Gwinnett County is in a battle with other communities nationwide to attract and retain high quality jobs. We have a lot going for us-- Georgia Gwinnett College and Gwinnett Tech are flourishing; Gwinnett Medical Center just opened its new tower and will soon provide open heart services. Our schools are recognized nationally in both sports and academics. Our location near Atlanta and its educated population base provides a great place to recruit employees and sell products. Gwinnett’s proximity to the north Georgia mountains and a few hours' drive to several beaches make it a great place to live.
A regional community airport with scheduled passenger flights will complement all of what Gwinnett has going for it. It will not only create hundreds of needed jobs "on site," but it will also encourage other employers to move to our vibrant community. Jobs will increase the demand for housing which will benefit everyone’s values.
Corporate executives are planning the future of their companies today. The longer we take to seize a competitive advantage in regional transportation, the more opportunities for long-term economic growth that will be lost to other communities.
Should Briscoe Field become Atlanta's second major airport?
Absolutely not! In truth, it can't. Briscoe Field sits on just over 500 acres which is just enough to handle the traffic typical of a regional airport, but no more. The airport could not expand in acreage without our approval; a private management company won't have the power of eminent domain. Besides, the metro Atlanta market wouldn’t support an airport larger than what is being proposed.
Passenger service would probably begin in 2014 to/from destinations such as Orlando, Chicago, Miami, Washington DC, Boston and New York, for example. The new terminal would likely only have ten gates, so the maximum number of passengers per year would be around two and one half million on 60 to 70 flights per day. Last year, Hartsfield handled 2,656 flights per day and over 88 million people. Hartsfield has more flights in nine days than Briscoe could accommodate in an entire year.
Hartsfield will remain the primary air carrier airport for the Atlanta metropolitan area; Briscoe would serve the greater Gwinnett area.
How will we benefit from a local commercial airport?
Besides jobs, airports provide the link to numerous aviation-related services that add great value to our lives including emergency air ambulance services and medical transportation (transplants); community protection (police); recreational activities; quick and convenient transportation for individuals, families, and businesses, and access to the nation’s airspace transportation system.
Who uses the airport today?
Briscoe Field has a variety of tenants and airport users. The majority of the traffic is general aviation and flight training. Tenants include Georgia Jet (air charter and management), Airline Flight Training (training for commercial pilots), Aircraft Specialists Jet Center (fixed based operator) and Landmark Aviation (fixed based operator). Other businesses on-site include The Flying Machine (restaurant), ImagineAir (air taxi service) and Avionics Repair (aircraft maintenance).
Despite all of this activity, the airport is a grossly under-utilized community asset. Currently, less than 1% of Gwinnett residents receive any benefit from the airport. With privatization and commercialization, the airport would provide value for all 800,000 Gwinnettians.
Don't aircraft pollute the air and harm nearby residents?
Aircraft have petroleum-fueled engines that do release pollutants into the atmosphere just like every other combustion engine. However, aircraft engines must leave the factory meeting strict government emissions standards. In 1999, the regulations got even tougher when airlines were required to upgrade their fleets to the newer "Stage 3" engines that further reduced noise and emissions.
To keep in context, commercial aircraft engines contribute only one to three percent of the total U.S. mobile source emissions. Automobiles and trucks, lawn mowers, leaf blowers, trains, ships and other sources contribute the other 97 percent.
With a regional airport nearby, the number of area residents driving to and from Hartsfield will decrease, which will result in lower total emissions. To illustrate, if arriving and departing passengers (let’s say two million) save just twenty minutes each driving to Briscoe rather than Hartsfield, more than 1,333,332 hours of travel time (motor vehicle emission time) will be saved. And we all know it would be more than 20 minutes!
What would happen to the existing terminal and runway?
The current hodge-podge of metal buildings and barbed wire would be replaced by an attractive community airport terminal. The runway would be lengthened by 500 feet and widened by 50 feet to provide adequate safety buffers. No additional land would be required.
Critics claim that no economic impact study has ever been done. Is this true?
Many economic studies over decades have shown that airports generate revenue for the community. The question in Gwinnett is-- how much?
Critics have claimed that traffic will increase to 160 fights a day and 15 million passengers a year. Is this true?
This claim is utterly false. Many airports with larger facilities and more capacity than we could ever imagine have nothing near that passenger load or flights. The most optimistic projections show an increase of four to five flights an hour. Limitations can be placed on the hours of operation though, in truth, commercial flights out of a regional airport rarely fly during “bedtime” hours.