strategy for the development of the airport.  The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority’s Master Plan, Vision 2040, approved by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2017, supports aviation growth through 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 does the airport need a Master Plan?
The Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority embarked on the preparation of an airport master plan to guide future development at Raleigh-Durham International Airport.  With the renovation of Terminal 1 and  construction of Terminal 2, the Airport Authority  implemented the majority of improvements identified in its 1994 Master Plan.  Vision 2040 defines the future of the airport while ensuring that it continues to meet the growing civil aviation demands of the Research Triangle Region and remains a driving economic force.

What is the goal of an airport master plan study?
The master plan provides 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 its master plan. 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 13 sub-consultants.  More information about R&A is available on the company’s website:

Additional master plan team members that supported R&A included:

  • All About Pavements, Inc.
  • BREE Associates, Inc.
  • C&S Companies
  • Capstrat, Inc. (now Ketchum-South)
  • Connico, Inc.
  • Faith Group LLC
  • Heery International Inc.
  • Jacobsen/Daniels Associates, LLC
  • Logplan LLC
  • Quantum Spatial
  • RS&H
  • Two Hundred
  • VHB Engineering

Who funded the Master Plan Study?
The Airport Authority received federal and state grant funding for the RDU master plan study.  The master plan was funded in part by grants from the Federal Aviation Administration and N.C. Department of Transportation (NCDOT), with the remainder funded by the Airport Authority.

What are the components of an Airport Master Plan Study?
The airport master plan process was 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 Vision 2040 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 included a public involvement process that provided 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 did the master plan study last?
18 Months:  June 2015-December 2016

How often are master plans undertaken or updated?
There is no legal requirement for how often master plan 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 generally are 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 was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2017.  The airport master plan is now 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?
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).  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.

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 Vision 2040?
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 were presented at the public workshops 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. 



How were the master plan alternatives developed? 
The alternatives were guided by the master plan study goals and the facility requirements. The future development alternatives 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. A final, preferred alternative was approved by the Board in October 2016.

Did 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.  They could also do so in-person at any of our 10 public workshops.

Did the selection of a preferred alternative consider the environmental impacts of development?
Yes, potential environmental impact associated with alternative airport development concepts were explored as part of the screening and evaluation process. Efforts were 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.

Does 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.

Land Use

Does the preferred alternative call for development of any RDU land?
Yes. As part of the master plan process, we assessed 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 were provided for public comment?
The Airport Authority conducted 10 public workshops throughout the master planning process to present information and solicit comments. 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.