Although opposition to the idea of a commercial airport in Paulding County continues, airport officials are pressing forward with efforts to bring airline service to their airfield.
Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, also known as Silver Comet Field, announced in 2013 its plans to get commercial certification and attract airline service. Since then, the idea has been challenged by some Paulding residents, the city of Atlanta and Delta Air Lines, significantly delaying the plans.
But this week, a milestone was reached: A draft environmental assessment for the project was released.
Within the hundreds of pages released were documents revealing the original plans for airline service at Paulding’s airport.
“Thus far, only one carrier has expressed interest in providing such service — Allegiant Air,” according to an aviation activity forecast in the environmental assessment.
Another appendix includes a letter of intent from Allegiant, a low-cost carrier based in Las Vegas, to express its “intent to initiate commercial air service at the Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport” on Dec. 19, 2013. The airline planned to start twice-weekly service on a jet with about 160 seats, flying Thursdays and Sundays. But the service was contingent on the Paulding airport getting approval for commercial airline service, as well as a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint.
Allegiant was considering flying two round trips per week from Paulding to the Orlando area’s Sanford International Airport, catering to leisure travelers, according to the aviation activity forecast.
Such service would play a very different role than the massive hub at Hartsfield-Jackson International, the world’s busiest airport.
The twice-weekly service offered by Allegiant at many of the cities it serves typically works for vacationers who can tailor their plans to the flight schedule, but it does not work as well for business travelers or others who want to fly on specific days to particular cities.
According to the forecast, if the flights performed well, Allegiant might add two more departures per week, possibly with additional service to Sanford, or to St. Petersburg or Punta Gorda in Florida. Most airports like Paulding County’s are served less than once a day by Allegiant, and “it is unlikely that service will exceed such a level” at Paulding, the forecast said.
That amounts to 416 airline flights a year, counting both arrivals and departures, with a total up to 62,340 passengers per year.
Hartsfield-Jackson, meanwhile, had more than 734,000 airline flights last year, with more than 96 million passengers.
Airports like Paulding typically have flights scheduled between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., with later operations due to delays happening about once or twice a month, the report said.
A traffic study showed that increased traffic due to airline service would cause “a minimal increase in delay” in traffic at the entrance of the airport.
Among the reasons airline service at Paulding would be limited is that it is not a destination, and the airfield is a more than 20 mile drive from the nearest interstate, the report said. The airport also has only 112 parking spaces, to increase to 200 spaces by 2020.
The release of the draft environmental assessment triggers a public comment period, with a public hearing set for Dec. 1 at 6 p.m. at the Paulding airport.