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A History of Austin's Newest General Aviation Airport
W. H
chicken and beans and cornbread for em-
ployees and any pilot willing to grab a wrench
or fill in a few potholes in the runway. Ray
Harding was a teacher, an airframe mechan-
ic, a flight instructor, and a hard nut to crack.
Those lucky few who spent any time with him
were indeed fortunate. Whether they intend-
ed it or not, Ray and Mary Harding left an
admirable legacy of resourcefulness and pur-
pose to those they knew, to the aviation com-
munity, and to the City of Austin.
By skimming the photos and reading
about Ray and Mary Harding and a handful
of charmingly randy characters who consid-
ered Bird's Nest their home away from home,
I hope readers will understand and appreci-
ate the sacrifices and simple pleasures of a
married couple and their friends living out
their dream.
Third, I wanted to chronicle my own par-
I purchased Bird's Nest Airport in 2007
with enough adjoining property to trans-
form a tattered landing strip into a bustling
transportation center capable of handling
next-generation jet aircraft. The challenges
in constructing a corporate general aviation
airport in this millennium are monumen-
tal. Those challenges included negotiating
with single-minded planning and zoning bu-
reaucrats, uncovering and rerouting hid-
den oil and gas pipelines, fighting off un-
sympathetic energy bigwigs threatening to
erect transmission towers directly in the air-
port's flight path, and negotiating with con-
tractors to rehabilitate a sinking runway.
The enormous cost of this venture was
almost unfathomable. Modern airports re-
quire tens of millions of dollars to meet
even the minimum airport design standards.
Yet the minimums are seldom adequate for
safety, comfort, and efficiency. In nearly ev-
ery case, I pushed my team to think long-
term and to design and construct an airport
capable of handling more traffic and faster
and larger airplanes.
Acknowledging People
Through it all, my team and I never lost
heart. Rather, we made incremental prog-
ress each day. We reshaped the landscape by
moving nearly a million yards of dirt, created
environmental conservation areas where we
planted native grasses, wildflowers, and hun-
dreds of rock rose and bushy bluestem. We
engineered and paved a 6,025-foot runway,
one of the longer general aviation runways
in the state, spreading twenty-two tons of as-
phalt over an area eighteen times larger than
the playing field of Texas Memorial Stadium.
In three short years, my team of planners, en-
gineers, and contractors completed a jet air-
field in record time, achieving what airport
builders elsewhere in the country take a doz-
en or more years to accomplish.
As I sifted through interviews and piles of
photos and thousands of e-mails and moun-
tains of supporting documentation, I uncov-
ered a fourth and final reason for sharing
this story with the world: A book is a remark-
able way to acknowledge people. Throughout
these pages I use real names and real stories