Georgia’s small airports getting bigger

Although Paulding County’s airport northwest of Atlanta has been getting lots of attention lately for its plan to attract commercial airline service, there are several other small airports in the metro area that are used every day by businesses, pilots, flight schools and public safety services.

“There’s a huge economic impact that unless you work in general aviation or your business depends on general aviation, you may not be aware of it,” said Selena Shilad, executive director for the Alliance for Aviation Across America. “There are a lot of important services as well that depend on general aviation, and when those service providers cannot get out of major commercial airports it makes a lot of sense for them to use those general aviation airports.”

Hartsfield-Jackson International, the world’s busiest airport, remains the behemoth of Georgia generating $58 billion in economic output. Georgia’s public general aviation airports, totaling 95, generate $1.2 billion.

Paulding County’s airport this month revealed a plan to attract limited airline service. That’s not the case for these other metro Atlanta’s small airports. Still, there’s plenty going on at these sites. Here’s a breakdown of six small airports within 30 miles of downtown Atlanta.

DeKalb-Peachtree Airport

Runways: 3

Acres: 740

Opened: 1959 as a general aviation airport

Businesses: Epps Aviation, Signature Flight Support, Atlantic Aviation

Flight activity: 145,444 takeoffs and landings in 2012

Users: Southern Co., Waffle House, Quikrete

Economic impact: $211.7 million in total economic output

Latest: Building 53 hangars on the site of the former fourth runway. Construction for the $8.25 million project started in February and is set to be complete in December.

Also, Southern Airways Express in September started public charter flights from PDK on nine-passenger single-engine Cessna Caravan planes. The carrier launched flights to Memphis, Birmingham, Destin and Panama City.

Briscoe Field (Gwinnett County)

Runways: 1

Acres: 507

Opened: 1966

Businesses: Gwinnett Aero, Aircraft Specialists, ImagineAir, Georgia Jet

Flight activity: 78,810 takeoffs and landings in 2012

Users: B & G Development, High Roller LLC, Burgess Information Systems

Economic impact: $85.4 million in total economic output

Latest: After years of debate, county officials last year voted to keep Briscoe Field controlled by the county rather than becoming privatized. A company called Propeller Investments wanted to privatize the airport with a plan to bring commercial flights, but the plan was voted down and Propeller officials have turned to Paulding County’s airport for development.

Separately, Briscoe Field is rehabilitating a taxiway and adding LED lighting to lower utility expenses, with the help of a $1.4 million federal grant along with some state and local funding.

McCollum Field (Cobb County)

Runways: 1

Acres: 309

Opened: 1960

Businesses: Atlanta Executive Jet Center, Elevation Chophouse restaurant

Flight activity: 61,709 takeoffs and landings in 2012

Users: NetJets, Bank of America, Clorox Services Co., aerial tours, flight schools, charter operators

Economic impact: $112.4 million in economic output, with 842 jobs dependent on airport activity

Latest: A new $2.6 million air traffic control tower is planned for completion next year, paid for with federal and county funds. Customs will be added in summer 2014, allowing international flight arrivals. The county also plans a $1.5 million project to extend taxiways next year to improve safety and efficiency.

Charlie Brown Field (Fulton County)

Runways: 3

Acres: 985

Opened: 1948

Businesses: Hill Aircraft & Leasing, Signature Flight Support

Flight activity: 50,912 flights per year

Users: Coca-Cola, Home Depot, SunTrust, Koch Industries, Fuqua, Genuine Parts, Cox Enterprises, Fulton County Police Department, Georgia Aviation Authority

Economic impact: $158.6 million in economic output

Latest: A $5 million aviation-themed cultural center is under construction.

Atlanta Regional Airport (Peachtree City - Falcon Field)

Runways: 1

Acres: 254

Opened: 1968

Businesses: Falcon Aviation Academy, Silver Ace Aviation, Precision Air Services

Flight activity: 50,517 takeoffs and landings annually

Users: Corporate users include Chick-fil-A. The Great Georgia Air Show held each October with 25,000 attendees

Economic impact: $142.6 million in economic output

Latest: The airport two years ago completed a runway extension to over 6,000 feet and plans a $2 million repaving of the runway this spring

Tara Field (Henry County)

Runways: 1

Acres: 140

Opened: 1967 as Bear Creek Airport.

Businesses: Hale Aircraft, National Aerotech, Bob’s Flight School

Flight activity: 29,800 operations annually

Users: Gresham and Associates, Davis Development, Pep Boys, Cracker Barrel, Crown Royal, NASCAR teams and spectators going to Atlanta Motor Speedway

Economic impact: $25 million total economic output

Latest: Henry County bought Tara Field from Clayton County in 2011. This year, the airport completed a $3 million runway expansion to make the runway 5,503 feet long and 100 feet wide, along with additional taxiways and runway lighting.

Sources: Georgia Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration, airports, staff research

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