Aircraft maintenance training facility planned at Paulding airport

Gov. Nathan Deal plans to announce plans for a $35 million aviation academy at Paulding County’s airport that could stymie a push by some officials to commercialize the facility.

The question of whether Paulding officials would commercialize the airport and attract airline flights has created conflict in the county since 2013. Proponents say it would provide an economic boost, and opponents are worried about the potential noise, traffic and environmental impacts.

Chattahoochee Technical College’s aviation academy would train airframe and powerplant mechanics, jobs in high demand as baby boomers retire. The void has left companies like Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines and Savannah-based Gulfstream searching for ways to boost the pipeline of new aircraft mechanics.

Chattahoochee Tech is part of the Technical College System of Georgia, and the state’s move would create a new program for the college. The funding would be on condition that the airport remains a general aviation facility without commercial airline service, according to two people with direct knowledge of the agreement.

Delta Air Lines and the city of Atlanta have for years opposed the commercialization of the Paulding airport, known as Silver Comet Field.

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County officials declined to comment on the record on the state’s announcement, but it’s likely welcomed news to some Paulding politicians. A majority of the county’s board of commissioners now opposes commercializing the airport.

The commercialization process was halted earlier this year by the Federal Aviation Administration after the airport did not respond to a request for revisions to documents.

Still, there had been a chance the effort would be revived next year, when new commissioners take their seats and the dynamic of the debate could shift. Any new application to expand the facility would need the support of the airport authority and the county board.

Some legal fights continue over Paulding airport commercialization, and it’s yet to be seen how supporters of commercialization will respond to the state’s move.

A formal announcement of the aviation academy is planned Friday.

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