DeKalb-Peachtree celebrates its fiftieth with style

June 4, 2009

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DeKalb-Peachtree Airport (PDK) in Atlanta, Ga., opened its expansive doors for Good Neighbor Day on May 30 to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary. Several thousand residents joined aviation buffs and airshow performers to help celebrate the airport’s history and share the importance of general aviation with its community.

Airshow performers teamed up for a three-hour high-octane aviation journey over the airport’s expansive ramps and taxiways. The lineup included DeKalb-Peachtree’s Pat Epps, Team RV led by native Atlantan Mike Stewart, Gary Ward, Greg Koontz, Atlanta’s Larry King, Team Aeroshell, Kent Gorton, Clem Cleaver, and the Alabama Boys.

The airport’s unofficial mayor Pat Epps, who soloed in 1952, delighted the crowd with an aerobatics routine in his Beech Bonanza.

Meanwhile, static airplane displays drew crowds to the Commemorative Air Force’s Dixie Wing to see their warbirds parked on the ramp. Further down Taxiway Alpha, flight school airplanes, orange and black Tiger Flight Aircoupes (and Ercoupes), helicopters, and military trainers dotted the main ramps that were open for roaming, poking, and pretending.

Bouncy rides for ground-bound kids and aerial helicopter tours attracted a steady stream of fun-seekers, while the Downwind Café packed them in for its famous burgers, Greek dishes, and splendid view of the airport.

DeKalb-Peachtree is located on a portion of old Camp Gordon, which was a World War I Army training base. In 1941 the field was commissioned as a U.S. Naval Reserve aviation base.

During introductions, Burrell Ellis, DeKalb County CEO said, “The history of this tract of land that we now stand on includes having served as a full-fledged Naval Air Station during WWII. The Naval Air Station served as a training center for reservists being recalled to active duty. As we celebrate our war heroes with the passing of this Memorial Day, it is certainly fitting to also honor our airport, which played a key role for the Navy during a critical time in our country’s history.”

When Navy operations moved to nearby Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, control of the suburban Atlanta airport was returned to DeKalb County. In 1959 the airport became totally available for civilian use.

Today, the airport averages 228,000 operations per year, making it the second busiest airport in Georgia (second only to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport). The airport is a hubbub of activity, with local TV stations using the north end for their news choppers, a myriad of flight schools dotting the ramp, and FBOs serving the jet-set and rental crowd alike.

The airport's Web site says there are nearly 600 aircraft, three FBOs, 10 flight schools, and one restaurant. Plus 762 aviation-related jobs with indirect benefits to DeKalb County that include $14 million in visitor spending, $50 million in travel and operating cost savings, and 3,600 jobs created by non-airport businesses.

The children’s park at the airport is a favorite with toddlers and adults alike because of the playground’s proximity to the active runways. With a bird’s-eye view of the action on Runways 16/34, and the parallel Runways 2/20, plus the occasional takeoff or landing on east-west Runway 9/27, the park is a favorite vantage point for visitors.

By the end of the day Epps, King, and the rest of the show performers had looped, rolled, Hammer Headed and Knife Edged their way into the memories of this year’s open house and airshow attendees.