Newspaper article International New York Times

Tiny Airport Is Fighting Obstacles to Gain a Sliver of the Atlanta Market

Newspaper article International New York Times

Tiny Airport Is Fighting Obstacles to Gain a Sliver of the Atlanta Market

Article excerpt

Paulding Northwest, which is about 50 miles from the giant Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, has applied for a commercial license to introduce two flights a week.

Airports do not get much smaller than Silver Comet Field at Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, where an undeveloped two-lane road weaves to a church-quiet setting framed by small hills.

On a recent weekday morning, four small business jets were planted on the tarmac, if it can be called that. Nine automobiles dotted the parking lot, most of them driven there for a meeting. Outside the two-story building that serves as the terminal, which was reminiscent of a lodge in off-peak season, there was no sign of human life.

Only 50 miles away sits the world's most bustling airport, Hartsfield-Jackson. It maintains a monopoly on commercial flights in Atlanta, the largest metropolitan region without a secondary airport.

Paulding Northwest would like to change that grip on the market. The airport has applied for a commercial license so it can introduce two flights a week, and it has since encountered stiff opposition.

Leading the charge against the bid is the Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines, which averages about 1,000 daily departures from its sprawling hub.

But the airport's supporters are crying foul, saying that Delta, along with the City of Atlanta, which owns Hartsfield-Jackson, has managed to throw up a series of barriers, legal and political, against the bid.

"I've been very surprised at how extensively and aggressively Delta has fought it," said Blake Swafford, the Paulding airport's director.

Delta, which declined to respond to Mr. Swafford's assertions, has laid out reasons for its opposition in newspaper opinion articles as well as letters to the authorities, like one last year to the Paulding County Board of Commissioners. It cited Hartsfield- Jackson's $58 billion in fiscal benefits for the area and a desire to "safeguard metro Atlanta's most powerful economic engine."

The letter noted that Paulding residents, including nearly 800 Delta employees, would be at risk if the airport falters commercially.

The city restated its aversion to Paulding's expansion this month when Mayor Kasim Reed wrote to the federal Transportation Department, urging it to investigate commercialization efforts of land that the airport authority now controls.

The ultimate arbiter of Paulding's fate is the Federal Aviation Administration, which is weighing the request to add commercial flights. And even that process has been stalled by objections from a half-dozen Paulding residents who say that environmental studies on the property were insufficient. The F.A.A., which determines if an airport operator meets certain requirements, refrained from offering more details, including the timetable for possible certification.

But supporters of the Paulding airport, along with its investors, say that they are not going away and maintain that commercial flights will begin taking off and landing late next year. …

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