GOOD NEWS, BAD NEWS
The airport is owned by the city of Covington, GA. “We don’t have an airport authority and that’s kind of good news and bad news for us,” says Riddell. “The good news is we don’t have a lot of bureaucracy to deal with; the bad news is we don’t have a neutral body to solicit government funding for infrastructure for the airport. It would be nice to have somebody who is watching after the airport infrastructure.”
One major improvement Riddell would like to see at the airport is final passage of a proposal to extend the 4,200-foot runway to 5,500 feet. “This would open the door to corporate aircraft,” explains Riddell. “We have a great opportunity here for a tremendous amount of business growth.” Covington Airport would be designated as a reliever for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport with the longer runway, and therefore eligible for federal funding.
Riddell says the City of Covington and a neighboring community are not completely supportive of the runway expansion. “From a practical side, the arguments against the expansion are very hollow,” he says. “The expansion of the runway is not going to do anything but make it safer because the size of the aircraft [coming in and out] is not going to change. It’s still a general aviation/corporate airport. It’s going to be a safe corporate environment. It will be a more thriving, more economically viable airport. It will be better for the community, bring more jobs, and it will not increase the noise.”
AIR has some 26 years remaining on a 30-year lease with the City of Covington. The lease covers seven acres of airport property. Riddell says he would like to expand that by an additional ten acres, on which he’d build commercial, corporate, and t-hangars. “All of that would be private investment from our company,” he says. “It would not come from any federal, state, or local funding at all. The only thing we would ask is matching infrastructure in the airport, such as improved rampways, taxiways, and of course, the runway extension. That’s very important in order for us to make this investment.”
Riddell is quick to add that the company’s viability at Covington isn’t based on the runway expansion. “We couldn’t afford to make the investment counting on the expansion of the runway. We’re going to make the best of this airport if it’s 4,200 feet or 5,500. We think that 5,500 would be icing on the cake. We think it’d be very good for the community; very good for aviation, for the city of Atlanta, and the city of Covington.”
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