A new master plan for the DeKalb Peachtree Airport located on the Chamblee-Brookhaven border is underway and slated to be completed by July 2020. A major goal of the planning process is to determine better land use plans within the airport site as well as on surrounding property for the next 20 years.

Airport Director Mario Evans said he wants to build closer relationships with city leaders in Brookhaven and Chamblee as rapid commercial and residential development continues to be built around the approximate 730-acre airport.

DeKalb Peachtree Airport Director Mario Evans points on a map where a new Chamblee townhome development is being built close to the airport. A master plan process now underway and set to be finished in 2020 will look at land use in and surrounding the airport. (Dyana Bagby)

A new townhome development in Chamblee, for example, is being built very close to the airport property line. Had there been some discussion between city and airport officials prior to the development’s approval, some noise mitigation materials could possibly have been required as part of construction, Evans said.

Now, he said, when people move in to the townhomes, he expects the airport will begin receiving noise complaints from people who say they cannot sit on their new balcony because of the jets flying in and out of PDK.

“Was that really a good use of that land?” he said.

The airport’s infrastructure also badly needs repairs and to be updated, he said, which will be addressed as part of the master planning process. Office tenants want updated buildings, water and sewer facilities need rehabilitation, even air conditioning and heating units need to be fixed up, he said.

The boiler still goes out at the airport, for example, Evans said.

“We have some old property,” he said. “Sometimes you can repair, but sometimes you have to redesign and start over.”

The master plan will also take aviation activity forecasts for the next two decades to provide a framework to guide future airport development, Evans explained.

Flights into and out of the airport have actually been on the decline over the past approximate 20 years. As a general reliever airport, PDK Airport helps reduce congestion by providing services to smaller aircraft and allowing Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to solely serve commercial aircraft.

In 2000, PDK Airport recorded 244,879 operations; in 2007, the number of operations fell to 220,576; and last year, the number dipped to 151,132.

Evans said the bad economy in recent years is likely the major reason for the falling numbers, but he expects numbers to move back up as the economy improves.

PDK Airport recently installed a new system to quickly stop planes in their tracks during emergency landings. The Engineered Material Arresting System, or EMAS, is the first in Georgia and cost the airport $8 million. EMAS technology uses a series of crushable blocks to decelerate the speed of an aircraft during an emergency overrun, Evans explained.

The EMAS technology is placed 200 feet off the end of a runway to prevent an aircraft from running off the runway. EMAS is used in cases where there is limited land, such as PDK’s 6,100-foot primary runway for corporate tenants. The EMAS technology was designed and implemented to improve safety for flights using this runway.

The Federal Aviation Authority actually mandated PDK Airport install the EMAS after a plane ran off the runway and through the chain link fence bordering Dresden Drive in 2012, Evans said.

The incident was pilot error when he came in for a landing during a cloudy day and overshot the runway, Evans said. Rather than circle and try to land again, the pilot landed in the middle of the runway and was not able to stop in time before crashing through the fence. Nobody was seriously injured.

As part of building the EMAS, the airport cut down about 19 acres of trees to dig up dirt to be used for its construction. That saved the airport from spending $1 million to truck in dirt. There has been talk about building more corporate hangars where the trees once were, but no decision has been made, Evans said.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.