PRIVATIZATION IS NOT A UNIVERSAL SOLUTION FOR ALL AIRPORTS, BUT THE REVIEW PROCESS IS USUALLY BENEFICIAL FOR DEFINING THE FACILITY’S COMMUNITY POSITION

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ARTICLE:  Briscoe Field Expansion Grounded

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Gwinnett County has finally voted to withdraw their application from the FAA’s privatization docket and to terminate the proposal to bring scheduled flights to Briscoe Field, currently a general aviation airport to the northwest of Atlanta, GA. The consideration of converting the existing infrastructure from a facility suited for primarily non-commercial use to a terminal and runways designed for regular scheduled flights was precipitated by a proposal from Propeller Inc.

The county engaged experts and held many reviews of the concept and alternatives. Economic, environmental, operational, safety and financial factors were carefully assessed both by consultants and citizens. At the end of this thoughtful and occasionally contentious process the Board of Commissioners voted unanimously to terminate the FAA application.

This aborted privatization follows several similar considerations of the benefits of converting an existing airport into an airfield of dreams. Other political bodies have gone through the same exercise and decided that there was inadequate political support or technical concerns meriting closing the case. The Gwinnett fact base seem to replicate this mixed judgment—local environmental objections, worries about the financial soundness of the proposal and some degree of satisfaction of the current configuration complying with the community’s goals for the airfield.

Considering privatization may be, in and of itself, a good strategic review of an airport’s role. The privatization compels the political leaders to assess the upside of expansion with the concomitant negative implications and simultaneously to scrutinize what your airport, as presently constituted, represents to the neighborhoods. Those elected officials, having listened to advocates on both sides, compels a consensus behind a conscious decision to go forth on privatization or in clearer support of the airport as it has been.

Both options are good for the future of the airport.

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