What is the Fate of the Gilmer County Airport?

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Gilmer County Airport Manager Jim Smith says that even with the recent takeover from the county, and without an FBO, the future of the Gilmer County Airport (49A) still looks bright. As known, the county took over the airport early last summer after the announcement that Gilmer County Aviation Inc would no longer be the Fixed Based Operator (FBO) of the Gilmer County Airport, the county’s airport otherwise known as 49A.

Now, however, even with the county in charge of Gilmer County Airport (49A), Smith insists the airport is making money.

“The budget this year is right at $100,000, but we actually make money here. We receive more money in fuel sales, hanger rentals, and in stuff like that than what we actually spend,”

Smith told FYN on Tuesday.

FYN’s interview on Tuesday came after Smith presented the Gilmer County Airport’s Five Year Capital Inprovement Plan (CIP) in this past December 21st special called Gilmer County Board of Commissioners meeting.

In the meeting, Smith told the BOC that the Airport’s Advisory Board wished to update its Five Year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the airport as required to maintain funding eligibility from the Federal Aviation Administration and Georgia Department of Transportation.

While the updated Five year plan that runs from 2013-2018 is essentially a wish list, Smith told FYN, the airport is currently working on projects at the airport such as installing a Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) system, a precision approach system that will assist aircraft pilots in runway landing, and finishing a Reimbursement for Force Account project for airport runway 21.

Reimbursement Project currently underway at Gilmer County Airport

According to Smith, The Precision Approach Path Indicator (PAPI) project has already been funded by both the FAA and the GDOT for a total of $75,837, but the reimbursement project has yet to recieve any funding. However, he is hopeful that the project will be funded, stating that future projects would benefit the airport, a service he says is vital to the economic stimulation of Gilmer County.

In the BOC meeting in December, the reason Smith said he wanted to update the Five Year Capital Improvement Plan was so that the County could begin receiving funding for the reimbursement project. The reimbursement project is a project that the county hopes to be funded by the FAA and GDOT before the beginning of its fiscal year on July 1st. The project consists of two phases with part one of the project already being completed and part two including the finishing of filling a large hole behind the north end of runway 21, one of the airport’s two runways. The reimbursment project is being done to provide safety for the airport’s pilots with the idea that filling in the hole will provide more runway landing. Part of the project has been done with help from the county’s new community service program, including the removal of large brush on the banks next to the project.

Lastly, as far as the fate of the Gilmer County Airport goes, Smith is hopeful that the county will find a new FBO soon. The county has started to receive bids for a new FBO, but so far has not had any luck. An FBO, according to Smith, would help and assist in bringing in more aviation traffic to the airport. However, in the end, Smith says that even without an FBO, the county is prepared, has planned the airport into its budget, and will continue to operate it.


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