CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Charlotte Douglas International Airport said it's building a 12,000-foot runway that will reduce noise for some residents under current flight paths, the airport aviation director said.
The Charlotte Observer reports that Aviation Director Jerry Orr said the new runway would be longer than existing runways, allowing for nonstop departures "deep into Europe or the Pacific rim," although no such flights are in the immediate future. Those routes need a longer runway because the planes carry more fuel.
Orr said he plans to begin environmental studies next year. Construction can probably begin in 2014.
The $160 million project will be the airport's fifth runway, and its fourth parallel runway. It will allow the airport to land three planes at once, while keeping one runway exclusively for takeoffs. It would be built immediately to the west of the airport's center runway, 18C-36C. That is the airport's longest runway today, at 10,000 feet.
Orr told City Council members Monday that the new runway would be a "noise abatement runway."
In 2009, when the airport opened its newest runway, near Interstate 485, Orr planned for that runway to be used sporadically. He thought the runway would be needed during bad weather when US Airways has to land several planes quickly to untangle delays. But he said the Federal Aviation Administration has used the runway more frequently than expected.
"They are landing over homes to the north and the south, and that has triggered some lawsuits," Orr said.
When the new runway is built, Orr said, the FAA will be able to shift most landings and departures to the middle of the airfield.
The new runway is the latest in a series of airport renovations and expansions, worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
By mid-decade, the airport will have built two new daily parking decks; expanded the main ticketing area; and built a new, larger roadway for pick-ups and drop-offs.
Orr also announced a new food court for concourses D and E on the east side of the airport, and mentioned the possibility of either a 15-gate expansion of Concourse E or a new 11-gate "dog-leg" expansion of Concourse B.