Change unlikely for Cobb airport
by Nikki Wiley
November 10, 2013 12:08 AM | 2119 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KENNESAW — Commercial flights aren’t likely to be in the future for Cobb’s airport despite a neighboring county’s attempt to bring the controversial service to its airport.

Still, airport officials say the Cobb County Airport-McCollum Field is doing plenty to keep up with demand.

Commissioner JoAnn Birrell, who represents northeast Cobb, hadn’t considered a need for commercial service at the airport until Paulding County made headlines late last month after it quietly voted to expand its taxiway for the expansion.

Some Paulding residents have said they oppose commercial flights and were caught off-guard by a lease deal bringing in airline service.

“Right now, there really hasn’t been any discussion on commercial (flights) since I’ve been on the board,” Birrell said.

She’d be willing to consider expanding if interest arose, but said she thinks the airport is meeting demand just fine.

About 200 aircraft are based at the airport, which sees an average of 170 takeoffs or landings each day.

Corporate, charter and pleasure flights are the focus for the county-funded airport, said Faye DiMassimo, director of the Cobb County Department of Transportation.

“Supporting over $112 million in economic impact annually and over 800 jobs in Cobb County, we believe McCollum Cobb County Airport is appreciated and respected by the community,” DiMassimo said.

And it wouldn’t just be a matter of deciding to let customers hop on a flight at the airport in Kennesaw for a trip instead of driving the 35 miles south to Hartsfield Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

Karl Von Hagel, manager of the airport, says the infrastructure is designed for corporate aircraft and wouldn’t meet Federal Aviation Administration standards for commercial flights.

Expanding the airport’s runways and taxiways could be costly.

But Von Hagel says the airport is doing what it can to ensure it makes the most of its resources.

A $24,500 study funded by the Development Authority of Cobb County will gain insight into the origin and destinations of flyers and encourage private charter flights to cater to popular routes.

If a Cobb-based company frequently charters flights for its executives to New York City, then a private business may attempt to capitalize on that trend and offer flights along the same route.

Four air charter companies — Atlanta Air Charter, Flight Works, Air Southeast and Southern Jet — operate now out of the Cobb airport.

Another project will make it easier for private flights to land at the Cobb airport from foreign destinations.

Private and corporate jets flying from outside of the country have not been able to land in Cobb because it lacks a customs inspection office.

Under a deal signed last year, Atlanta Executive Jet Center, one of the fixed-base operators at McCollum, will reimburse the county for all expenses related to the customs service for up to 10 years.

The cost of the customs operation is estimated at $140,000 in the first year of operation, and $120,000 per year thereafter.

“I think people are content with the type of airport we are,” Von Hagel said. “We hope to make the airport as available to the public as we can within the standards that we operate.”

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