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Page 103
AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 5
movie-making complex with production fa-
cilities (on paper at least) for film, television,
commercials, and music videos. They also
planned ten soundstages, the largest scoring
stage in North America, and a super colossal
outdoor water tank for those dramatic high-
seas maritime scenes.
The project was scheduled to break ground
any day, if you believed the news reports, with
completion of Phase One--parts of the Villa
Muse Studios, Main Street, and a residential
neighborhood--set for late 2009. The new
development and the nearby airport sounded
suspiciously captivating. Better than captivat-
ing; it sounded too good to be true and it was,
frankly, hard to imagine the thing ever get-
ting off the ground, particularly in the time
frame outlined in the newspapers.
Austin General Aviation
in Need
In October, a month into my tenure as own-
er of Bird's Nest Airport, Kate Harrington, a
writer for the Austin Business Journal, was
preparing for an article about general aviation
in the Austin area and the sale of Bird's Nest
Airport to a Houston business man--me. For
background, she called Amanda Sablatura at
the Austin Chamber of Commerce who for-
warded the request to Dave Porter, Sr. Vice
President of Economic Development at the
Chamber, who put Ms. Harrington in touch
with Dan Sullivan, CEO of Image Trends, and
a man involved in promoting general aviation
in Austin for some years. So it was Dan Sulli-
van who met with Ms. Harrington. According
to Sullivan, Texas had 46,000 pilots, 24,000
registered aircraft (second only to California,
he admitted without hiding his resentment),
and while the Lone Star state had a respect-
able 387 public use airports, only a random
few distant airports serviced the state capitol.
Sullivan made an impressive pitch for improv-
ing general aviation in Austin by pointing out
that the area was in desperate need of addi-
tional hangars (noting there were only one-
third as many small aircraft hangers today as
in 1999). Without the benefits of competition
controlling prices, the costs for just about ev-
erything at monopolistic airports like Austin-
Bergstrom International were considerably
higher than elsewhere in the state. He also
said something I hadn't known, or at least
hadn't considered: that U.S. general aviation
aircraft carried over 100 million passengers
a year, or 14 percent of the total passenger
count, while consuming only 6 percent of avi-
ation fuel. Small and corporate jet transporta-
tion was 50 percent more efficient than sched-
uled service. This superior environmentally
friendly efficiency would not occur to most
people in a casual conversation.
I didn't need a pep talk to believe that Aus-
tin needed another airport or that Bird's Nest
was the right airport. But if I ever did doubt
it, Dan Sullivan was the man to inspire me.
Power Lines Prevent
Takeoffs and Landings
Rather than buy all seven properties as
outlined in the Eagle Rock proposal, I decid-
ed to see what I could do with just two--the