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General Aviation Spotlight

Featuring the Griffin Spalding Airport

In 1993, the airport owners set into motion a program to make Griffin Spalding Airport the Best Little Airport in Georgia. Because the airport is surrounded by residential, businesses and light industrial, a Master Plan which focused first on safety improvements and second on commercial growth was developed. Safety improvements included: 400 additional feet of runway threshold to improve landing and takeoff safety, resurfacing of runway and taxiways, upgraded runway lights, a new set of taxiway lights, REILS, removal of obstructions, addition of new NDB and GPS approaches, and a new AWOS III system, which is currently under construction. These improvements enhance the overall safety of operations at the airport while having a significant impact upon airport usability and accessibility.

The crown jewel of the plan is a 42-acre Airport Business Park, which has been constructed to enhance the development of businesses, jobs, and services at the airport. With funding help from the Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT), the airport has developed taxiways, ramps, streets, and parking to support the business and private hangar construction program. To date, 56 hangars have been built covering over 385,000 square feet of space. The airport now supports 17 businesses, which provide more than 165 jobs in the community. Private investment in the Business Park is estimated in excess of $10 million. Hangars are built by individuals on spaces prepared by the airport. A 30-year ground lease is used to facilitate the development. All leases are transferable with no reversion clause. The lease rate is $.24 per square foot per year.

Completion of the project did not happen over night. Construction was divided into two phases, with each phase having incremental stages. The commercial area was constructed first providing for the creation of new businesses who, through their success, proved the viability of the project and established the credibility needed to retain critical financial support. Pilots are impressed by new runways, ramps, hangars, and neat airplanes. Commissioners are impressed by increase in tax bases, sales tax, new jobs, and economic impact.

The second phase provided for a limited number of additional commercial sites and twenty private hangar sites. The typical private hangar site is 50' x 50'. Through an agreement of the hangar owners, bids were taken for construction of most of the Phase T1 hangars, which provided significant cost-savings, while providing a nice uniform look to the phase. Local builder Steve Whitworth won the bid and constructed some very nice buildings with firewalls, restrooms, stacked doors, and 200-amp electrical service. Utilities are provided by the City of Griffin. Though letters of intent to lease spaces were utilized to justify the initial construction, it was, actually more like The Field of Dreams - "build it, and they will come." After the initial success in Phase I there has been a standing list of individuals desiring to lease space to build their hangars.

Support from local elected officials has been absolutely crucial to the accomplishment of this project. Their continued involvement has been sought and encouraged through involvement in the Airport Advisory Board and approval of each stage of the plan. There is absolutely no way to overstate the role of Jack Joiner, Ed Ratigan, and Carol Comer from the Georgia DOT. They have been totally supportive of our effort and provided no end to helpful advice, direction, and money! Without them, we would probably still be moving dirt by hand. Their genuine enthusiasm and professionalism are truly noteworthy. The FAA District Office also played a significant role in the successful accomplishment of our plan. After all, they are "here to help."

So, what did we do to make Griffin Spalding the Best Little Airport in Georgia? Develop a good plan and work the plan. Keep a business-friendly attitude and support the business owners.

Airport Manager

Oldest Douglas DC-3 departs Griffin!

Phoenix Rises From the Kudzu?

A Phoenix rose from the ashes or should I say from the kudzu of Central Georgia. The oldest Douglas DC -3 in existence returned to the skies this past month, departing Griffin, Georgia heading for its new home in Punta Gorda, Florida .

The aircraft, eventually designated N133D, (c/n #1499) was the sixth DC-3 off the Douglas DST line. It was delivered to American Airlines in 1936. It served during World War II as a cargo and transport aircraft for the Army Air Corps / Air Force and after the war it returned home to American Airlines.

In 1950 American sold the aircraft to Ozark Airlines where it transported freight and passengers until 1968 when it logged its final Ozark mission, Flight 311, ferrying passengers between Chicago O’Hare and Atlanta, Georgia. Ozark sold its DC-3s to Airline Aviation Academy to make way for the jet aircraft that were quickly replacing propeller piston aircraft, like the DC-3, as the preferred vehicle for passenger transport. In 1972 Mr. Bob McSwiggan purchased Airline Aviation Academy and its DC-3s, renaming it Academy Airlines. He operated the DC-3s including N133D from their new home base in Griffin, Georgia.

During its life with Academy Airlines it served primarily as a freighter, making flights hauling anything from newspapers to auto parts to computers from anywhere in the southeast including, Tallahassee, Boca Raton, Orlando and Atlanta. It even landed at the Shuttle Landing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida transporting the auxiliary power units for the Space Shuttle Challenger back to the manufacturer for overhaul.

Unfortunately, in the 90’s it wound up on the ground in Griffin, where it hasn’t moved since. It has stood watch over old the grass field at the Griffin-Spalding County Airport for many years where the sun, wind, rain, even ice and snow have taken their toll. Occasionally, DC-3 enthusiasts and historians have ventured here to Griffin to pay their respects, ask questions and take pictures of the weathered hull sitting motionless amongst the waiving grass.

Luckily, this past year Mr. Frank Moss purchased the old girl, (formerly known as the American Airlines Flagship “Tennessee”). He and his family have made numerous trips from their home in Florida up here to Griffin bringing with them parts, including new engines, propellers, cable, wiring and control surfaces where they strove to get her in good enough flying shape so that they may fly her to Florida where she will undergo a complete restoration.

It was sad to see her go but I think an even greater tragedy would have been to watch as the kudzu eventually claimed her.

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