A bill signed by President Donald Trump in December could one day lead to private companies taking off from and landing at Dobbins Air Reserve Base. A ground crew member walks away after the four and final C-130H3 aircraft taxis out to the runway Monday as part of the 94th Airlift Wing’s four month deployment involving 150 servicemen and women to Southwest Asia on Monday. Staff-Kelly J. Huff

A bill signed by President Donald Trump in December could one day lead to private companies taking off from and landing at Dobbins Air Reserve Base.

Still, Dobbins leaders say such flights are likely a number of years down the road.

The Marietta base already has a joint-use agreement over the runway with its neighbor, Lockheed Martin, but federal law restricted other similar agreements from being signed. A provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2018, which Trump put into law, eliminates that restriction.

The $700-billion legislation, in addition to authorizing funding appropriations and setting forth policies for Department of Defense programs and activities, repealed a clause in the 1989 National Defense Authorization Act that set Lockheed Martin as the sole private entity allowed to share in the use of the 10,000-foot runway at Dobbins. The base is home to the U.S. Air Force’s 94th Airlift Wing and hosts thousands of Guardsmen, reservists and civilians from the Army, Navy and Marines.

Col. Marty Hughes, commander of the 94th Mission Support Group, said the new law technically designates Dobbins as joint use, but the change merely opens the door to such a partnership.

Dobbins officials would thoroughly review any proposal that comes to them, Hughes said, which would include a look at the number and type of aircraft that would use the runway. Discussions between officials from Dobbins, the Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Pentagon would follow.

Additional steps would also include town hall meetings with affected communities, economic and environmental analyses and more, Hughes added.

“This is a marathon,” he said. “(But) we truly support how we can make this a win-win for the Air Force, for Cobb County and the state of Georgia.”

The provision was supported by all of Cobb’s representatives in Congress: U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson and David Perdue and U.S. Reps. Karen Handel, R-Roswell, Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville and David Scott, D-Atlanta.

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