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AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Introduction
rib-tickler and asked: Was there any chance I
knew where they could come up with a cool
$47.3 million to fund the project?
"I don't, but what I might consider," I said,
"if you agree, is to take over the project and
build the airport myself." And this was the in-
ception of Austin Executive Airport.
Why This Book, Why Now?
As if building airports, racing cars, spend-
ing time with family, and serving as Chairman
of the Board of Logix Communications didn't
fill my days, at some point I got the high-
spirited urge to write a book about Bird's
Nest Airport. An altogether reasonable ques-
tion is why?
First, I wanted to preserve a piece of
history.
A few years ago I watched an inspiring
aviation documentary, One Six Right: The
Romance of Flying
, about the life, history, and
struggles of one improbable local airfield,
Southern California's Van Nuys Airport, the
busiest general aviation airport in America.
The film opened with breathtaking aerial shots
of a 1945 Piper J-3 Cub and spectacular high-
definition close ups of a 1945 DC-3 (sporting
a vintage United Airlines paint scheme), and
photos of the cockpit of a 1936 Fleet 7B bi-
plane. The film features interviews with well-
known movie directors, actors, news anchors,
and other enthusiasts, all talking about their
love of flying. The movie was produced and
directed by independent filmmaker and avia-
tion buff, Brian J. Terwilliger. As I watched,
I realized how difficult it must have been to
research the history of the airport, locate old
film footage, sift through municipal archives
and, in some cases, dramatize the zany exhil-
aration of those early record-breaking flights
now more than eighty years later.
With the memory of One Six Right tucked
safely away, I wanted to tell a similar story,
in book form, of Bird's Nest Airport and its
transformation into Austin Executive Airport.
I also wanted to write it down in the present,
only forty-five years after Bob Womack's ag-
ing Taylorcraft two-seater christened the
original dirt runway. In a way, this book is a
historical record of images and events and
stories of men and women who were teenag-
ers when they first started flying and jumping
and ballooning over a square patch of sage
and the dusty airstrip running diagonally
across the property, fence line to fence line.
Those young pilots are now in their fifties, six-
ties, and a few in their seventies. A couple of
decades from now, firsthand accounts of the
airport's inception will have vanished: People
die; news footage gets archived; photographs
fade, burn up, and get shredded in moments
of anger. Keepsakes like flight logs and jour-
nals get stored and forgotten. Classic tube
and fabric airplanes weather and deteriorate.
Stories get lost and vanish with time. These
stories matter the most of all. Stories have a
way of opening our eyes to context, connec-
tions, and consequences. Stories explain the
whys and the ifs behind the what. Stories are
the personification of events and our roadmap
to meaning. Without recording at least some
of the stories that took place at Bird's Nest