A Cessna out of DeKalb-Peachtree Airport crash landed on I-285 near the Peachtree Industrial Road exit on May 8, reviving concerns over airport safety.
A Cessna out of DeKalb-Peachtree Airport crash landed on I-285 near the Peachtree Industrial Road exit on May 8, reviving concerns over airport safety.

In 2010, a single-engine Piper Saratoga landed on I-85 as it headed for the nearby DeKalb-Peachtree Airport. The pilot cited engine trouble.

In 2011, a Cessna ran out of fuel and landed in the backyard of a Brookhaven resident’s home.

No life-threatening injuries were reported in either case.

But, as most of Atlanta now knows, four passengers died May 8 when a plane headed from the DeKalb airport to Oxford, Miss. crash landed on I-285. The National Transportation Board is still investigating what happened, said spokesman Keith Holloway.

The crash has renewed local discussions about the presence of a busy airport in the fast-growing areas of Brookhaven and Chamblee.
“You live near an airport, you’re going to have crashes,” said Nikki VanDerGrinten, who lives off of Dresden Drive. “It’s just a shame it’s in such a residential area.”

“It’s always a concern when you live near an airport,” said Brookhaven Mayor J. Max Davis. “But you’ve got to understand that if you move near an airport these things are going to happen,” he said. “It’s part of the cost-benefit part of life.”

Others say it shouldn’t be that way.

“I don’t know that I have any answers,” said Larry Foster, a member of PDK Watch, an airport watchdog group. “It does make one feel less than safe when you can’t be sure about the skies above you.”

There’s been a lot of concern in the neighborhood, he said.

“There’s concern of people in this area that these incidents are happening,” said Foster, who has lived near the airport since 1986.
The airport, generally known by its call letters, 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.

More than 25 businesses are based at the airport, and companies such as Waffle House, Southern Co. and Rollins base their corporate flight operations there. About 590 aircraft are housed at PDK, according to recent reports.

PDK’s newly installed interim director, Mario Evans, was out of the office this week and not available for comment about the May 8 crash. The most recent NTSB data shows no investigations at PDK in 2014.

DeKalb County Commissioner Jeff Rader, who represents District 2 which encompasses the airport, said that the May 8 crash would be traumatizing for anyone involved. But that these events happen “from time to time.”

The airport tries to minimize any such crash through safety measures such as runway protection zones, he said. Runway protection zones are areas near an airport where development is restricted.

“Overall, their safety record is very good,” Rader said of PDK.

VanDerGrinten said that one of the main concerns residents have about the airport is the noise.

She used to live in a neighborhood that was closer to the airport than her home is now. “You would stand in your backyard” and planes would roar overhead, she said. “It was awful.”

PDK has spent years working with neighbors on noise abatement. Foster said that recent management at the airport have been “more friendly to our concerns” when it comes to noise and other matters.

Holly R. Price

Holly R. Price is a freelance writer based in metro Atlanta.