Cover Story: Airport - Ready for Action

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - In seven and a half months the Charlotte Douglas Airport will be teaming with added security, more TSA agents and even more air marshals all designed to keep the airport, and the people safe for the Democratic National Convention this September.

Extra security is being brought in the red carpet is being rolled out and group called the "Spit and Polish" committee is getting to work.

The convention coming on the heels of two record years for Charlotte Douglas Airport.

Cement is being poured.  And dirt is being moved.

No, it's not an office building under construction in Charlotte but the city's crown jewel Charlotte Douglas Airport.

"They hired me to build a new airport and nobody's ever said stop."

Jerry Orr the longest-serving Airport Director in the U.S. at the helm for 23 years says the airport's never stopped moving forward.

And now it's getting ready to be seen by the world with the arrival this summer of the Democratic National Convention.

"We know how to put our show here at the Airport," says Orr.  "We'll just need to be on our Ps and Qs.. want to get everything cleaned up.. want everything to work very smoothly."

And that includes refurbishing the lower-level baggage claim area adding new easier-to-read TV monitors, taking up the old carpet and making the place more traveler-friendly.

Also, adding onto an existing concourse, Concourse E, which will include a new security checkpoint.

For the convention 150 additional security personnel - TSA officers - will be brought in along with federal air marshals to handle the onslaught of travelers.

TSA's new Federal Security Director is Mark Haught.  He says, "The security here at the Airport will be enhanced. There will be multi layers of security. That's my biggest priority right now is to be a part of that planning and to be prepared for the DNC."

The airport's also clearing a parking lot to build a new parking deck next to the terminal.

It won't be finished in time for the DNC (like the other projects) but the work is underway now.

Orr expects it'll be a challenge when President Obama shows up.

"When the President comes to visit us it's just a disaster for us. There's no other way to say it. We have to clean out half of the air space a half hour before he lands till a half hour after he leaves. And the scale of our operation here.. that just puts everything into disarray."

Nearly 40-million passengers went through Charlotte Douglas last year setting a new record and marking the second year in a row of passenger growth.  That's a two-percent increase year to year.

"Two percent doesn't seem like very much.. in this economy in the last couple of years a lot of airports are still losing passengers. So two percent is pretty good," says Orr.

Also this summer the Airport will break ground on a $90 million rail and trucking facility..

Norfolk-Southern Railroad is moving its intermodal yard from where it is now (north of Center City) out to the Airport to be able to bring all modes of transportation together - rail, air and trucking.

A study found the new facility will bring in $7 billion worth of business into the region over the next two decades.

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