Peachtree-DeKalb Airport is adding a new emergency landing runway.
Peachtree-DeKalb Airport is adding a new emergency landing runway.

People living near DeKalb-Peachtree Airport who are concerned about noise “have nothing to worry about,” says its newly appointed interim director, even as the airport strives to bring in more business.

“The Gulfstream 650 is the largest corporate jet we can accommodate, and they are nowhere near as loud as some of the Cessna Citations and Falcon Jets that were built in the ’90s,” said Mario Evans, who was named interim director on April 17. “Aircraft engine technology has improved so much over time, and it’s only going to continue improving.”

Evans took over the job from Mike Van Wie, who recently retired. Evans had been the airport’s  assistant director since 2010, and previously was the airport’s noise and environmental specialist.

“We’ve been averaging about 144,000 flights annually, for the last three years,” Evans said. “When I first came here 14 years ago, we were operating more than 200,000 flights, so we’re almost half of what we used to do.

“The aviation industry mirrors the nation’s economy, and we’re only now seeing little bits and pieces of improvements,” Evans said.

The airport, generally known by its nickname, PDK, is Georgia’s second-busiest airport. According to DeKalb County, it employs 1,800 people, and has an annual payroll of more than $65 million. It’s home to more than 25 airport-based businesses, and companies like Waffle House, Southern Co. and Rollins base their corporate flight operations there. About 590 aircraft are housed at PDK.

Evans wants to bring more business to the airport.

Mario Evans

“We want to bring economic dollars to our surrounding communities,” which include unincorporated DeKalb County and the cities of Brookhaven, Chamblee and Doraville, Evans said. “These areas are all trying to attract Fortune 500 companies, and that means things like jobs to our area.

“One of the first questions those companies ask is, how is their CEO going to get here. He’s not coming in on Greyhound or taking I-285; they need an airport, so we’re improving and updating our infrastructure, and looking at building more corporate hangars for these companies.”

PDK’s major project this year is a new emergency landing runway capability that Evans likens to “a runaway truck stop on a highway.” The system will be the first installed at a Georgia airport.

With all of these plans in the works, Evans isn’t sure if PDK will actually increase its operations. “It may be we level off where we have been for the last several years,” he says.

“Our surrounding communities are touting PDK as an asset when they’re out recruiting more business. That new General Motors development is right around the corner, and I want to help bring companies there as well.”

Evans is hopeful he’ll be named PDK’s permanent director in the next year. “I’m looking forward to the county advertising the job nationwide, and seeing how I stack up to some of the top candidates,” he said.

“I’m looking for this job to become permanent. I know the ins and outs of PDK, and I have a vision of what PDK once was, what it is today, and where it should go into the future.”

–By Tim Darnell