FAA brings Paulding airport commercialization effort to end

Channel 2's Aaron Diamant Reports

A years-long effort to commercialize a second airport in metro Atlanta came to a halt this week as the Federal Aviation Administration closed its file on the Paulding County airport’s application.

The move comes more than four years after Paulding County and its airport authority announced an ambitious plan to attract airline service. But it was followed by legal challenges by residents, opposition by Delta Air Lines and the city of Atlanta, and political upheaval within the county.

The FAA said it was terminating its consideration of a draft environmental assessment for projects to support commercial airline service and closing its file on the Paulding County airport's application for an air carrier operating certificate.

“The agency took these actions at this time because the airport did not respond to a request for revisions” to the draft environmental assessment, the FAA said in a statement.

The story so far2013: Paulding officials and Propeller Investments announce plans to commercialize Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, to be renamed Silver Comet Field at Paulding Northwest Atlanta. Delta CEO Richard Anderson immediately voices opposition to the plan, with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed voicing support for Delta’s position. Residents file the first legal challenge to the plan, with more to follow in subsequent months and years.2016: The Federal Aviation Administration sends a letter saying it will not make a decision on commercial service at the Paulding airport until litigation is “fully and definitely resolved by a final, non-reviewable judgment.” The letter effectively puts the commercialization effort on hold while legal wrangling continues.This week: The FAA sends a letter saying it is closing the file on Paulding’s airport commercial certification application, and if the airport authority wants to pursue the certification it must submit a new application.

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Paulding airport director Terry Tibbitts said he just received the letter Thursday and is “still evaluating it.”

Peter Steenland, an attorney for residents who opposed the commercialization, called the FAA’s move “a big victory for open government, transparency, and the environment.”

“We are pleased that the Paulding Airport will remain a top-flite general aviation facility,” he said in a written statement.

However, it’s yet to be seen what happens next. A long-term lease between the Paulding County Airport Authority and Silver Comet Terminal Partners, the company seeking to attract airline service to Paulding, specifies that the airport authority must “use its best efforts” to get commercial certification.

The FAA says in the letter to Tibbitts that if the Paulding airport wishes to pursue the commercial certification, it should submit a new application with all required documentation, to be followed by an environmental review “based on the circumstances in effect at the time.”

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