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Is there a secret underground military base at Wilmington International Airport?

Gareth McGrath
Air Force One

One of the two Boeing 747s that serve as Air Force One performs touch-and-go landings in 2001 at the Wilmington International Airport. (StarNews file photo)

Alas, no – or none that anyone is familiar with.

Airport Director Jon Rosborough said he didn’t know of any military base – above or below ground – currently in use at the airport.

But that doesn’t mean Wilmington International Airport, 1740 Airport Blvd., Wilmington [Map this], doesn’t have a rich military history.

The airport, when it was largely just fields and dirt, was dedicated as Bluethenthal Field in 1928 in honor of Arthur Bluethenthal, a former All American football player and decorated World War I pilot who was the first North Carolinian to die in the war.

During World War II, the airport was a training base for P-47 Thunderbolt pilots.

It reverted to civilian ownership and use after the war.

Today, aircraft and helicopters from the Marines’ Cherry Point and New River bases are common visitors to the airfield.

Even Air Force aircraft that ferry high-ranking members of the administration around, notably the huge blue-and-white Boeing 747s or 757s whose call signs are Air Force One or Air Force Two when the president or vice president are on board, are often seen practicing touch-and-go landings.

Several privately owned historical military aircraft, including a World War II-era Douglas A-26 Invader light-attack bomber, are also based at the airport.

Related links:

Why is there a blue and white government plane flying around Wilmington Airport (ILM)?

Where is the best place for “plane spotting” at ILM? Is there a park or road where locals watch landings and takeoffs?

How many commercial airline carriers have flown out of ILM and who were they?

Do aircraft landing at Wilmington International Airport ever get fined for flying too low over residential neighborhoods?

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7 Responses to “ Is there a secret underground military base at Wilmington International Airport?”

  1. On January 5, 2011 at 5:21 pm Wayne wrote:

    The airplanes that typically serve as Air Force Two are modified Boeing 757s and the airplanes that typically serve as Air Force One are modified Boeing 747s.

  2. On January 7, 2011 at 6:35 pm Jbo wrote:

    This might be the dumbest question in a long, long line of moronic submissions to this site.
    Where would anyone even come up with a half-baked idea like this, and then have the gall to post it on a public forum?

  3. On May 24, 2011 at 10:18 pm justin wrote:

    But what about the secret, underground bunkers at the NC State Port?

  4. On January 5, 2012 at 2:11 pm Walter Bowden wrote:

    In the 1960’s the Air Foce stationed several fighter/interceptors (not sure of the type, but I believe they were Delta wing configuration) at the airport in large hangars that are still in use by civilians. I guess they were there in case Russian TU 95 bombers approached us.

    There was also a big partially underground fuel storage tank there for years.

  5. On September 30, 2013 at 4:39 pm Tom wrote:

    The USAF had some F-101 Voodoos stationed there during the ’60s…

  6. On October 21, 2016 at 12:01 pm RD Truitt wrote:

    My F-106 Delta Dart Squadron based at Langley AFB VA had a 2-aircraft F-106 alert detachment at ILM for many years in the late 60’s. I had many alert tours there lasting 2-3 days at a time before rotating back to Langley.

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