Pilots Oppose Privatizing Briscoe Field

A group of single-engine planes are parked on the ramp at Gwinnett County’s Briscoe Field. These planes represent the bulk of the airport’s traffic. Jim Burress, WABE

LAWRENCEVILLE, GA (WABE) – The Lawrenceville City Council Monday is expected oppose commercial passenger service at nearby Briscoe Field. Gwinnett residents have expressed concern that commercial traffic would be too noisy and increase traffic congestion. But what do pilots think about the proposal? WABE’s Jim Burress visited the Gwinnett airport this weekend to find out.

A small helicopter takes off from the far end of Briscoe Field, while the control tower instructs a plane how to enter the landing pattern. “… a left downwind for runway 2-5,” skwaks the tower.

It’s a slow morning at Gwinnett County’s airport. And that’s how private pilot Lewis Likens likes it.

“It’s usually pretty easy to fly in and out of here without much of a wait at all,” Likens said.

That could change under a proposal that one day might bring commercial traffic to Gwinnett. Likens is ambivalent. He says he wants to hear more before making up his mind.

“So I don’t want to be a gloom and doomer and say that well, commercialization or privatization is going to kill the airport, because I just don’t know.”

As a plane prepares to taxi at a nearby hanger, pilot Joel Lavine said the idea of eventual commercial service here doesn’t make sense.

“…and ‘commercial’ is the right word,” he concludes. “They [Gwinnett County officials] use ‘privatization.’ But the truth is when they start talking about 10 gates, they can never make it financially feasible. They’d have to move it up to 20, and then who knows,” he said.

And that’s if an airline, like Southwest or JetBlue, would come. Pilot Dewayne Huff doubts it.

“Other people who have talked to me and said they’re not interested coming in here, so I don’t know who they really would get as an airline that would come in as an airline and do this,” Huff said.

Still, several Gwinnett County officials back the idea, and it could be a lucrative venture. Propeller Investments of New York this month submitted a plan for taking Briscoe private and developing commercial service up and down the East coast.

Other investors can submit proposals through Aug. 16th.

Federal Regulators would first have to rubber-stamp any deal.

Jim Burress, WABE News.
© Copyright 2010, WABE

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