Duplin County Airport History
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|The Duplin County Airport officially opened December 16, 1974. The landing of a
University of North Carolina Medical School aircraft from Chapel Hill was the first flight
serviced. Starting as a vision in the 1960's and becoming a reality with the aid of
local, state and federal funds, the diligent, untiring work by Duplin County officials and
citizens was finally realized.
Preston B. Raiford, the county's first Executive Director of the Economic Development Commission, was the motivating force behind the project. Realizing the potential economic benefit that a corporate-size airport could have on the development of a rural county, Mr. Raiford's persistence finally became a reality. Five based aircraft, a 3700' runway and a small, block terminal building became the nucleus of the outstanding facility we have today. The airport's first based corporate aircraft was owned by Cates Pickles, Inc., of Faison.
Initially growth was slow but steady. By the early 1980's, however, there were 7,400 annual operations and the runway was extended to 4,800'. Annual operations today exceed 12,000 and the runway is now 6,000'.
The airport was originally named for P.B. Raiford, but was changed to avoid confusion with the Raeford Municipal Airport in Raeford, N.C. Today, the airport generates a lot of pride and much interest as an economic development tool along with providing services and opportunities to the public at large. It will continue to play an increasing role in the growth and development of, not only Duplin County, but the region as well.