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Wilmington-New Castle Airport federalized in preparation for commercial flights starting next week

Delaware can claim to be the only state without a commercial airport for just a few more days. 

Commercial flights by Frontier Airlines are set to start Feb. 11. Direct flights from Wilmington-New Castle Airport (ILG) to Orlando International Airport (MCO) will operate three times weekly.

In the meantime, TSA is setting up security screening equipment. It’s part of a process known as “federalization.”

“The airport underwent an approximately $2 million terminal renovation in order to attract commercial airline service,” said Gerardo Spero, TSA’s federal security director for the Philadelphia International and Wilmington-New Castle Airports. “Then TSA, we deploy all of the typical screening equipment that you see at a checkpoint— so there’s an X-ray machine, metal detector and personnel.”

Spero says the security checkpoint at Wilmington will only have one lane, because TSA does not expect large volumes of passengers. 


“If you show up for a commercial flight at Wilmington, it’ll be the same as if you show up at Philadelphia, or Baltimore, or any other airport,” Spero said. “You should get there early, you should have your ID ready. You know, no liquids or gels in your bag. You submit yourself to the screening process, and now, of course, you’re also required to wear a mask.”

The Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA), which runs the Delaware Memorial Bridge and leases the airport from New Castle County, invested about $2 million in renovations, including security compliance and customer service improvements.

TSA officials say airports being newly federalized is rare. There’s about 425 federalized airports nationwide. 

The Wilmington-New Castle Airport will not have dedicated TSA staffing. 


Lisa Farbstein, a regional spokesperson for TSA, said in an email that TSA officers who work at Philadelphia International Airport will drive to New Castle just to screen passengers and luggage prior to flights scheduled at the Wilmington-New Castle Airport, then will drive back to Philadelphia to finish their shifts.  

Commercial flights have run out of the Wilmington-New Castle Airport on and off over the years. Frontier Airlines was the last to offer them, but pulled out in 2015 because it wasn’t profitable. 

Frontier will restart by running a 180-seat Airbus A320 between Wilmington and Orlando on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. 


DRBA’s 30-year operational lease on the airport expires in 2025.  A task force recommended last year that the county not renew the least with DRBA and instead put it out to bid. New Castle County Council voted in May to authorize County Executive Matt Meyer to serve DRBA a notice of non-renewal.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.
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