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City: Airport work will attract industry
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Covington officials want the Covington Municipal Airport to be an economic driver that not only attracts industries, but also generates tax revenue by hosting multi-million dollar airplanes in the airport's hangars.

To that end, the Covington City Council approved plans Oct. 17 that call for the a new entrance and terminal building, directly off Ga. Highway 142, which will become the corporate side of the airport, Airport Engineer Vincent Passariello said.

The current entrance and terminal building off Airport Road will remain intact for the hobbyists and small plane owners that are there now.

Currently, Social Circle-based Standridge Color Corporation is the only large industry housing airplanes at the Covington airport.

Along with a terminal building, pavement is also expected to be laid to create room for three 7,000-square foot hangars as well as several areas where planes could be tied-down outside. The hangars would be built by corporations in the future, but plans call for them to able to house the largest planes the airport can handle.

The terminal, however, is expected to be the main driver. Passariello said he would like the new building have a restaurant, conference rooms equipped with teleconferencing abilities, a multipurpose room, which could be rented out with functions, and offices for airport officials. He also expects to move over and expand upon the current display case that contains products made by several local industries.

The specific design will be chosen later, but the terminal is expected to be a partial two-story building at a size of around 8,500 square at a cost of $1.5 million. The city has $500,000 in 2011 SPLOST funds available and is expecting to receive a $500,000 grant from the OneGeorgia Authority. The city would contribute the remaining $500,000.

Passariello said the city is open to corporate sponsorships for the building. For example, one of the conference rooms could be named in honor of a local industry in exchange for funding.

In order to set the stage for the terminal and other new development planned for the airport's southeastern side - including a fuel farm, more hangars and even another possible fixed-base operator building - Croy Engineering is working on the design of the site work, which will essentially be the asphalt base for all these structures. The new buildings and parking will also have to be connected to the airport's runway.

The design for the site work will take 45 to 60 days, after which point, Pittman Construction will immediately start the actual construction, which will take four to six months depending on weather. Pittman will only work on the area nearest Ga. 142, because the area further west is near to a stream and wetlands that runs through the airport. The city is still waiting for a construction permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineer and doesn't know when a permit will be approved, Passariello said.

Pittman is handling the project because the work is actually part of the original $5 million runway and taxiway rehabilitation project, the first phase of which was completed in 2010. The site work will be paid from a $2.2 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Meanwhile, city officials and stakeholders will be approving a design for the terminal building. The LPA Group will create two to three preliminary designs for a terminal building, and city officials, along with input from other groups such as the chamber, will choose the building type they prefer. LPA will then fully design that building. The building will then be bid out for construction.

If both timetables line up right, construction on the terminal building could begin in the summer of 2012.

"This is the logical site development for the airport. The other entrance (off Airport Road) is very complicated and out of the way," Passariello told The News last week. "If we want the airport to be a center of development, we need access on the east side, which is only one mile from I-20."

Passariello said people will actually be able to travel more quickly to Atlanta from Covington's airport than from Gwinnett's airport. He said the new entrance will make the Covington Municipal Airport the most accessible airport to Atlanta within 50 miles of the city, taking into account the fact that the DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK) is filled up with tenants.

Better navigation equipment
The next big step for the airport will be the installation of an Instrument Landing System, or ILS. The city is getting bids for the navigational equipment, which could cost around $1 million.

The ILS is made up of two pieces of equipment:
- the localizer tells airplanes whether to move right or left as they approach an airport's runway
- the glide slope tells planes whether to move up and down during approach

An ILS allows a pilot to make a pin-point landing on the runway even with near-zero visibility, Passariello said. Fog is a big problem for the Covington airport in the mornings this time of year, Passariello said, noting the airport is in a fairly rural part of the city.