By Jennifer Preyss
DeKalb-Peachtree Airport Advisory Board members voiced unanimous opposition Monday night to a Federal Aviation Administration proposal that would modify Class B airspace around Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
PDK Assistant Director Mike Van Wie presented a detailed explanation of the FAA’s proposed changes to board members and a room of about 25 concerned area residents.
“I am here speaking because I think this proposal is horrible for all of us,” Van Wie said. “All [of us] have a tremendous amount to lose if this proposal goes forward and becomes adopted [by the FAA].”
If approved, Class B airspace directly above PDK would decrease from 8,000 feet above sea level to 5,000 feet. Other changes to the airspace include shortening the altitude directly south of PDK from 6,000 to 5,000 feet, and condensing the outer ring of the area from 35 miles to 30 miles. Opponents of the proposal cite more restrictions and less space for PDK pilots and an increase in noise for residents nearby.
Van Wie described Class B airspace as an upside-down, wedding-cake-shaped area that surrounds Hartsfield, the nation’s busiest airport. All pilots must have permission to enter the area, a rule that is impartial to commercial and recreational pilots.
He criticized the modifications because the changes would ultimately reduce the amount of airspace available to aircrafts flying in and out of PDK, yet advised the public there was plenty of time to protest the FAA’s plan before it would go into effect, which could take more than a year to finalize.
Those favoring the changes argue the flight traffic at Hartsfield has increased with the opening of a fifth runway, making Class B airspace too small for flight controllers to efficiently maintain the space during periods of high traffic volume. Van Wie claims the only beneficiaries of the new plan would be Hartsfield and the commercial aircraft companies such as Delta and Air Tran because they would be able to take off and depart more efficiently, while PDK pilots would have less space and more restrictions to travel.
That means, previously unoccupied airspace around PDK would be more populated with a greater number of airplanes using a more condensed amount of space, which may create additional safety hazards.
“The changes certainly increase the potential for recreational pilots to come into contact with someone else,” Van Wie said.
For regular users of PDK, ground delays would be imminent, Van Wie said, and once in motion the aircrafts would consume more fuel and therefore produce more emissions.
And because jets would be flying closer to the ground, Van Wie said there would likely be increased jet-related noise surrounding adjacent residential areas.
Van Wie encouraged the public and board members to contact local commissioners and other elected officials to alert them to the FAA’s proposal, as well as prepare comments of opposition to submit to FAA officials during a public forum scheduled on March 1 at the Chamblee Civic Center.
“When you destroy property values with noise, it’s called a ‘taking,’ – put that in your letters [to congressmen],” Stuart Anderson, a local resident, said.
Board members discussed the possibility of preparing a resolution of opposition, and submitting letters to their local and district legislators detailing their disliking for the changes to Class B airspace.
“We want to get thousands of responses and people to show up at the Chamblee Civic Center in March,” Van Wie said.
Other airports expected to be affected by the changes include Covington Municipal Airport, and Fulton County Airport. Peachtree City’s airport will likely be unaffected by the changes.