MURPHY: Try planes near airport before we buy expansion

J.K. Murphy

J.K. Murphy

The anti-airport activists are gaining altitude.

"No Airport Expansion" signs are proliferating. The city of Dacula joined Lawrenceville in passing an anti-expansion resolution. You can't find a candidate for public office who's for it.

With runoffs Tuesday and a general election in November, it's the politically savvy thing to do.

No, a lot of people are convinced bigger planes and more gates at Briscoe Field are bad things. At a recent city council meeting, Lawrenceville Mayor Rex Millsaps summed up the thoughts of many when he said, "I certainly don't want 737s coming over my house 24 hours a day."

In April, this column extolled the benefits of the county's plan to privatize and expand the local airport. Having commercial flights right here in Gwinnett County would offer great convenience to many travelers. Getting to Hartsfield-Jackson from here is a trip in itself. Once you get there, the hassles begin: parking, shuttling to the terminal, checking bags, hopping on a train -- all are necessary to navigate the world's busiest airport. Expansion would also be another lure for attracting business.

I also suggested in the April column that before launching an anti-expansionist campaign, everyone should get a clear understanding of what lies -- or flies -- ahead.

In that spirit, a suggestion.

You know this will get expensive before any work at Briscoe begins. Consultants alone will reap hundreds of thousands of dollars as the idea is studied and goes through the approval process. But there's one thing these consultants and all the studies in the world won't tell us -- what it will be like when a full schedule of commercial airliners is landing and taking off at Briscoe.

So my suggestion is to take some of that consultant money and fly some of those planes over Lawrenceville, along the proposed flight paths, at a low altitude as if they were landing or taking off.

Draw up a flight schedule like one we anticipate could occur after expansion. We're told these commercial flights could take off or land as frequently as four times an hour. Run that schedule for a day or two -- long enough to give people a real "feel" for what life would be like.

Mimicking the real-life flight schedule should give residents a good idea of how an airport expansion would affect their lives.

It might be better than people think it will be. It might be worse. But at least we'll know.

I don't know where one goes to "rent" a commercial jet. I don't know the cost of doing so. I don't know if the FAA allows this sort of thing. But the exercise would give us better information than any amount of pages and studies could provide.

Show them. Let them feel it. Let them hear it. Then let them decide if this is something they can live with or not.

J.K. Murphy is the publisher of the Gwinnett Daily Post. E-mail him at jk.murphy@gwinnettdailypost.com.