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Page 108
AUSTIN EXECUTIVE AIRPORT
A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
R
on
W. H
enRiksen
Chapter 5
luck if the power lines interfered with take-
off and landing traffic on a short runway. In
the recesses of my mind I reasoned that if the
existing runway was 3,001 feet, I would have
status as a bona fide airport and LCRA would
have no choice but to stay clear of our pro-
posed new runway.
The problem was that Bird's Nest Airport's
existing asphalt runway was only 2,722 feet
long. The 3,000 foot rule, as I recalled, didn't
have any mention of runway construction
specifications or surface materials. For all I
knew, the runway could be made of chocolate
pudding as long as it stretched longer than
3,000 feet. So, rather than go to the trouble of
extending the asphalt runway, which would
eventually be torn up and replaced with a
highly engineered corporate runway de-
signed to handle heavier jets at faster speeds,
I decided to extend the grass strip next to the
old runway.
In November I rushed to file form 7480 No-
tice of Landing Area Proposal with the FAA
indicating that I planned to extend the turf
runway from 2,230 feet to 3,230 feet. After I
sent in the form, I called the FAA's Ben Gut-
tery on a regular basis to help expedite the
approval process. A couple of weeks later Ben
e-mailed me the thumbs up to start construc-
tion. In the meantime, I'd gotten a bid from
Colby Company, Inc. to grade and level the
extra thousand feet, all for a low $70,000. At
the time, considering that I'd just spent $2.2
million buying the properties, spending a few
thousand to stay in the game didn't strike
me as a bad decision. I was proceeding in a
judicious and prudent fashion in staking my
claim quickly and decisively. I thought I was
outmaneuvering an intimidating energy com-
pany for less than a hundred thousand dol-
lars. I was wrong, of course, and not to ruin
the surprise, but extending the turf runway
was a waste of time, energy, and money.
As the crew with Colby Company Inc. was
blading a crown in an otherwise nifty stretch
of well-groomed dirt, I discovered that a
lengthy turf runway didn't settle anything.
The runway could be a mile long, two for that
matter, and a dispute of this nature still had to
be settled by a judge in a court of law. I'd just
spent $70,000 for dozer work, grading, water
and seed, to keep the Texas wind from blow-
ing my new runway into the next field. All of
the heavy equipment, fuel, and supervisory
costs had not made one bit of difference.
My newest problem was that the deadline
to intervene in LCRA's direct A to B plan
had come and gone. Without intervening I
couldn't prevent the energy giant from build-
ing its ominous power lines, which would put
Bird's Nest Airport out of business. First, I
hired a legal beagle or two to help me under-
stand the situation, and it occurred to me that
Bird's Nest Airport and its endless complica-
tions could become a full-time job for a small
team of attorneys and consultants. Second, I
had to go to court and convince a judge that
deadline or no deadline, I had a legitimate
case to plead.
Cleaning Up the Mess
The tidy new turf runway extension not-
withstanding, the airport property was a
mess--three old not-so-mobile homes were