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Modifications could affect local airport

COVINGTON -- Proposed modifications to Class B airspace at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport could affect aviators at Covington Municipal Airport and residents of the city and county.

Under the proposal by the Federal Aviation Administration, airspace for Class B, or commercial, aircraft would be expanded in certain areas, including the flight pattern above the Covington airport. Class B aircraft must stay at least 8,000 feet above the ground in the airspace above and around Covington Municipal Airport. The proposal would allow commercial aircraft to fly as low as 4,000 feet above the ground. As a result, general aviation aircraft will be required to stay within the 4,000 feet.

"That forces all air travel to be closer to the ground because general aviation aircraft can't fly in Class B space," said City Manager Steve Horton. "With the 8,000 foot limit, (commercial aircraft) can fly much higher over Covington, which means, in our mind, less noise. If you push that down to 4,000, that means more noise and more traffic congestion. That means all the larger aircraft will be flying closer to the ground, which tends to mean more noise and it forces general aviation to stay below that limit.

"Once they get past certain limits, they can fly as high as they want to. It's just in this particular area of impact, everybody is forced into tighter areas or closer to the ground," he added.

The proposed changes are in response to difficulty by air traffic controllers spotting aircraft in the current airspace.

"The city administrative staff has concerns that this may not be in the best interest of Covington and Newton County. But it may be that our interest may not meet their need. Safety is the ultimate driving force on anything," Horton said.

The Federal Aviation Administration is holding several meetings throughout the state to get public input on the proposed changes, including one in Covington from 3 to 8:30 p.m. Feb. 25, at City Hall, located at 2194 Emory St. N.W.

Informal presentations will be conducted at 3, 5 and 7 p.m. The public will be allowed to ask questions and make comments following each presentation. Written comments can be submitted at any time during the meeting.

The FAA is accepting comments by mail through April 3. Comments should be sent to Mark Ward, Manager, Operations Support Group, Eastern Service Area, Air Traffic Organization, Federal Aviation Administration, P.O. Box 20636, Atlanta, GA 30320.