There are many reasons to privatize an airport. Beginning in the 1980s, many foreign countries began to privatize their national airports in an effort to save tax payer dollars, increase productivity and efficiency as well as reliability. One of the world's busiest airports, London's Heathrow, was privatized in 1987. This trend continues around the world and has prompted the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the United States to also pursue privatization options for similar reasons. The FAA is now actively encouraging privatization.
Since 1958, when congress passed the Federal Aviation Act, one of the main goals and responsibilities of the agency has been to ensure that the United States has a safe and reliable air transportation network. At that time it was believed that one of the best ways to accomplish this was to guarantee adequate financing, from federal sources if required. Billions upon billions of federal dollars have helped build US airports around the country. However, the funds did not come without strings and the government attached a host of restrictions regarding how federal airport grants could be used. Most aviation professionals would agree that the FAA was successful in creating the worlds most reliable and safe air transportation network. But, a byproduct of the FAA's rules and regulations is the fact that many airports in the United States are breakeven at best. One of the reasons is because once an airport takes federal dollars they are then only allowed to reinvest any profit back into the airport.
Airports in the United States by and large are owned by government entities. Under current federal guidelines, when an airport is publicly owned, the restrictions and responsibilities associated are considerable and include:
However, under the FAA Privatization program the merits of private ownership are significant and include:
In addition, under private operation very important government oversight functions remain which include:
Georgia has a rich history steeped in aviation with many important milestones including the manufacture of the aircraft with the longest production run in aviation history the Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Some historians even claim that the first motorized machine flight by Georgia's own Augustus Herring in August of 1899, came four years before the Wright Brothers flight at Kitty Hawk. According to Georgia Flight edited by Phillip Rob Bellury, other significant highlights include:
"The history of aviation in Georgia is one of our state's most fascinating and important stories" and "aviation has played a vital role in Georgia's growth and economic development". "Commercial and general aviation are integral parts of this state's transportation network, the aviation industry - including a number of major aircraft manufacturers and military bases - contributes billions of dollars annually to Georgia's economy". Governor Perdue in the opening to Georgia Flight could not have said it better. Aviation is a vital part of the states vitality and economy which "contributes to our growth and prosperity".
The Privatization of Briscoe field represents an opportunity for another first; privatization of the first general aviation airport under the FAA's Airport Privatization Program as well as an airport that is specifically designed and operated for the metro Atlanta region.