The Fives: RDU Had That?

In this edition of “The 5’s,” we’re taking a look back at a few of the more obscure bits of RDU’s history. From Army barracks to air shows, here are five things from our past you may not know even existed. Do you remember one of these? We’d love to hear about it!


  1. RDU's first terminal, housed in Army barracks.

    RDU’s first terminal, housed in Army barracks.

    Army Barracks. Did you know the first air service terminal was actually an Army barracks? As in the ones soldiers slept and dined in. WWII erupted as the site for RDU was being developed. So, the airport was called to active duty as an Army Air Training base for pilots. When Eastern Airlines began service in 1943, a barracks was used as a terminal and continued to do so until 1955.


  1. The National Weather Service radar dome was a prominent RDU feature for many years.

    The National Weather Service radar dome was a prominent RDU feature for many years.

    Radar. For decades, a red-and-white checkered water tower and the National Weather Service’s radar dome dominated the airport skyline. Both were visible on the road to and from the terminals, making for memorable landmarks. The NWS made its home at RDU from 1954 until the mid-1990s when it moved to its current location on Centennial Campus at N.C. State University.


  1. A news clip of the temporary Eastern Airlines hangar.

    A news clip of the temporary Eastern Airlines hangar.

    Eastern’s Temporary Hangar. In 1975, an Eastern Airlines B-727 made a hard landing on RDU’s only runway at the time. Fortunately, only a few minor injuries occurred. But the plane was severely damaged. The plane was moved onto a nearby taxiway and the airline built a temporary hangar around it to repair the plane. The plane lifted off two months later as if nothing had happened.


  1. The Triangle Motel.

    The Triangle Motel.

    Triangle Motel. Built in the mid-1960s, the Triangle Inn boasted of such luxuries as air-conditioned soundproof rooms with remote control TVs and direct dial telephones when it first opened. It was located about 100 yards from the airport’s only terminal. It served thousands of guests until it met the wrecking ball to make way for the parking garage in the late 1990s.


  1. Crowds enjoy an airshow at RDU.

    Crowds enjoy an airshow at RDU.

    Airshows. In the 1990s, the Raleigh-Durham International Airport hosted a series of air shows that highlighted a wide variety of civilian, military and commercial airlines. I remember attending one show in my youth that coincided with the end of the Persian Gulf War. Sadly, the popular shows ended as the airport grew, and the large amount of space needed became scarce.

About Andrew Sawyer

Andrew Sawyer is the External Communication Specialist for the Raleigh-Durham Airport Authority and is the main writer for RDU’s website, electronic communication and airport publications. He’s also the primary face behind RDU’s social media channels. Andrew also assists with many other things, from media relations to event planning. In fact, he has an advanced degree in "other duties as assigned."
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2 Responses to The Fives: RDU Had That?

  1. Phil Brooks says:

    Enjoyed this, thanks! can you fix the bad link to the barracks photo? I’d like to check that out. Also, I assume you don’t have the full article about the Eastern 727?

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