091819_PNN_Airport_Academy_Paulding

Students check out T-28 airplanes built in the 1950s during the FAA ACE Academy at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport in June.

State and local leaders will have to wait to see if a federal agency approves a new site for an aviation maintenance school at Paulding’s airport after it rejected a nearby location the county government targeted for almost a year.

The Paulding County Airport Authority recently joined the Paulding County Commission in voting to ask the Federal Aviation Administration to release almost 3 acres from its control for the new school site west of the terminal building at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport.

The boards’ votes followed the FAA telling county officials in mid-August not to make a long-planned donation of a separate 3.9-acre site east of the terminal building to the state’s technical college governing board.

The proposed new location for the school — which will be part of Chattahoochee Technical College — is on Airport Parkway adjacent to the main airport area.

The site formerly was planned for construction of a new county fire station and 911 Center that have been built or are under construction elsewhere, airport director Terry Tibbitts said.

He told the airport authority Sept. 5 that Chattahoochee Tech and the Technical College System of Georgia “are trying to move out very fast on design and so forth” of the new school.

“They can’t do anything until they know where the building is going to be located,” he said.

He said he already has “everything the FAA requires” for consideration of the new site such as engineering data, an environmental study, a property appraisal and a survey plat.

“We consider this 3 acres to be surplus to any aviation need that we have today and we hope the FAA would agree with that assessment,” Tibbitts said. “The only way to find that out for sure is to submit the (land) release request and give them a chance to evaluate and get back to us.”

FAA spokesperson Arlene Salac said on Monday, Sept. 9, that land release requests are submitted to the Georgia Department of Transportation before going to the FAA.

“If the FAA receives a new location request for the school, we will give it our full consideration,” Salac said.

Former governor Nathan Deal announced in October 2018 the new aviation school was planned for a site at Paulding’s airport. The Georgia General Assembly voted earlier this year to add $35 million to the state’s 2019 budget for its construction.

Two county boards voted in October 2018 to donate the 3.9-acre site to the Technical College System of Georgia for construction of the school.

The county government and airport authority co-own the site but must receive FAA approval for use of any airport land after agreeing to give the federal agency final say over the “federally obligated” land in exchange for past and future grant funding, Tibbitts said.

The FAA has reimbursed the county millions of dollars for construction of most of Paulding’s airport, which opened in 2007.

Paulding’s Airport Layout Plan — required by the FAA and drawn before the school announcement — shows space for future development of hangars and part of the airport tarmac on the 3.9-acre site.

Salac said the FAA “objected to the initial location choice for the state aviation maintenance school because it is designated for future hangar development on the Paulding County Airport Layout Plan.”

“Hangar development is considered an aeronautical use for the land. The school is not considered an aeronautical use of the land,” Salac said.

The FAA will not allow the release of federally-obligated airport property for non-aeronautical development if the land has a future aeronautical designation, Salac said.

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